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World War II Navy veteran interred at Fort Scott after remains identified

William Barnett, 20, was killed at Pearl Harbor
William Barnett burial.jpeg
Posted at 3:28 PM, May 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-28 23:15:07-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A World War II veteran from Fort Scott, Kansas, was laid to rest Friday, following the identification of his remains 80 years after his death at Pearl Harbor.

Navy Fireman 3rd Class William "Buzz" Barnett was serving aboard the USS West Virginia on Dec. 7, 1941, when Japanese aircraft fired several torpedoes at the ship. Though crews prevented it from capsizing, Barnett was among the 106 crewmen who died and was considered missing in action.

William Barnett.jpg
Navy Fireman 3rd Class William Barnett, 21, of Fort Scott, Kansas, was identified in September 2020 as one of the more than 100 sailors who died aboard the USS West Virginia on Dec. 7, 1941, when Pearl Harbor was attacked.

Remains from the ship that could not be identified were buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl. In 2017, remains associated with the USS West Virginia were transferred to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency for identification.

Three years later, on Sept. 14, 2020, Barnett’s remains were identified through “dental and anthropological analysis,” according to a DPAA news release.

Barnett's story lived on decades after his death, with members of the Barnett family passing down a photo of him for generations.

David Barnett, Buzz's nephew, said Friday's ceremony at Fort Scott National Cemetery left him feeling sad that Buzz's parents and siblings could not be there.

"I wish so much they could’ve been here," David Barnett said, "but I’m so grateful to the department of the Navy, they’ve been so wonderful. I could never express my gratitude to the Navy."

David Barnett said he remembers his grandparents sending letters to the Navy for years to inquire about Buzz. He said Buzz's mother, Emma Marie (Ewing) Barnett had a hard time coming to terms with his death. She believed he might have been injured and lost his memory and could not come home.

"My grandmother for so many years expected a knock on the door, literally a knock on the door and Buzz would be standing there," David Barnett said.

While David feels sad Buzz's parents never got to see him laid to rest, he knows how they would have felt.

"They would be like me, I think, very, very grateful," he said, "and then to have the closure, the final closure that he’s home and he’s going to rest here with all these other honorable people.

DPAA was formed in 2015, with locations in Hawaii and Washington, D.C.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that William Barnett was a native of Fort Riley and being buried at Fort Riley Veterans Cemetery.