December 7, 1941: a day that has lived in infamy. Pearl Harbor Day, when the Empire of Japan launched a sneak attack on a U.S. Naval Base, is known to any student of history as the event that launched America’s involvement in World War II. But for some Americans, the day is a terrible reminder of the loss of loved ones, some of whom have never been found. Alabamian Water Tender First Class Walter H. Sollie was one of such casualties; until now.
Sollie was an 18-year Navy veteran on the day the Japanese attacked. Enlisting at the age of 18, the Myrtlewood, Ala. native was the grandson of Civil War veterans, and he served on the U.S.S. Huron and the U.S.S. North Hampton before his tragic assignment to the U.S.S. Oklahoma. At the time of the attack, he had a woman in San Diego waiting for him in San Diego, Calif. with the plan that they would one day be married.
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But that dream never came to pass. Sollie was one of the 429 casualties aboard the U.S.S. Oklahoma, and for 75 years, he was never found. In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, only 35 were properly identified and buried.
In 2015, the U.S. Department of the Defense answered the prayers of the Sollie family and so many others. The DOD announced its intention to exhume the remains of the Oklahoma in an attempt to bring a sense of closure to the families who lost loved ones. Surviving members of the deceased were asked to provide DNA samples to the analysts to properly identify the remains.
A little over a year later, the DOD told Sollie’s niece, Iris Sollie Plowman, that a match had been found. After going through the extensive transfer process with the Defense POW Accounting Agency, the family was able to bring Sollie home before Christmas. Now, they plan to have him laid to rest at the Barrancas National Cemetery at Pensacola Naval Air Station on Jan. 6.
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At Barrancas, Sollie will be interred alongside several family members who had also served. Now his family can rest easy knowing that their hero is at peace.
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