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Published on: Monday, July 8, 2024 read more ...

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After Over 82 Years, a Navy Radioman’s Legacy Lives On

By Kevin M. Hymel on 5/30/2024

U.S. Navy Radioman 3rd Class Starring Winfield had been married for only six weeks when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Winfield perished on the battleship USS Oklahoma. The Navy later raised the ship and removed the remains of its crew. However, Winfield remained unaccounted for, and a military board later classified him as non-recoverable.  

Still, Winfield’s family kept his memory alive. His wife, Gailene Beth Walker, remarried but preserved photographs of him and told her children about her first husband. Winfield’s two sisters also told their children about their brother, who had volunteered for the Navy and died serving his country. In the 1980s, one of his sisters arranged for his name to be added to a World War II memorial at the College of Marin, Winfield’s alma mater, in Kentville, California. Additionally, one of Winfield’s brothers-in-law had his name added to a veterans’ memorial in San Rafael, California. “It’s amazing how such a short life had so much impact on so many people,” said Winfield’s great-nephew, Adam Morrill.

In 2019, the Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency solved the mystery of Winfield’s fate when they identified his remains as part of their 2015 USS Oklahoma Project—an effort to identify all those lost on the battleship.  

Morrill, who became responsible for his great-uncle’s burial, decided on Arlington National Cemetery, where at least 30 other sailors from the Oklahoma lay at rest. “He’s not alone here,” said Morrill.

On May 9, 2024, U.S. Navy Chaplain (Lt.) Jennifer Miles addressed the 20 family members who attended Winfield’s funeral service in Section 55. “It’s a day of mixed emotions,” she said. “It is a day to celebrate his life, remember his sacrifice and to finally lay Starring to rest among his fellow shipmates after over 82 years. His legacy lives on through you and the telling of his story.”

After the honor guard folded the American flag over Winfield’s casket, Rear Adm. Robert Dodson presented it to Morrill. Afterward, Dodson spoke of his appreciation for Winfield’s sacrifice at a seminal moment in American history. “I never imagined having the opportunity to give funeral honors to a member of the USS Oklahoma,” he said. “It’s humbling to be part of that special moment for his family.”