November 8, 2017

After 75 years, soldier finally coming home

BY ALYSSA MEIER
Editor
When the USS Oklahoma capsized on Dec. 7, 1941, Walter Backman was on board, working in the radio room with another sailor. When he could not be found, he was declared missing in action. Three months later, that classification changed to killed in action.
His name was etched into the walls of a monument listing American soldiers who hadn’t been accounted for, along with over a thousand others. This year, a rosette will be placed next to his name, as he finally returns home.
“The ship was attacked, and that’s all we knew,” Merwin Backman, whose father was Walter’s cousin, said of his relative’s fate after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Walter, only 22 years old at the time, was assumed dead, but his body was never found.
In an excerpt from Walter Backman’s biography, Walter’s sister Charlene detailed the moment she found out the ship her brother was aboard had capsized, taking down 429 crewmen with it. Her brother, Walter, had been working in the radio room of the vessel that morning, but, after the attack, he vanished.
For decades, Walter’s name rested on the Walls of the Missing, next to other brothers and sisters in arms who had been lost in battle. But 75 years after the USS Oklahoma sank, his family received some unexpected news.


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