World War II sailor returning for burial
Mass to be held at St. Joseph’s on Wednesday
Albert Eugene Hayden, killed in the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, is finally returning home to his native St. Mary’s County for burial next week.
Hayden and the remains of four other U.S. sailors killed aboard the USS Oklahoma were identified by the Defense POW/ MIA Accounting Agency in January. At the time, officials said that Hayden was to be buried in Dorchester County, home to his nearest next of kin, in March. Hayden’s nephew, Edward “Pete” Hayden, 76, lives in Crapo.
According to family wishes, a Mass will be held for Albert Hayden at St. Joseph’s Church in Morganza on Wednesday, May 18, at 12:30 p.m., followed by burial at that church’s cemetery.
Ronnie Kissinger of Port Republic, one of Albert Hayden’s first cousins, was already familiar with her family’s genealogy. She never met Albert Hayden, but when she read that his remains had been identified all these decades later, “the story touched my heart,” she said.
When she read that he was to buried near Crapo in Dorchester County, “I said, ‘where in the devil is Crapo, Maryland?’”
Contacting authorities, “I could not track down the next of kin. They wouldn’t release the information,” she said.
Kissinger contacted the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs for assistance.
Finally, Kissinger was able to contact Edward Hayden and she offered to help in any way that she could. She volunteered to take over the burial arrangements for him.
She said Edward Hayden “was absolutely delighted to speak to someone from the Western Shore because ‘that was my grandmother’s wish, to bring him home to the family.’”
Kissinger said Edward Hayden will present the casket-draped flag to Leonard Hall Junior Naval Academy in Leonardtown, where Albert Hayden attended school.
Albert Hayden was listed as a Mechanicsville resident at the time of his death. He was born in Piney Point and was survived by his mother, Emma Hayden of Mechanicsville, and four brothers: B. Wingate of Baltimore; James D. of Pittsburgh; Roland F. of Washington and Ralph V. Hayden of New York.
Edward Hayden is the son of B. Wingate Hayden.
“It’s been a very rewarding ride, sometimes like a roller coaster,” Kissinger said of getting Albert Hayden re- turned to his home county.
“It puts closure to the chapter in our history. It’s really a historical event,” Kissinger said.
Recent letters to the editor have suggested that a new elementary school to be built on Route 5 in Great Mills be named after Albert Hayden. After all, Capt. Walter Francis Duke Elementary School in Leonardtown was named after another county native lost during World War II.
Kissinger said she agrees with that idea. “I think it’s wonderful,” she said. Albert Hayden “should have something named after him. We’re just so proud to be part of this history,” she said.
The Washington Post reported on May 5, 1942, that Chief Petty Officer Hayden was a chief electrician’s mate aboard the Oklahoma. He attended Leonard Hall Military Academy and Charlotte Hall Military Academy before enlisting in the Navy in 1917 in the Great War. He served on the battleship Texas in the North Sea during that war.
In the attack on Pearl Harbor, there were 2,402 American deaths, with 1,177 of those aboard the USS Arizona and 429 on the USS Oklahoma, according to the official website of the USS Oklahoma.
Albert Hayden was listed by Life magazine as the first Marylander to die in World War II, Kissinger found.
The Oklahoma was hit by nine torpedoes before it sank and capsized in the mud. The ship was salvaged in late 1942 and 1943, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command. While the Oklahoma was ultimately salvaged, it sunk during a storm while being towed in the Pacific Ocean in May 1947.
During the salvage work, a mix of skeletal remains still aboard were commingled and buried in Hawaii.
Federal officials announced in November it had completely disinterred all of the remains from the USS Oklahoma in an effort to identify all that are possible.
The DPAA along with the Department of Veteran Affairs exhumed the remains of 388 service members from 45 graves at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.
Working with the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory using DNA samples from family members, the DPAA estimates that 80 percent of the unknown remains from the Oklahoma can be identified in the next five years. Those that cannot be identified will be reinterred at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
St. Mary’s County lost at least 47 servicemen in World War II, according to a listing of those lost in the Dec. 29, 1950 issue of the Beacon.
Kissinger thanked George Owings III, secretary of the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs and a former state delegate, executive assistant Katie Sonntag; Quincy Johnson, Navy casualty officer; Catholic Cemeteries and Leonard Hall Junior Naval Academy for their assistance.
A map shows the ships and their locations at Pearl Harbor on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, which resulted in 2,402 American deaths when the Japanese attacked, pulling the United States into World War II.
The USS Oklahoma, right, sank into the mud next to the USS Maryland in the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Albert Eugene Hayden of Mechanicsville was one of 429 killed aboard the Oklahoma. Hayden’s remains are returning for burial in St. Mary’s County on Wednesday, May 18.