Remembering Those We Lost at Pearl Harbor

The attack on Pearl Harbor occurred on December 7, 1941 on the U.S. Naval Base located at Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. The surprise military strike by Japanese forces occurred just before 8 AM. By the end of the strike 2,403 United States Personnel were killed including 68 civilians. 

There were several Northern Kentuckians who were on active duty at Pearl Harbor when the attack occurred. The ability to instantly communicate with cell phones or the internet was not available to families waiting for news about their sons and family members serving at Pearl Harbor. Covington families clung to radios for news reports. Letters or telegrams from the military confirming that their loved one was alive or dead took weeks to arrive. According to local news reports at the time families waited between 3 and 6 weeks for official news.

Featured here are the stories of Covington area service members who were reported missing and confirmed killed in action during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. 

William Walker Ford

Killed in Action aboard the U.S.S. Arizona

William Walker Ford was born April 2, 1922 in Kenton County, Kentucky. He was the son of Marion Walker Ford and Eula Kite. He had a sister Ruth Ford. His father served as a Corporal in WWI and died in 1931 when William was 9 years old. His mother Eula remarried George P. Evans. William attended Holmes High School and graduated in June of 1940. He enlisted shortly after graduation. He served as an Electrician's Mate, Third Class, on the U.S.S. Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was announced on December 9, two days after the attack, that Ford had been awarded an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. The announcement was made before it was learned he was among the missing. Almost 5 months later, in March of 1942, his mother received official notification of his death from the Navy Department. Ford was posthumously appointed Kentucky Colonel by Gov. Johnson “for valor and heroism displayed in discharge of his duty” during Pearl Harbor. 

Ford was 19 years old. 

Warren ‘John’ Richardson 

Killed in Action aboard the U.S.S. Arizona 

Warren ‘John’ Richardson was born in 1918 in Ohio. He was the son of Charles and Freda Richardson. He attended Holmes High School. He enlisted in the Navy on February 1, 1938, at Cincinnati, Ohio. Richardson was a Coxswain stationed on the U.S.S. Arizona on the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was listed as missing after the attack, and officially declared a casualty by the Bureau of Navigation several weeks later. His remains were never recovered. His mother Freda Richardson received a letter on December 9, 1941 that her son had written before his death that he intended to reenlist when his term expired on February 1,1942. Richardson was survived by his mother Freda Richardson, two sisters, Mrs. Hazel Conley, Mrs. Ruth Myers, and two brothers James and Charles Richardson. 

Richardson was 23 years old. 

Joseph M. Robertson

Killed in Action aboard the U.S.S. Oklahoma 

Joseph Morris Robertson was born in 1923 in Paragould, Arkansas. He was the son of Ophus Robertson and Syble Haley.  He had three brothers, Robert, Paul and Edwin, and a sister Patricia. The family moved to Covington around 1930, where Ophus took a job in a factory. Robertson attended St. Aloysius and St. Mary’s Schools In Covington. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in November of 1940 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was serving as a Seaman Second Class aboard the U.S.S. Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Robertson was one of over 400 casualties after the haul of the ship was bombed with torpedoes that caused it to roll over and sink. In June of 1943, his parents received a letter from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in which he wrote: “Seaman Robertson stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die that freedom might live and grow and increase its blessings. Freedom lives and through it he lives in a way that humbles the endeavors of most men.” On June 18, 2020, his remains were identified and accounted for by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Burial details were not announced.

Robertson was 18 Years old. 

Edward Alfred Walther

Killed in Action aboard the U.S.S. Arizona

Edward Alfred Walther was born September 5, 1922 in Kenton County, Kentucky to Edward Walther and Helen Miller. He had three brothers William, Robert, and Donald. William and Donald died as infants. Walther attended Holmes High School and graduated in June of 1940 (in the same class as Ford). Walther served as a Fire Controlman Third Class on the U.S.S. Arizona. His mother Helen Walther received flowers from her son on Christmas Eve a few weeks after the December 7th attack on Pearl Harbor. She had been notified of Walther’s death, and she contacted the florist who delivered the flowers to learn that Edward had ordered them on December 6, one day before his death. 

Walther was 19 years old. 

In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the Navy Department to award the Purple Heart to any Navy, Marine, or Coast Guard personnel who were wounded or killed in action beginning on December 6, 1941. Ford, Richardson, Robertson and Walther all received a Purple Heart Medal.

This blog was written by Cierra Earl of the Local History and Genealogy Department. If you are interested in researching your ancestors military service the Kenton County Public Library has many resources available online, and at the Covington branch. You can also schedule a free one-hour one-on-one appointment with a member of the Local History and Genealogy Department to get help with starting your research. Contact us by phone at 859.962.4070 or by email at to schedule an appointment. Appointments are available in-person at the Covington branch, over-the-phone, and through a virtual meeting.