Remembering Pearl Harbor: Marengo County native coming home after 75 years

Water Tender 1st Class Walter H. Sollie

Water Tender 1st Class Walter H. Sollie

After 75 years, Navy Water Tender 1st Class Walter H. Sollie is coming home.

Petty Officer Sollie was one 429 casualties on board the USS Oklahoma moored in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when the Japanese made a surprise attack early Sunday morning Dec. 7, 1941. Sollie, 37 at the time of the attack, was a native of the Myrtlewood Campground area of Marengo County and a “career man” in the U.S. Navy.

The USS Oklahoma was hit by a barrage of torpedoes and capsized during the raid. The majority of the casualties were never identified. During efforts to salvage the ship, Navy personnel collected a large number of remains representing as many as 400 men.

Buried as unknowns at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, the remains were exhumed in 2015 by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. As a result of advances in forensic science and analytical technology, Sollie was identified.

At this time Marengo Memorial VFW Post 5377 and Sollie’s remaining relatives are determining when and where he will have his final resting place, said Lee Belcher, post commander.

A second Marengo native, Norman Bragg Woolf, was aboard the ill-fated USS Arizona which also was sunk during the attack. Woolf, also from the Myrtlewood area, was not among them. The Arizona was never raised. A memorial to those who lost their lives in the raid rests atop the sunken ship.

The two casualties of the Pearl Harbor attack are memorialized with engraved bricks at the Veterans Monument in front of the Marengo County Courthouse.

The Arizona and the Oklahoma were among seven battleships moored along the southeast shore of Ford Island, a small island in Pearl Harbor. Oklahoma’s losses were second only to the Arizona’s as a result of the Japanese attack.

Ironically, Fred Everette Sollie, Walter Sollie’s younger brother, was aboard another ship in the harbor, the USS Schley. Both men had just finished their watch duty on their respective ships. Fred went on deck after standing watch, but his brother died as he was having coffee below.

The Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor killed 2,403 and wounded another 1,178.

USS Oklahoma was hit by a barrage of torpedoes and capsized during the Dec. 7 attack on Pearl Harbor.

USS Oklahoma was hit by a barrage of torpedoes and capsized during the Dec. 7 attack on Pearl Harbor.