Kossuth County

William Henry Kennedy

Born 06 Apr 1917
Died 07 Dec 1941


Titonka Youth Killed in Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor

TITONKA – William Henry Kennedy, 24, son of Mrs. Elizabeth M. Kennedy, was the first Titonka casualty in World war II, it was learned Sunday when his mother was notified he was killed in the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7.

The youth was a fireman first class in the United States navy. He enlisted in the navy on July 9, 1940. He was born April 6, 1917, at Swea City, and was educated in the Titonka schools, being graduated from Titonka high school in 1934.

He took a Diesel course at Des Moines and then attended a business school at Tyler, Tex., before enlisting in the navy.

His mother resides one and three-fourth miles southeast of Titonka. Other survivors are his father, in Nebraska; two sisters, Minnie Kennedy, at home, and Mrs. Betty Sturdevandt of Fort Dodge, and three brothers, Homer and Paul Tienan of Titonka, and Frank Tienan of Garner.

Source: The Globe Gazette, Mason City, Iowa, Monday, December 22, 1941

NOTE: Fireman 1st Class William Henry Kennedy was serving aboard the USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor. There is a memorial stone for him at Buffalo Township Cemetery, Titonka, Iowa, Kossuth County.

To Hold Rites for W. Kennedy


TITONKA – Mrs. Elizabeth Kennedy has received official word that her son, William Henry Kennedy, a fireman first class on the Oklahoma, has been listed as missing. Memorial services will be held for him in the Titonka Methodist church Sunday afternoon at 2 o’clock. Navy Mothers, the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary will have places reserved for them. Kennedy is Titonka’s first casualty of World war II.

Source: The Globe Gazette, Mason City, Iowa, Thursday, February 19, 1942

Hold Services in Titonka for William Kennedy

TITONKA – Memorial services for William Henry Kennedy, who was killed in action at Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, were held at the Titonka Methodist church Sunday afternoon. The Rev. W. L. Patterson officiated. Kennedy is the only Titonka casualty of World War II to date.

An anchor floral piece signifying the naval service, with ribbons of red, white and blue, graced the altar. Special groups attending were the Navy Mothers, the American Legion, and the American Legion Auxiliary.

Chaplain L. G. Gartner of Breen post 465 told of his associations with Kennedy as a Boy Scout and Sunday School scholar. Patterson spoke of the reality of the youth’s sacrifice, and urged his hearers to accept the challenge of his death to increased devotion and loyalty for which he paid the supreme sacrifice.

Members of the Methodist choir presented several selections and the service closed with the singing by the congregation of the national anthem.

Source: The Globe Gazette, Mason City, Iowa, Wednesday, February 25, 1942

William Henry Kennedy
April 6, 1917 - December 7, 1941
(photo included)

F1c William H. Kennedy, 24, of Titonka died on December 7, 1941, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on board the USS Battleship Oklahoma when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor at 8:00 AM that Sunday morning. After 75 years, the remains of Fireman 1st Class William H. Kennedy have been identified and will be brought home for burial next to his mother in the Buffalo Township Cemetery, Titonka.

Planeside honors will be conducted at 11:00 AM on Thursday, May 11th, 2017, on the tarmac of the Des Moines International Airport. His body will be escorted to Titonka where the public can pay tribute from 5:00 to 7:00 PM Thursday evening at the Oakcrest Funeral Services of Titonka.

A funeral service will be held Friday, May 12th, 2017, at 10:00 AM, at the Titonka United Methodist Church. Military graveside honors will follow at the Buffalo Township Cemetery conducted by the United States Navy Honor Guard, the William H. Kennedy VFW Post # 4071 of Titonka, and many other local American Legions and VFW Honor Guards.
William H. "Willy" Kennedy, a son of William Henry and Martha Elizabeth Erickson Kennedy, was born on April 6, 1917, in Swea City, Iowa. He graduated from Titonka High School in 1934. He loved to play baseball with both the high school and town teams. After graduation, he worked for a local farmer, drove truck for Harold Miller, took a diesel engine course in Des Moines and attended a business college in Tyler, Texas. He joined the Navy on July 9, 1940, and went to the Great Lakes Training Center. Willy was sent to San Francisco then finally to Pearl Harbor to board the U.S.S. Oklahoma. He held the rank of Fireman First Class. The local VFW Post in Titonka carries his name.

Bringing Home a Hero

The remains of the 429 sailors and Marines killed on the U.S.S. Oklahoma were found in the months and years following the attack, but the effects of decomposition allowed only a small number to be positively identified.

In 1944, the bodies of the unidentified were buried as "unknowns" in two Hawaiian cemeteries. They were exhumed three years later in an attempt to identify them using dental records, but when those efforts proved unsuccessful, they were reburied in 1950 in 61 caskets at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
More than half a century later, in 2003, one of those caskets was dug up and five crewmembers were identified thanks to modern DNA testing. Four years later, another casket was disinterred and an additional member of the Oklahoma's crew identified.

In light of those findings, the U.S. Department of Defense announced in 2015 that the remaining caskets would be exhumed and efforts made to identify the rest of the 388 unknowns of the Oklahoma's crew and return them to their families.

Source: Oakcrest Funeral Services, Titonka. Iowa, 2017.