November 29, 1901 (Bridgeport, CT) – December 7, 1941; 40 years old
Married to Lillian Mabel Pepe on January 6, 1932 in Portsmouth, Virginia
Last local address: 295 Hamilton Street, Bridgeport
Service number 2063596
USS Oklahoma (BB-37)
Born to Frank (1862-1919) and Maria “Mary” Parisi Pepe (1869-1934), both born in Italy. Sisters Katherine “Carrie” (1895-1938), Pasqualina “Lena” (1896-?), Christina (1898-1974), and Marietta (1900-1985). One brother, James (1905-1971).
Received the Purple Heart Medal.
The 1920 census lists Stephen as “Fireman” at the Groton Navy Base. There is a gap in information found about his service record from 1920 until 1930. He served aboard the newly commissioned USS Northampton (CA-26) from May 17, 1930 until his transfer to the USS Oklahoma on April 30, 1940. NOTE: The USS Northampton ended up being sunk during the Battle of Tassafaronga (Guadalcanal) in November 1942.
From The Hartford Courant October 8, 2018
A Bridgeport sailor who died aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma when it was sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was laid to rest with full military honors Monday at the Massachusetts National Cemetery on Cape Cod.
Stephen Pepe, a water tender first-class, was a 43-year-old career sailor whose job was tending the oil-fired boilers on his ship. He was below deck at the time of the Japanese attacked, which propelled the United States into World War II.
A few minutes before 8 a.m. on December 7, 1941, the first Japanese torpedo slammed into the Oklahoma, one of seven battleships moored along Battleship Row at Pearl Harbor. As many as eight more torpedoes, launched by torpedo bombers, would strike the Oklahoma, ripping open its port side, flooding compartments below deck and causing the massive dreadnought to roll over.
The order was quickly given to abandon ship. Within 20 minutes of the first torpedo strike, Oklahoma had capsized. More than 400 sailors and Marines were trapped inside the thick, steel hull.
In the days after the attack, rescue crews got 32 men out alive. The remaining 406 were declared missing, among them Pepe. Of the 1,353 sailors and Marines aboard the Oklahoma, 899 survived, 22 were killed and 26 wounded in the attack.
The widow of one of Pepe’s ship mates told a reporter in 2011 that Pepe saved many of his crew mates’ lives as water filled the doomed Oklahoma. Working with a sailor who’d gotten through a porthole, Pepe shoved men through, sometimes breaking their collarbones, but saving their lives. As the water rose, Pepe disappeared.
In 1947, 388 sailors and Marines who served on the Oklahoma remained unaccounted for. The remains of the unknown dead were combined and buried in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu.
In 2015, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency began working to identify all of the unknown remains from the USS Oklahoma and since then many the remains have been returned to families. Scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA, anthropological analysis and other evidence to identify Pepe.
WT1c Pepe is buried in Massachusetts National Cemetery, Connery Ave, Bourne, MA; Section 56, Plot 4.
From The Defense POW/MIA Agency press release October 1, 2018
WASHINGTON – The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, accounted for from World War II are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
Navy Water Tender 1st Class Stephen Pepe, 43, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, accounted for on March 19, 2018, will be buried October 8 in Bourne, Massachusetts. On Dec. 7, 1941, Pepe was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The USS Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits, which caused it to quickly capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen, including Pepe.
From December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the deceased crew, which were subsequently interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries.
In September 1947, tasked with recovering and identifying fallen U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater, members of the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) disinterred the remains of U.S. casualties from the two cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks. The laboratory staff was only able to confirm the identifications of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma at that time. The AGRS subsequently buried the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP), known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including Pepe.
In April 2015, the Deputy Secretary of Defense issued a policy memorandum directing the disinterment of unknowns associated with the USS Oklahoma. On June 15, 2015, DPAA personnel began exhuming the remains from the Punchbowl for analysis.
To identify Pepe’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis, anthropological analysis, as well as material and circumstantial evidence.
DPAA is grateful to the Department of Veterans Affairs for their partnership in this mission.
USS Oklahoma memorial, Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, HI; photo from findagrave.com
The horrendous number of deaths on the USS Oklahoma—429— was second only to the 1,177 men who perished aboard the USS Arizona. For almost 60 years, there was no memorial to commemorate the men or their ship. Part of the Oklahoma sat submerged near Ford Island while many of her crew lay in unidentified mass graves. At the Punchbowl cemetery, where countless young servicemen rest, no one knew exactly where the Oklahoma crew was buried. Beginning in 2000, USS Oklahoma survivors, members of the USS Oklahoma Memorial at Pearl Harbor Committee, and hundreds of others came together to create the memorial. On December 7, 2007, the memorial was formally dedicated as an enduring reminder of the Oklahoma and her crew.
Honored at the Honolulu Memorial, 2177 Puowaina Drive, Honolulu, Courts of the Missing, Court 1
Buried in Massachusetts National Cemetery, Connery Ave, Bourne, MA; Section 56, Plot 4. Photo by webmaster July 24, 2020.