After 80 years, long time U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employee Tim Peter’s great uncle, Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class George M. Gooch, finally returned home to be laid to rest.
"As kids we would always see pictures of my great uncle on the wall and my grandmother would tell us stories about him as well as her other brother, Gene, who was killed in Normandy,” said Peters.
Gooch was born on April 23, 1919, in Purdin, Missouri. The youngest of six siblings, he joined the Navy in 1939.
Gooch was serving on the battleship USS Oklahoma On Dec. 7, 1941, which was moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The USS Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits, causing the vessel to capsize. The attack on the ship resulted in the deaths of 429 crewmen, including Gooch, he was just 22 years old.
His remains were recovered and identified through the USS Oklahoma disinterment. He was positively identified through DNA samples provided by family members on September 14, 2020. As of June 2021, the identification of 338 individuals from the Oklahoma, nearly 86% have been identified.
Gooch received several medals for his service. They include a Purple Heart, American Defense Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and World War II Victory Medal.
“My grandmother was tough as nails, but when it came to her two younger brothers you could tell that losing them affected her tremendously,” said Peters. “Her whole demeanor and personality would change when she talked about them. You could tell that losing them was extremely devasting for her.”
Gooch was known as a free spirit to his friends and family and felt so called to serve his country that he walked out on his day job at a poultry plant in 1939 to enlist in the Navy.
Peters fondly recalls a memory that his grandmother shared with him and that was forever preserved in numerous entries in his great uncle’s yearbook.
“When my uncle was in high school some of his classmates nicknamed him ‘Squeekie’ due to the high-pitched nature of his voice. I remember my grandmother telling me about his nickname and a few of the messages written in his high school yearbook addressed him as such. This was something that he embraced and joked about with friends and family and without his yearbooks we wouldn’t have gotten this insight into his personality, it’s a special thing,” Peters said.
When asked why it was important to bring his great uncle home Peters said, “Even though my grandmother has long since passed, I know how important bringing her brother home would have been to her and our surviving family members. This has given our family the closure that we needed.”
Gooch was buried on Oct. 9, 2021, in his hometown.
National Park Service. (2021 October 23). USS Oklahoma casualties identified. NPS. https://www.nps.gov/perl/uss-oklahoma-casualties-identified.htm
Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. (2021 July 1). USS Oklahoma Sailor Accounted for from World War II. DPAA. https://www.dpaa.mil/News-Stories/News-Releases/PressReleaseArticleView/Article/2383408/uss-oklahoma-sailor-accounted-for-from-world-war-ii-gooch-g