Robinson Daily News

Pearl Harbor fatality returning to Illinois

This Veterans Day, an Illinois man who died at Pearl Harbor will finally be on his way home.
Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Keith Tipsword, a native of Moccasin in Effingham County, died aboard the USS West Virginia during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack. He will be buried about 12:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at Moccasin Cemetery with full military honors.
As a Machinist’s Mate, Tipsword would have helped operate, maintain and repairs main and auxiliary engines, steering engines, anchor machinery, turbines, pumps and related equipment. He was awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal with Bronze Star, the American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with Bronze Star, American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal. 
The West Virginia was a 32,600-ton Colorado class battleship built at Newport News, Va. Construction occurred between her keel laying in 1920 and her commissioning in December 1923. Her sister ship Washington was cancelled in 1922 and she would be the last battleship completed for the Navy for nearly two decades.
On Dec. 7, 1941, the ship was moored in Battleship Row beside the USS Tennessee when the attack occurred.
The West Virginia was hit by at least seven torpedoes and two armor-piercing shells converted to bombs, causing extensive damage. The explosions blew two large holes in her port side, the rudder was disabled and one of the floatplanes on the catapult was knocked to the main deck and spilled gasoline, which caught fire. Skillful damage control saved her from capsizing but she quickly sank to the harbor bottom. Most of the crew was evacuated.
The West Virginia was salvaged and returned to the Pacific combat zone in October 1944. On Oct. 25, she took part in the Battle of Surigao Strait, stopping a force of Japanese battleships and smaller vessels attempting to make a night attack. It was the last time in history when battleships engaged battleships with their big guns.
Subsequently, West Virginia took part in operations to capture Mindoro, Lingayen Gulf, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, using her 16-inch guns to support U.S. ground forces. On April q, 1945, while off Okinawa, she was struck by a Japanese Kamikaze plane but remained in action. After the war, the ship was used to bring veterans home. She was decommissioned in January 1947 and sold for scrapping in August 1959.
There were 105 total casualties from the West Virginia. The process of identifying the bodies by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency began with the disinterments of 35 Unknowns associated with the ship between June and October 2017.
At the start of the project, there were 25 unresolved casualties from the ship and 35 associated Unknowns buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. Disinterments were completed in October 2017 and, as of June 2022, there have been 13 USS West Virginia identifications, including Tipsword.
Once DPAA identifies a sailor, the Navy Casualty Office makes the official notification to the Person Authorized to Direct Disposition. Following the notification a Navy Casualty case worker is assigned to the family to coordinate a formal briefing to discuss the identification, their wishes for disposition options.
A Casualty Assistance Calls Officer and Navy Casualty case worker conduct a Family visit/briefing with the family and explain all entitlements, processes and assist with the final disposition of the remains.
It is the CACO’s responsibility to assist the family with burial coordination. The family is given the choice to either have the sailor re-interred at NMCP, or choose an alternate location. Navy Mortuary, a branch within Navy Casualty, will coordinate the movement of remains, which typically arrive a couple days prior to the burial.

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