The Mystery Of Wyoming Pearl Harbor Survivor No. 12

When Cheyenne residents Jeremy and Cecelia Bay saw a Wyoming Pearl Harbor Survivor license plate in a Hawaii pawnshop, they knew they couldnt leave it there. That plate needed to go home. They couldnt leave it behind.

Renée Jean

December 07, 20224 min read

World War II plate 12 12 6 22
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

By Renée Jean, Business and Tourism Reporter

In the military there’s a code – no brother left behind.

So when Jeremy and Cecelia Bay, of Cheyenne, happened to stumble across a Wyoming license plate belonging to a Pearl Harbor survivor in, of all places, a Hawaii pawnshop, they couldn’t just walk away. 

Even though the plate itself had a price tag of $600.

Military Bond

Both Jeremy and Cecelia have strong military backgrounds. Jeremy served 22 years in the Navy and has a degree in military studies, which included extensive research on Pearl Harbor history. Cecelia, meanwhile, comes from a family with lots of military service.

One of Jeremy’s biggest academic projects was Pearl Harbor history.

The couple were not in Pearl Harbor for that purpose, however. They’d gone to see their son’s high school graduation. 

Couldn’t Leave It Behind

But they couldn’t stop thinking about the plate they’d seen in the quirky little pawnshop window at their hotel. That plate needed to go home. They couldn’t leave it behind. 

“There was this inner calling,” Cecelia Bay told Cowboy State Daily. “It feels like sometimes in life, there’s this inner calling when you come across an object that just pulls at you.”

There aren’t a lot of Pearl Harbor survivors remaining, Jeremy pointed out. And there are even fewer Wyoming Pearl Harbor survivors.

“It just didn’t make sense to me for this thing to be sitting in Hawaii or to be sitting in Ohio,” he said.

Six hundred dollars, though, is a lot of money to pay for a license plate.

“We pondered it for a day or so,” Jeremy said. “And then we kind of thought about it, and how it’s weird, right? It’s weird that of all the places, this thing falls in front of us.”

They went back to the pawnshop owner, told him they’re from Wyoming and that they wanted to bring the plate back home, and to reunite it with family if possible. 

He agreed to knock $200 off the price, but that was as low as he could go. Ultimately, the couple felt compelled to buy the plate, $400 or not.

“It just felt very wrong leaving it in Hawaii,” Cecelia Bay said. “It felt like we needed to bring it back.”

Survivor Search

The two hoped they’d be able to find the survivor’s family and return the plate to them. 

Or, failing that, place it with a museum in the county where the survivor lived, with a little bit of that person’s history.

But so far the couple are stuck in their mission. 

They’ve been unable to discover the survivor’s name, so they cannot locate any family members who might want to have the plate. And without the survivor’s identity, they also cannot tell the story behind the plate.

“Unfortunately, county records won’t tell you anything, even if the person is deceased,” Jeremy said. 

Turn To Social Media

After running out of more traditional options, the couple posted a photo of the plate on Facebook in July, to see if someone else might happen to know who Pearl Harbor Survivor plate No. 12 belongs to. 

The post produced a momentary stir on the surface of the social media ocean. One person claimed the plate “probably” belonged to their family — but stopped communicating when asked to provide documentation.

“I’d like to trust people, but I also want some verification,” Jeremy said.

Important Story

Having a story to go with the plate feels so important, he said, partly because of the considerable mental health issues military personnel and family members face.

“Getting this to a community who can rally around it and have a good feeling about their loved one’s service or their contribution to the military, that can be a protective factor,” he said. “And that’s another reason this is so important to me.”

Anyone with information about Wyoming’s Pearl Harbor Survivor No. 12 can reach out to Cecelia Bay at 307-256-3344 or

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Renée Jean

Business and Tourism Reporter