Area sailor, missing since 1941, to be laid to rest
EAST LIVERPOOL — During every war, there are thousands who wait at home for word of their loved ones serving on the battle lines.
In generations past, that word came by way of telegraph or sometimes by a military-issue vehicle pulling in front of a home, discharging two somber officers to dispatch the news that a husband, a young son, possibly a daughter, had paid the supreme sacrifice.
And, sometimes, that word never arrived, with families waiting and wondering for decades what became of their loved ones who left to fight on foreign shores but never returned.
For an area family, that wait has spanned more than 75 years, since the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, where Navy Fireman 1st Class Charles Ray Casto, 20, and his brother, Navy Fireman 2nd Class Richard Eugene Casto, 19, were among the 429 crewmen who perished.
Both men were serving on the USS Oklahoma when it was attacked by Japanese aircraft, sustaining multiple torpedo strikes, which caused it to quickly capsize.
Within 11 minutes of being struck, the ship had rolled over with 461 men aboard, with only 32 able to make it out. According to reports, rescue crews worked for nearly two days trying to free the men still trapped inside as they banged on the hull.
Charles had been born in Pennsylvania in 1921 and Richard in East Liverpool in 1922 to Mary Alice and David Casto. They lived in Chester, W.Va., with three siblings and their parents, who worked in the potteries.
Their brother Oscar was an Army photographer and their other brother Orville also served in the Army during the war. Charles had enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1939 and Richard in 1940.
From December 1941 until June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the deceased crew members, who were buried in the Halawa and Nu’uanu cemeteries in Hawaii.
Members of the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) undertook the task of recovering and identifying U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater in September 1947, according to a release from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).
They disinterred the remains of the casualties from both the cemeteries, transferring them to Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks, but the laboratory staff was only able to confirm the identities of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma at that time.
Subsequently, the AGRS reinterred the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (NMCP) in Honolulu, and in 1949 a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including Charles Casto. His brother’s remains at some point had apparently been identified.
In April 2015, the deputy secretary of defense directed the disinterment of the unknowns associated with the USS Oklahoma and on June 15, 2015, DPAA personnel began exhuming the remains from the NMCP for analysis.
To identify Charles Casto’s remains, scientists from NPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA analysis, which matched his family, as well as circumstantial evidence and laboratory analysis, including dental comparisons.
Now identified, Casto will be buried Thursday with full military honors in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
Although his name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at an American Battle Monuments Commission site along with other World War II MIAs, a rosette will now be placed next to Casto’s name indicating the sailor has now been accounted for and his family’s waiting is at an end.