‘Unknown’ USS Oklahoma Sailor identified, laid to rest with brother

U.S. Sailors assigned to the U.S. Navy Honor Guard conduct a repatriation ceremony for Fireman 1st Class Charles Casto at the National Memorial of the Pacific (Punchbowl) , Sept. 14. Photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Bruch

Jim Neuman

Historian, Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, 429 Sailors and Marines were killed aboard USS Oklahoma.

Two brothers from East Liverpool, Ohio Fireman 2nd Class Richard Casto and Fireman 1st Class Charles Casto served on the Oklahoma that morning. Both lost their lives as result of the attack.

Though Richard’s remains were identified and marked with a grave stone bearing his name, Charles’ remains lay in a section labeled “Unknowns, USS Oklahoma.”

On Thursday, Sept. 14, during a burial ceremony at Punchbowl with full military honors, Charles was finally laid to rest in the same plot as his brother Richard, a grave marker now bears his name.

The journey from an unknown status to identification was nearly 75 years in the making. From December 1941 to June 1944, many of the remains of the deceased crew were interred in the Halawa and Nu‘uanu Cemeteries.

In September 1947, the remains from the two cemeteries were transferred to an identification laboratory at Schofield Barracks. Only 35 men from the USS Oklahoma were positively identified, and the remaining “unknowns,” including Charles Casto were buried in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.

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, Defense POW/ MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) personnel began exhuming the remains from the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific for analysis.

The renewed effort at identification was initiated by Pearl Harbor survivor Ray Emory, who used National Archives files to research the remains and pressed officials to disinter the bodies for further analysis. Emory, who experienced the attack on Pearl Harbor as a crewmember aboard the USS Honolulu has attended each reinterment ceremony, often receiving the flag on behalf of the families who can’t make the trip to Hawaii. Each ceremony is important to him, but reuniting the Casto brothers is especially poignant. “Proper identification means a lot to the families of those who lost loved ones. It is good to see the brothers together again.”

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Category: News