When the battleship USS Oklahoma turned over just 15 minutes after being hit by the first Japanese torpedo on 7 December 1941, 429 sailors and Marines were either already dead — or soon would be. Men that somehow survived the initial nightmare of torpedoes, bombs, shrapnel, bullets, and fire had to swim through another level of hell to reach the relative safety of land. Those that remained inside the flooding ship would spend days in pitch-black darkness with no food, water, and what breathable air they had was being slowly used up while they hoped for rescue.
78 years later, we can’t possibly comprehend what those men endured that day. For a few sailors, however, they were concerned not only with their own welfare, but with that of their brothers as well: Among the battleship’s crew of 1,300 were eight sets of brothers. Here are their stories.
20-year-old Charles Casto and his 19-year-old brother Richard, of East Liverpool, Ohio both perished. Richard’s body was found and buried after the attacks at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, but Charles was interred among hundreds of other USS Oklahoma unknown sailors and Marines. In 2017 the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency identified Charles’ remains, which had been buried with other unknowns in a group grave, and reinterred him alongside his brother.
Seaman 1st Class Kirby R. Stapleton (24, of Chillicothe, Mo.) was trapped below decks when the torpedoes tore open the battleship. His brother Delbert was topside and survived. Kirby’s remains were identified in 2018 and buried alongside Delbert, who passed away in 2001, at the Riverside (Calif.) National Cemetery. Continue reading “Day of Infamy: What happened to the eight sets of brothers on USS OKLAHOMA”
On the morning of 7 December 1941, nine Japanese torpedoes struck the battleship USS Oklahoma, anchored on Battleship Row during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The massive ship capsized in just 15 minutes, trapping hundreds of sailors and Marines inside.
Crews worked feverishly to rescue the survivors, which could be heard tapping the inside of the ship’s hull for the next three days. Unsung heroes like civilian dock worker Julio DeCastro raced against the clock, cutting through sections of the hull to pull out dozens of men.
Two Oklahoma sailors earned the Medal of Honor: Seaman James Ward and Ensign Francis Flaherty both sacrificed their lives so their comrades could escape their battle stations. Chief John Austin posthumously earned the Navy Cross for assisting 15 of his fellow sailors out of a flooded compartment. Boatswain Adolph Bothne braved enemy fire and the hazardous waters, picking up boatload after boatload of survivors and ferrying them to Ford Island. Lt. (j.g.) Aloysius H. Schmitt assisted in evacuating a dozen trapped sailors through an opening, but when it was his turn to escape, he declined so that several other sailors that showed up as he about to be rescued appeared. Schmitt gave up his chance of survival so that others may live, becoming the first American chaplain to die in World War II. Continue reading “Never forgotten: Remains of over 200 Pearl Harbor sailors, Marines identified”