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Old 09-07-2019, 09:02 AM
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Thumbs up 78 years later, a Navy veteran killed in Pearl Harbor finally returns home to New Jer

78 years later, a Navy veteran killed in Pearl Harbor finally returns home to New Jersey
By: Carol Comegno - USA & Cherry Hill Post - 9-7-19

Brother and best friend of Pearl Harbor casualty Harold Costill talk about recent identification of his remains and the outpouring they expect for the funeral being planned in Clayton for Sept. 14. Joseph Lamberti, Cherry Hill Courier-Post

CLAYTON, New Jersey – The welcome home for Pearl Harbor sailor Harold Costill will also be a final farewell.

And the expected outpouring of family, friends, townspeople and the public at large, veterans, U.S. Navy officials and other military and civic groups for his upcoming funeral in New Jersey promises to be huge.

Family members said they expect 1,000 people or more to attend the Sept. 14 funeral for Fireman 3rd Class Harold Kendall "Bud" Costill, 18, a battleship USS West Virginia sailor killed in the Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941.

Costill's body was only recently returned from Hawaii to his Clayton, New Jersey home for burial after it was finally identified. His 93-year-old brother Gene, the only surviving sibling of the five Costill children, will oversee his brother's return and invited the entire town to his services.

Photo Link:
Navy sailor Class Harold K. Costill, 18, of Clayton, USS West Virginia casualty at Pearl Harbor in 1941 (Photo: U.S, Department of Defense)

Costill 's remains were buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, more commonly called the Punchbowl, in one of nearly three dozen caskets buried as "unknowns" of the 106 killed aboard the West Virginia.

Missing in Action for 78 years, now brought back home

Gene Costill received the welcome news in June from the defense department that his older brother had been located and positively identified through DNA, anthropological and other examination by the military — 78 years after being listed officially as Missing in Action.

Costill was in an engine room in the bottom of the ship when it sustained multiple torpedo and aerial bomb hits while moored in the harbor at Ford Island. One bomb's impact eventually penetrated the ship's ammunition supply, causing a massive fire.

Timely counter-flooding measures taken by the crew prevented the battleship from capsizing and allowed it to sink upright on the shallow harbor floor. Costill was one of 66 sailors whose remains stayed inside until the ship was raised a year after the attack, which sank and damaged multiple ships in the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The family plan calls for Harold to be buried in the family plot in a cemetery adjacent to a local high school and beside his great-grandfather Elwood Costill, who was a wounded Civil War soldier.

A family copes with the unknown

The sailor's parents are not here to see their son come home and neither is his sister, Joan Costill Burke, who, until her death in 2015, waged a campaign to have him located and identified.

"Our parents never coped very well with his death," Gene Costill said, adding his mother was always in denial and his father took the blame for his son's death.

"My mother never believed he was killed and used to say that 'some day he would walk through that door (of the house)' and my father blamed himself because he gave permission for my brother to join the Navy because of his age. He was only 17 at the time," Costill recalled.

Costill said he learned from the military autopsy that his brother died instantly of severe head trauma from shrapnel.

"It is some comfort to know he never knew what hit him and didn't suffer," he added."We always knew one day it would be possible for him to be identified."

Costill said he was sitting on a street bench in downtown Clayton when a Courier-Post newsboy came running along waving special editions announcing the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor.

"Three days later I was at home when a military officer drove up to our house at 319 Pearl Street. We knew why he had come and that it wasn't good news. He delivered the telegram telling my parents their son Harold was missing in action," recalled Costill, who later joined the Coast Guard during the war and served on a convoy ship in the North Atlantic.

Gene Costill and Thalbert "Pug" Snyder, Harold's best friend and one of the scheduled speakers at the funeral service, recently got together to reminisce about Harold.

Snyder recalled enlisting in the Navy with Harold Costill after they hitch-hiked together to a recruitment office in Philadelphia in October 1940.

He also remembers his tall buddy as an innovator and problem solver who loved being on Silver Lake in Clayton and eagerly awaited the fall hunting season when the two of them would shoot small game.

"He also loved the sea and his time on the battleship and was in the process of becoming an electrician's mate," said Snyder, who served in the South Pacific during the war and later ran the local news agency in town.

After decades of searching, the family receives answers
Joan Costill Burke, who was 10 years old when her brother died, was traumatized by his death, says her daughter, Nancy Eckler of Williamstown. She began researching the USS West Virginia and its casualties, contacting families and writing to the Navy and congressman about her quest to bring her brother home.

"If my mom had lived to see this day, she would be elated that her brother was finally coming home to be buried close to his family. I know that my mom is smiling in heaven," Eckler said.

"Bringing him home had been her mission for many years. It wasn’t just her dream to have him identified and brought home, it was also her parents’ wishes."

The daughter took up her mother's cause after her death in 2015. That same year the family became more hopeful following a Defense department announcement that it would exhume remains and start DNA testing to help identify unknowns buried at the Punchbowl.

Harold Costill's grand-nephew, Maj. Joseph A. Mucci of the Maryland Army National Guard and Nancy's son, then made the formal request to the military on behalf of the family to raise a particular numbered casket. The family believed it might contain their relative's remains based on an earlier military assessment that it was one of only three caskets containing bodies or parts believed to be that of a teenager.

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The defense department then made a decision to disinter all 35 caskets and did so by 2017.

The first two sailors identified so far from the "unknowns" of the West Virginia were both from New Jersey — Costill and Fireman 1st Class Angelo Gabriele of Trenton, who was first identified earlier this year.

"I also found some unexpected and ironic connections in my research," Eckler said.

She found out through an online family tree database that Harold Lee Kagarice, a Costill third cousin with the same first name as her deceased brother, was killed on the USS Arizona during the 1941 attack as well.


Welcome Home Sailor - may you now Rest In Peace and your Family finally have closure.


O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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