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Paul J. Cascio, Jr.
Radio Operator B-17E "Flagship Texas No. VI / Strip-Straffer" 41-9207
Prisoner Of War (POW)

Background
Click For EnlargementPaul John Cascio, Jr.  was born on January 2, 1922 in Masontown, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Baltimore Vocational School and worked as a bricklayer's apprentice.

Wartime History
On May 14, 1942 he enlisted in the U. S. Army with serial number 13072715 and joined the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) and was trained as a radio operator and sent overseas to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA). Assigned to the 43rd Bombardment Group (43rd BG) "Ken's Men", 65th Bombardment Squadron (65th BS) as a radio operator flying bombing missions in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA).

Mission History
On June 1, 1943 at 10:10am took off from 7-Mile Drome near Port Moresby as radio operator aboard B-17E "Flagship Texas No. VI / Strip-Straffer" 41-9207 piloted by 1st Lt. Ernest A. Naumann on his first mission flying as a pilot on an armed reconnaissance mission over New Britain. This B-17 was armed with bombs and intended to fly over both the northern and southern coasts. At 2:00pm roughly four hours into the mission, this B-17 transmitted their last radio message received was over the Wide Bay area. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).

In fact, ten minutes later at 2:10pm intercepted by a dozen A6M Zeros from 251 Kokutai (251 Air Group) over the Gasmata area. This B-17 was quickly hit by gunfire that caused a fuel leak that ignited into a long flame that extended past the tail. In the cockpit, Naumann activated the fire suppression system but moments later the fire resumed with even greater intensity. Realizing the fire was out of control, Naumann ordered the crew to bail out as the wing was starting to disintegrated and began to angle downward in a dive.

Meanwhile, bombardier Alvin opened the bomb bay doors and salvoed the bombs to allow the crew to bail out. Inside the bomb bay standing on the catwalk was Cascio and engineer TSgt Thomas H. Fox. As both prepared to bail out they became trapped by the G-force as the bomber began to dive. Suddenly, gasoline vapors caused an explosion an altitude of roughly 6,000'. During the explosion, Naumann, Cascio, Lewis, Alvin and possibly Gardner were blown clear of the bomber by the fuel tank explosion. Only Naumann and Cascio were wearing parachutes.

Cascio delayed opening his parachute until he entered a cloud fearing he might be strafed by the Zeros. He descended safely and landed in trees with a Zero flying over him after he landed. When he released his harness he fell to the ground and sprained his ankle and hid for the rest of the day, thinking he was the sole survivor from the crew. The next morning, he departed but avoided walking paths and feared the native people were loyal to the Japanese. Walking in the area, he found the bodies of Alvin and Lewis, both thrown clear by the explosion, neither was wearing a parachute and both bodies were badly mutilated. For two more days, Cascio wandered alone in the jungle until June 4, 1943 when he found a hut and heard a dog and child and a friendly native approached and gave him a root to eat and dried his clothing by their fire then walked to a nearby village where he saw a U. S. parachute hanging. Next he was taken to another village and reunited with the other three survivors: Naumann, Green and Fox.

The three survivors: Naumann, Green and Fox found each other and were taken to a nearby village. On June 4, 1943 they were reunited with Cascio when he joined them. On June 5, 1943 a native who spoke English arrived and discussed taking the Americans to the south coast where they could get medical treatment and better food. While in the village, Fox and Green were in pain from their wounds. Several times, Fox asked for a pistol to kill himself. On June 7, 1943 in the morning the group departed with natives carrying Fox and Green in stretchers made from bush materials. The group walked for roughly eight hours to a coastal village and were walked to the center and the carriers walked away screaming and running when a Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) patrol emerged and captured the entire group.

Prisoner Of War
As Prisoners Of War (POWs) all four were taken aboard a boat to a nearby observation post. On June 13, 1943 both Green and Fox were taken away under the pretext they were being taken to the hospital at Gasmata and were never seen again.

On June 21, 1943 Naumann and Cascio were tied and blindfolded and transported by boat to Rabaul and detained at the Japanese Navy POW Camp at Rabaul operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) Keibitai (Naval Special Police), 81st Naval Guard Unit. Both were interrogated for information but only gave their name, rank and serial number. While detained, both were tortured and denied food and medical care.

Cascio became sick with malaria and lost his appetite and refused to eat food and fasted for ten days and expected to die. The Japanese gave him better food but he became sick when he ate and but was able to eat only rice in soup. On July 14, 1943 Cascio plus other six crew from B-17F "The Reckless Mountain Boys" 41-24518 were embarked on a ship that departed Rabaul and three days later arrived at Truk. The POWs were taken ashore and detained in jail cells and further questioned. Cascio was too weak to answer and was put on another ship but two days later taken to a hospital on Truk where he received his first medical treatment consisting of pills and powers as malaria treatment that only reduced his symptoms.

On July 27, 1943 Cascio was again blindfolded and embarked aboard a destroyer. During the ten day voyage to Japan, he was subjected to more interrogations but was too weak to answer and was disembarked at Yokohama. Next, detained at Ofuna Camp and was only interrogated once more and was given poor food and continued to suffer from malaria including a bad attack on December 25, 1943 during church services. A fellow POW, Australian Lt. Commander Palgrave E. Carr gave him quinine pills that allowed him to fully recovered.

On March 15, 1944 a group including Cascio was transported to work at the Ashio Copper Mine under the direction of the Imperial Japanese Army. During this period, he worked at the copper smelter and was allowed a bath only once a week. On June 7, 1945, transferred to another camp at Ashio with poor conditions infested with lice and fleas and was occasionally issued two cigarettes per day. At this location during a four month period, the prisoners received approximately twenty Red Cross parcels with supplies.

During early August 1945, an interpreter told the prisoners the U. S. had dropped two atomic bombs and if they dropped a third the Japanese had orders to kill all prisoners. On August 20, 1945 the POWs were no longer required to perform labor. On August 27, 1945 two U. S. planes overflew the camp and dropped supplies including cigarettes, soaps, magazines and other supplies. On August 29, 1945 there was another air drop with K rations, cigarettes, clothing and other items. On August 30, 1945 the air drop included a note saying it would not be long before they were liberated.

On September 4, 1945 boarded a train to Tokyo. At the end of the Pacific War, his body weight was only 100 pounds and was given abundant food by the Red Cross. On September 24, 1945 liberated from Tokyo POW Camp (Shinjuku) Tokyo Bay Area 35-140. Afterwards, he spent a month and a half in the hospital in Okinawa and the Philippines. Afterwards, he was transported aboard USS Admiral C. F. Hughes across the Pacific Ocean and arrived at San Francisco on October 15, 1945. He was hospitalized in San Francisco then transported to Virgina. Finally, on October 27, 1945 he returned home. Soon afterwards, he married Wanda Eve Cascio.

Memorials
Cascio passed away on January 29, 2006 at age 84. He is buried at Baltimore National Cemetery in Baltimore, MD at section P site 267.

Relatives
Dorothy Cascio Morse (sister of Cascio)
"Three of my brothers served in WWII in the South Pacific. My oldest brother Andrew Cascio was a mechanic in the US Air Force for 11 years when he resigned. My brother Paul J. Cascio was also in the US Air Force, an aerial gunner and radio man. He was missing for 19 months when we learned he was a Japanese prisoner, a total of 28 months in Tokyo Camp Number 2. During the time Paul was missing my youngest brother Joseph Cascio, US Army Infantry was killed on Morotai Island on September 6, 1944. He was 20 years old. I have always been very patriotic and wish I could witness a Freedom Flight. I have never heard of them. God bless every one who has served our country, past and present."

Paul J. Coleianne (nephew of Cascio)

References
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - Paul J. Cascio, Jr.
NARA World War II Prisoners of War Data File - Paul J. Cascio, Jr.
WW2 Nominal Roll - Palgrave Ebden Carr
Testimony of Paul J. Cascio, Jr. August 26, 1947
FindAGrave - Paul J Cascio Jr. (grave photo)
Paul J. Cascio, Jr. Second World War personal narrative
The Baltimore Sun Obituary Cascio, Paul J. January 31, 2006
Legiontown USA "Paul J. Cascio Jr., Prisoner of War, June 1943–September 1945" May 24, 2020
Ken’s Men Against The Empire - The Illustrated History of the 43rd Bombardment Group During World War II - Volume I: Prewar to October 1943 The B-17 Era (2015) pages 198-200 (June 1, 1943 mission and Casco POW), 317 (June 1, 1943 crew killed), 327 (64th BS, 41-9207), 364 (Profile #14), 388 (index Casco)

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