PAWTUCKET – John Costa is 89 years old now and still lives in the house on Crane Street that he grew up in during the 1920s and 1930s.
“We had nine people in this house … my mother and father, five boys and two girls,” the World War II veteran was saying a few days ago. “My twin sister Rose and I are the only ones still living. Rose lives out in Rehoboth.”
Costa joined the National Guard in 1940, at the age of 18, admittedly “looking for a little excitement.”
“I heard they had a year’s worth of training scheduled in Florida,” he said. “In those days, none of us could afford to drive to Florida. I joined the Guard and by 1941, I was in the full-time Army, working as a medic.”
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Costa’s two brothers followed him into the service.
“Joseph was drafted in 1942 and ended up in the same unit as me – the 118th Medical Battalion,” John Costa recalled. “He was in Company B and I was in Company C. Then our brother Francis joined up in 1943. He served with the 656th Field Artillery Battalion in the European Theatre.”
John Costa’s unit was sent to the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Theatre in 1942.
“On one of the islands, I was transferred to an anti-aircraft outfit (still as a medic). Later, I was transferred to Battery A and then to Battery C of the 103rd Field Artillery, attached to the 43rd Infantry Division. We were in the Philippines when the war ended in 1945.”
Costa’s brother Joe was killed by the Japanese in a horrible manner on July 18, 1943.
“During the Munda Campaign, Joe was with the group bringing our wounded, mostly litter cases, through the jungle of the Solomon Islands. They were attacked by Japanese forces and they had no protection,” John Costa said.
“The wounded, plus the medics, were massacred by the Japanese with bayonettes, machetes and hand grenades. They all died a horrible death.”
John Costa learned of his brother’s death when a fellow soldier spotted Joe’s name on a company bulletin board that listed recent Killed In Action reports.
“He showed me Joe’s name and I said that must be him,” John Costa recalled. “It was very sad for me. Joseph was always the favorite brother in our family. I could never forget Joe. I think about him all the time.”
Brother Francis came home from Europe and lived a full life, passing away in 2008.
John Costa worked in electronics for many years.
“I was a radio engineer on the staff at WNRI in Woonsocket and also at WPAW in Pawtucket,” he said, “but there was no money in that. I ended up working for Raytheon in the electronics division.”
Costa mailed in photos of his brothers and himself for use in the Military Page, proud to show the commitment his family made to the war effort.
“I sure did think of life a lot differently when I came home from the war,” said the man who first joined the National Guard “looking for a little excitement.”
To contact John Costa, email him at this address: email@example.com