Silently and imperceptibly,
as we wake or sleep,
we grow strong or weak;
and, at last,
some crisis shows what we have become.
-- Brooke Foss Wescott.
The Western Star, September 21, 1945
POSTHUMOUS AWARD TO LIEUTENANT CASTEEL
Protection Officer Died In Action August 12, 1944.
First Lieut. Johnnie L. Casteel, husband of Mrs. Alma Casteel of Shattuck, Okla., and son of Mrs. A. Casteel, Salina, Kans., formerly of Protection, died August 12, 1944, of wounds received in action while serving with the Fourth Infantry Division in Europe. He has been awarded the Silver Star posthumously for gallantry in action.
His gallant actions are recounted in an official communication of the European Theater of Operations which read:
"Lieut. Casteel, leader of a tank platoon, brought his tanks forward, wiped out one machine gun nest and moved out ahead of our lines. His tank was hit by fire from an enemy 88 mm gun and set afire. When Lieut. Casteel got out, he was taken prisoner and his weapons, together with his personal items, were taken from him.
Without regard for his personal safety, he grabbed the enemy soldier, threw him across a hedgerow toward our lines and jumped over behind him. He then dragged the enemy soldier at least fifty yards while under heavy fire from both the enemy and friendly troops. Though wounded, he turned his prisoner over to friendly troops and gave important directions regarding the location of the enemy tank before being carried away on a litter. Lieut. Casteel's exemplary courage reflects great credit upon himself and the military service."
A fellow officer, Capt. Francis E. Songer, who followed him to First Aid, gives more clarifying information in his letter written February 6 in Germany to Mrs. Casteel:
"Johnnie was leading his platoon in attack, in his tank, 'Bundle of Baustic.' A Kraut tank was hidden in a sunken road and he stood up with his body half out of the turret to look through his glasses at it. Guess he wasn't sure. It fired at him and the projectile knocked the gun shield off his tank and it, or a piece of it, went through his left arm. It was a pretty bad wound. He managed to get out of his tank and some Krauts caught him and started to take him away. He broke away and brought one back with him. He passed out as we got to him and I went to the aid station with him, but he did not regain consciousness before they took him away. He had lost a lot of blood and was probably in England at the end...I must stop now, the fighting is rough and I don't get any rest these days. The weather has changed a bit warmer but lots of rain. Good night. Sincerely. --Francis."
Lieut. Casteel was a resident of Protection most of his life until after he graduated from high school in 1937. He then attended the American Business College at Wichita, and afterward was an employee of the Santa Fe Trailways Transportation Co., until his induction into the Army in November, 1941. He received his basic and officer's training at Fort Knox, Ky., where he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, July 25, 1942. Two days later he was united in marriage to Miss Alma Weibert of Shattuck, Okla.
He was on duty at Camp Funston, Kans., for 8 months prior to his going overseas to North Africa, May, 1843. After active duty in Sicily, he was stationed in England until June 7, 1944. He was among the first to land in France on D Day. Lieut. Casteel, a platoon leader with a tank unit attached to the Fourth Division, was in the midst of heavy fighting. At that time he received his commission as First Lieutenant on June 23. He remained in active service in France until wounded August 11, 1944. He died on August 12, the day following his injury, at the age of 25 years, one month and 28 days.
An Army officer presented Mrs. Casteel with the Silver Star, awarded posthumously to recognize her husband's gallantry in action against the German enemy. She has had information to the effect that he was buried in an American Cemetery in France with a Protestant Chaplain officiating.
Those left to mourn his passing are his devoted wife, Alma, of Shattuck, Okla.; his mother, Mrs. A. Casteel, Salina, Kans.; two sisters, Mrs. J. D. VonAchen, Salina, Kans., and Mrs. E. E. Newton of Wichita; two brothers, Pfc. Van H. Roberts and Col. Roby D. Roberts, both serving overseas with the U. S. Army forces in England; two nephews and one niece of Salina and a host of other relatives and friends.
There were three other half brothers and one half sister, Ed, Bill, Robert, and Ruth Casteel, whose whereabouts are unknown. His father preceded him in death in April, 1926, at Ashland, Kans.
Johnnie was a kind, devoted, and generous husband, son, and brother, and was highly esteemed by all who knew him.
The Protection Post, July 28, 1944
News from the Men in Service
Protection friends of Johnnie Casteel will be interested in learning some late news concerning him which came to the Post from his sister, Mrs. E. E. Newton. Lt. Casteel has recently received a promotion to the rank of first lieutenant, effective June 23rd. He was among the first American boys to make a landing in France on "D" day. Mrs. Newton sent his address, as well as that of another brother, Cpl. Roby Roberts, which we have on file for any of their friends who wish to make use of them.
Northwest Oklahoman, Shattuck, Okla., September 8, 1944.
Seriously Wounded In France August 11
Mrs. Johnnie Casteel, the former Miss Alma Weibert, last week was notified by the Government that her husband, 1/Lieut. Johnnie Casteel, was seriously wounded on August 11th in the Battle of France while in command of a tank unit. Mrs. Casteel has been a clerk in the Shattuck post office for several years. She anxiously awaits further word concerning his injuries.
Lieut. Casteel entered the Armed Forces in November of 1941. The couple were married July 27, 1942 .
Thanks to John Rider for finding and contributing this article to this site!
Northwest Oklahoman and Ellis County News, 6 Oct 1944
Husband Dies After Injury
Mrs. Johnnie L. Casteel, postoffice clerk here since 1939, and formerly Miss Alma Weibert, received Monday morning the Government notification that her husband, Lieut. Johnnie L. Casteel, had died in France one day after being seriously wounded in action. He was serving with a tank battalion, his organization having experienced considerable action against a stubborn enemy in the Battle For France.
The officer, who was Commissioned from Fort Knox, Ky., had met the Shattuck girl while both attended a Wichita, Kansas, business college, and they were married July 27, 1942, in Wichita. His home town was Protection, Kansas.
Innumerable friends of the couple extend deepest sympathy to Mrs. Casteel upon the loss of her companion.
Article courtesy of Laura Martin at the Oklahoma Historical Society, which was kindly passed on to her from Kitty Pittman of Question Point Oklahoma: Ask A Librarian.
Thanks also to John Rider for finding and sending a copy of this article for this web page!
Northwest Oklahoman and Ellis County News, 13 Oct 1944, p.1, col. 1.
Memorial Service for Lt. Casteel Saturday
Mrs. Johnnie Casteel and Mrs. V.A. Oates have gone to Protection, Kansas, where on Saturday of this week a Memorial Service will be conducted for Lieut. Johnnie L. Casteel, whose death in the line of duty occurred August 12th in France, the day following his serious injury while with a tank battalion in the Battle For France.
Article courtesy of Laura Martin at the Oklahoma Historical Society, which was kindly passed on to her from Kitty Pittman of Question Point Oklahoma: Ask A Librarian.
The Protection Post, October 6, 1944.Mrs. A. Casteel of Salina was notified this week, by the government, of the death of her son, 1st Lt. Johnnie L. Casteel, in France. His death resulted from wounds received on the preceding day, August 11th, while in action.
Lt. Johnnie Casteel Dies from Wounds
The Post had previously reported his being wounded, after receiving this information from his sister, Mrs. Elsie Mae Newton, of Wichita. This was the first word the family had since his being wounded in action was reported to them.
Johnnie was a Protection boy, graduating from high school here with the class of 1937. During his four years in high school he had a prominent part in school activities and was one of the most highly regarded members of his class.
While he has not recently made his home in Protection, his many friends here will share with the family in a deep feeling of sorrow over his untimely passing but will also share in a feeling of pride over the supreme sacrifice made for his country.
The Protection Post, November 3, 1944.Relatives and friends of 1st Lt. Johnnie Casteel gathered in Salina on Sunday, October 15, to hold a memorial service for him. The service was held in the chapel of the Rush-Smith Funeral Home with Elder F. W. Ruddle of the S. D. A. Church of Hutchinson officiating.
MEMORIAL SERVICES HELD FOR LT. JOHNNIE CASTEEL
Lt. Casteel was fatally wounded in action in France on August 11, and passed away the following day. His family received notification of his death about three weeks ago.
1st Lt. Johnnie Leroy Casteel, who was a resident of Protection, Kans., most of his life, until he graduated from Protection High School in 1937, died August 12, of wounds received in action in France on Aug. 11.
He was the son of John C. and Amanda Casteel, born June 15 (16?), 1919 at Ashland, Kans., and departed this life Aug. 12, 1944, in France, at the age of 25 years, 1 month, and twenty-eight days.
On completion of his twelfth year of school in Protection he went to Wichita, Kans., where he attended the American Business College.
He was an employee of the Santa Fe Trailways Transportation Co. from 1939 to the day of his induction into the services of the U. S. Army on November 6, 1941, at Wichita, Kans.
He received his basic and officer's training at Fort Knox, Ky., where he was commissioned 2nd lieutenant July 25, 1942.
At Wichita, July 27, 1942, he was united in marriage to Miss Alma Weibert of Shattuck, Okla.
He then received his transfer to Camp Funston, Kans., where he was stationed for eight months prior to his going overseas to North Africa in May, 1943.
He saw active duty in Sicily after which he was sent to England in December and was stationed there until June 7, 1944.
He was among the first to land in France on D-Day. He received his commission as 1st lieutenant in June 23. Here he remained in active service until wounded August 11, 1944.
Those left to mourn his passing are his devoted wife, Alma, of Shattuck, Okla., his mother, Mrs. A. Casteel, Salina, Kans., two sisters, Mrs. J. D. VonAchen, Salina, and Mrs. E. E. Newton, of Wichita, two brothers, Pfc. Van H. Roberts, and Cpl. Roby D. Roberts both serving overseas with the U. S. Armed forces in England, two nephews and one niece of Salina, Kans., and a host of other relatives and friends.
There were three other half brothers and one half sister, Ed, Bill, Robert and Ruth Casteel - whereabouts unknown.
His father preceded him in death in April 1926, at Ashland, Kans.
Johnnie was a kind, devoted, and generous husband, son, and brother, and highly esteemed by all who knew him.
Johnnie L. Casteel
1 LIEUT 70 TANK BN
WORLD WAR II
JUNE 15, 1919 - AUG. 12, 1944
Grave Marker for Lt. Johnnie L. Casteel
Roselawn Memorial Park, Lot 4, Section 477A, Space 1.
His body was reinterred in this grave on January 14, 1949.
Photo courtesy of Carlson-Ford Funeral Home, Salina, Kansas..
Many bodies were returned from overseas after the war for reburial in home town or national cemeteries. See: Will Return Bodies of Men Killed Overseas, The Western Star , February 7, 1947.
According to National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) records, Johnnie Casteel is listed as one of the World War II Casualties from Sedgwick County, Kansas World War II Honor List of Dead and Missing Army and Army Air Forces Personnel from Kansas. (NWCTM-407-WWIICASARMY-KS).
1920 Census: Center township, Clark County, Kansas:
Casteel, John, 62, born Ohio, fa. Born Ohio, mo. born Penn.
Casteel, Amanda, 37, born Texas, parents born La.
Roberts, Gladys, 9, born Tx.
Roberts, Elsie M. 6, Tx
Roberts, Van H., 6, Tx
Roberts, Roby D., 4 and 3 mo. born Ks.
Casteel, John L. 6 months, born Ks.
1930 City of Protection, Kansas, Census:
Mrs. A. Casteel, 44 born Texas, cook in restaurant, born Texas, she is a widow.
Dau.- Elsie M. Roberts, 17, born Tx.
Son.- Van Henry Roberts, 16, born Tx.
Son.- Roby D. Roberts, 14, born Ks.
Son.- John Casteel, 10, born Ks. His father was born in Ill.
Roby D. Roberts, born: 13 Oct 1915; died: 17 Oct 1999; last address: zip 93455, Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, CA; Social Security# 562-10-1825. SS# issued: California. Source: Social Security Death Index.
Death Notice: John Casteel Johnnie Casteel's father died in the Abell barn near Ashland, Clark County, Kansas, on 22 April 1926. -- The Ashland Clipper, April 22, 1926.
TWO PROTECTION BOYS SHOT ON HALLOWEEN: High School Boys Are Victims of Stewart Millimum Monday Evening, The Wilmore News, 4 Nov 1932. (One of the boys shot was Roby Roberts.)
Memorial to the Fourth Infantry Division
I write to you to enquire whether you might be able to help me with your memories of your experiences during the Second World War, in particular the period 1943/1944, I am especially interested in learning about your experiences in England during training and the Battle of Normandy.
Before I go much further I would like to introduce myself, my name is Steve Lee; I left the UK with my wife Sarah 18 months ago to set up home here in Normandy, France. After much searching we settled on a house that needed restoring in the small village of La Madeleine, which is situated only a few hundred yards behind the famous Utah Beach. We decided to call our new home ďIvy House" after the US 4th Division and the patch you wore on your left arm of your Uniform which was composed of four green ivy leaves. We completed the work last year and now we run a Guest House and Self Catering Apartments here at Ivy House, if ever you want to come and visit us at Utah Beach drop me a line.
On the 6th June 1944, over 23,000 young soldiers of the US Army landed here at Utah Beach, many of them were entering combat for the first time with the US 4th Infantry Division, a Division which was to fight for Cherbourg, drive onto Paris and eventually end up on the banks of the Elbe River in Germany the following year. The 4th Division suffered appalling casualties during the three-month campaign in Normandy, many of the soldiers who entered Germany in 1945 had not landed on Utah Beach in June the year before, many of those that landed on D-Day had been killed, were listed as missing or had been sent back to England in Hospital Ships.
The US 4th Infantry Division played a major part in the Battle of Normandy and the liberation of Europe, living in a village so close to the beach where they landed has prompted me to research the Division in more detail and I have spent much time exploring the battle areas where they fought in the Summer of 1944. During my quest to find out more about this unit I was saddened to discover that very little has been written about them and their role in Europe in WWII. In fact there are very few monuments to the US 4th Infantry Division here in Normandy, something which, in time, I would like to change.
On the 60th Anniversary of D-Day I was fortunate enough to meet a Veteran of the US 4th Division who landed on Utah Beach on D-Day, as each year passes many of these Veterans of the Second World War are sadly leaving us, so I have decided to write a book about the Soldiers of the US 4th Division who left the United States after Christmas 1943 and arrived in England early in January 1944. When they arrived in England they were immediately sent by train to large camps or requisitioned housing in Southern England, many troops of the 4th were stationed in Devon & Dorset and just before D-Day they were massed around Plymouth, Exeter and Torquay. On June 5th 1944 they embarked upon ships, which would take them to the beaches of Normandy, a place from which many of them never returned.
In my search to find out more about the soldiers of the 4th who fought in Normandy I would like to hear from you or any of your buddies who may have been based in England prior to D-Day, maybe fought on D-Day or joined the Division sometime later as a replacement.
I would also very much like to hear any stories relating to life in general in Southern England in 1943/44, specially any stories relating to training, or which pubs you visited in your free time, any information at all, photographs, newspaper cuttings, letters and related wartime memorabilia would be very helpful, even copies would be fine.
I appreciate you are probably busy at this time but if you would be prepared to help me in any way I would be very grateful indeed. My main aim is to write an interesting and informative book about the life and experiences of the G.I.ís of the US 4th Infantry Division in WWII, especially the Battle for Normandy. I hope that by putting these memories into words it will help to keep the memories of their sacrifices alive and educate younger generations.
If you would like to contact me you can write to me at the address below, or you can call me on 00 33 2 33 71 06 57 (dialed from outside of the USA) and Iíll call you back, alternatively you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Only myself as part of my research for my book will use any information given.
Ivy House ~ Utah Beach
50480 Ste Marie du Mont
P.S. I was an Infantryman in the Staffordshire Regiment, and my Great Grandfather was an Infantryman in WW1 with the Worcestershire Regt. Thatís how my interest started.
(February 2, 2006.)
Return to WWII Casualties from Comanche County, Kansas
Except where otherwise noted, the above news articles were transcribed for this site by Shirley Brier, whose research led to the location of Johnnie Casteel's grave, and the photograph of his gravestone which is reproduced on this web page.
This web page was created by Jerry Ferrin on 19 July 2003. It was last updated 02 February 2006.