In Memoriam:
Dan Costello

I first met Dan at the 1998 Reunion in September, nearly three months ago. It was the first reunion I'd attended (I'd worked on this web site for nearly two years and finally had the opportunity to visit with some of the men whose World War II experiences I had become increasingly familiar with through official histories, letters, diaries and photographs, but had never actually spoken with face to face). It was a marvelous four days, highlighted by exposure to the camaraderie that seems particular to men that saw and survived combat together. Dan, who had been merely a friendly face in photographs I'd scanned for this site's photo pages up until now, and I struck up several conversations during that long weekend in the Catskills. There was a bit of Indian Summer in the air and the beer was ice-cold. The conversation came easy. He impressed me with his intelligence and charm, his easy way with people, his memory of events from England and the ETO, and his way with words and the occasional off-color joke. I remember him telling the tale of the battalion's departure from Newcastle (for invasion staging areas in the south of England in May 1944), and realize now just how precious and resonant his memory was of that day. The battalion had gotten its orders and had mustered and were climbing aboard "deuce and a half" trucks with the sole purpose of "getting the hell out of Newcastle ... "

"... we all knew this was it. The invasion! Well, we were in an awful hurry, running around, grabbing our gear, squeezing into the trucks, when all of a sudden a bunch of local mothers appeared at the gates of the place we were billeted, with their daughters in tow. It seemed all of these young British girls were pregnant, and the mothers were convinced we were the culprits. They'd heard we were pulling out and were hopping mad. I was in charge and they were just yelling and screaming and trying to keep us from saddling up and leaving, so I had to try to calm them down and make way for our trucks. I tried to explain that we were under orders to go, but they wouldn't listen. I knew full well that were any number of GIs from any number of other American units in the area that might be responsible, but they wouldn't hear any of it. I finally scribbled down an address where they should write, and we basically drove through them to get on our way ... that was the way it was. War, I mean."

A solitary incident from a chilly late-May morning 54 years ago, recorded in no history book, lost in the victory so to speak, yet the resonances are obvious. How many of those young girls gave birth to children of American GIs? Where and who are they today? Does life goes on for the child of an anonymous father, perhaps long-dead, perhaps not? Does he lie in a box beneath a stark white cross on German soil or on a couch back in Kansas City, the beloved gray-haired head of "another" family. We get, through Dan, a glimpse into a side of human behavior, right or wrong, that occurred frequently during that horrible war that has nothing to do with winning or losing battles. We get an inkling of how it must have been, really must have been. War, I mean. Young men destined to fight and perhaps die in a strange land, not so much much fending off death as affirming life. Through Dan's eyes, I see young English girls, now in their 70s, who lived with hidden hurt and abandonment for years. And I see the children, who perhaps struggle with strange feelings of sadness and loss (if they know the circumstances of their birth at all). We received these insights courtesy of Dan Costello, but, sadly, no longer.

Dan told another story that weekend, about how the Germans tried to dupe the 225th, then the only searchlight unit operating in the Normandy lodgement:

"We had set up right behind Omaha Beach to defend the advance landing ground set up there. Every once and a while at night, the Germans would send a plane over towing a light about 500 feet below and behind itself. And, of course, we would light up the sky with our 'fifties" [.50-cal AA machine-gun mounts firing tracers]. Until we figured out what was going on, we basically were wasting our ammo trying to shoot down a plane that wasn't there. This was before we got our radars and lights and so we were pretty easily fooled, especially in the dark. In retrospect, it was pretty clever. The ultimate stealth fighter, so to speak, one that isn't there! Of course, once our equipment arrived, the technology of lights synchronized with radar bested what was really quite a clever trick."

That's the way it was. War, according to Dan Costello. Another slice of history, a detail about how wars are fought that doesn't always make it into the history books. Pure "oral history," research gold. Sadly, Dan isn't around to tell us these things anymore.

More than just one of the thousand American WW II vets that pass away every day, I will miss Dan at the next reunion.

Larry M. Belmont


LAKE WORTH, FL — Daniel W. Costello, formerly of Clifton Park, New York, died Monday, November 30, 1998 at John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Lake Worth, FL. He was 75.

Born February 27, 1923, in Troy, NY, he was a longtime resident of Clifton Park. He was educated at LaSalle Institute in Troy and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Siena College in 1949.

Mr. Costello worked for New York Telephone for 32 years. He first joined the public relations department in Albany in 1953. Three years later, he transferred to the company's Manhattan headquarters and, for the next 29 years, assumed increased public relations responsibilities in New York City, Albany, and White Plains.

He was assistant vice-president of public relations from 1970 until his retirement in 1985. For the five years prior to his employment with New York Telephone, Mr. Costello was a reporter with the Troy Times-Record.

A veteran of World War II, Mr. Costello served as a section chief with the 225th AAA Battalion during the Normandy Invasion, and earned battle stars for four campaigns in the European Theater.

Mr. Costello was active in both civic and charitable organizations and was a member of the New York Press Club, the New York State Press Association, the Siena Alumni Association, the Siena College Associate Board of Trustees, the Advisory Board of the New York State Future Business Leaders of America, the Adirondack North Country Association, the Group 50, and the Telephone Pioneers.

He served as a trustee and chairman of the New York State 4-H Foundation,a vice-president of the United Way of Northeastern New York, and a director of the Capital Region Technology Development Council.

He was a communicant of St. Mary's Church in Crescent.

He is survived by his wife Julia Krill Costello; a daughter, Judith Poole of Randolph, NJ; two sons, Daniel Costello of West Palm Beach, FL, and Jon Costello of Clifton Park, NY; four sisters, Eileen Roders of Troy, NY; Florence Simmons of Wynantskill, NY; Ann Pate of Loudenville, NY; and Sandra Roddy of Schenectady, NY; and six grandchildren.

Services are at 8:45 a.m. Saturday at the Gordon C. Emerick Funeral Home 1550 Route 9, Clifton Park followed by a Mass at St. Mary's Church Crescent, 86 Church Hill Road. Burial will be in St. Patricks Cemetery in Watervliet, NY. Calling hours are 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. Friday at the funeral home.

Contribututions may be made to the United Way of Northeastern New York, Washington Ave Ext, Albany, NY 12205, or to the American Heart Association, 440 New Karner Rd, Albany, NY 12205.


Remembering Former Members
[ Excerpt from Oliver Wendell Holmes' 1895 Memorial Day Speech ]

Comrades, some of the associations of this day are not only triumphant, but joyful. Not all of those with whom we once stood shoulder to shoulder – not all of those whom we once loved and revered – are gone. On this day we still meet our companions in the freezing winter bivouacs and in those dreadful summer marches where every faculty of the soul seemed to depart one after another, leaving only a dumb animal power to set the teeth and to persist – a blind belief that somewhere and at last there was bread and water. On this day, at least, we still meet and rejoice in the closest tie which is possible between men – a tie which suffering has made indissoluble for better, for worse.

When we meet thus, when we do honor to the dead in terms that must sometimes embrace the living, we do not deceive ourselves. We attribute no special merit to a man for having served when all were serving. We know that, if the armies of our war did anything worth remembering, the credit belongs not mainly to the individuals who did it, but to average human nature. We also know very well that we cannot live in associations with the past alone, and we admit that, if we would be worthy of the past, we must find new fields for action or thought, and make for ourselves new careers.

But, nevertheless, the generation that carried on the war has been set apart by its experience. Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with fire. It was given to us to learn at the outset that life is a profound and passionate thing. While we are permitted to scorn nothing but indifference, and do not pretend to undervalue the worldly rewards of ambition, we have seen with our own eyes, beyond and above the gold fields, the snowy heights of honor, and it is for us to bear the report to those who come after us. But, above all, we have learned that whether a man accepts from Fortune her spade, and will look downward and dig, or from Aspiration her axe and cord, and will scale the ice, the one and only success which it is his to command is to bring to his work a mighty heart.

Such hearts – ah me, how many! – were stilled twenty years ago; and to us who remain behind is left this day of memories. Every year – in the full tide of spring, at the height of the symphony of flowers and love and life – there comes a pause, and through the silence we hear the lonely pipe of death. Year after year lovers wandering under the apple trees and through the clover and deep grass are surprised with sudden tears as they see black veiled figures stealing through the morning to a soldier's grave. Year after year the comrades of the dead follow, with public honor, procession and commemorative flags and funeral march – honor and grief from us who stand almost alone, and have seen the best and noblest of our generation pass away.

But grief is not the end of all. I seem to hear the funeral march become a paean. I see beyond the forest the moving banners of a hidden column. Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death – of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and joy of the spring. As I listen, the great chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will.


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