During the 1930s and early ’40s, with jobs scarce and tensions rising in Europe and the Pacific, many Americans turned to military service. At the time, it wasn’t uncommon for family members who had enlisted together to wind up serving in the same unit, and sometimes aboard the same ship. This sometimes led to tragedy, as was painfully demonstrated with the sinking of USS Juneau (CL-52), which killed all five Sullivan brothers. This was one of the incidents that led the United States to implement the Sole Survivor Policy.

Brothers of USS Oklahoma

During the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the battleship USS Oklahoma (BB-37) capsized and sank, taking 429 crewmen with her. Among those killed were several sets of brothers.

The following are the stories of the brothers of USS Oklahoma. In some cases, both men perished, and in others, one lived to carry on his family’s legacy.

Charles and Richard Casto

USS Oklahoma (BB-37)

USS Oklahoma (BB-37)

Fireman first class Charles Ray Casto and Fireman second class Richard Eugene Casto served together aboard USS Oklahoma. Both brothers were killed in the torpedo strikes that sunk the battleship, but only Richard’s remains were located in the wake of the attack. For more than 70 years, Charles’s remains rested in a shared grave marked “Unknown, USS Oklahoma.” In 2017, thanks to the work of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, his remains were finally identified and reinterred in the same plot as his brother’s in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Malcolm, LeRoy, and Randolph Barber

The Barber brothers all enlisted in the Navy in 1940, joined the crew of USS Oklahoma, and became firemen. During the attack on Pearl Harbor, all three were killed when the battleship capsized and sank. Shortly after their deaths, but before receiving the telegram informing them of the tragedy, the Barber family received a Christmas gift from the three sailors: a picture they had taken and mailed two days before the attack.

Richard and Daryle Artley

USS Oklahoma capsized, 7 December 1941

USS Oklahoma (BB-37) capsized, 7 December 1941

Richard “Swede” Artley simply wanted to join his brother, Daryle, aboard USS Oklahoma. On December 7, 1940, he was given that opportunity. Exactly a year later, the ship was sunk. Richard survived but despite his frantic search, he couldn’t locate his brother. Though Daryle perished when their ship sank, Richard went on to serve in the Navy before being discharged in 1946.

Rudolph and Leo Blitz

Rudolph and Leo Blitz, the twins of USS Oklahoma, left their Nebraska home at the same time to enlist in the US Navy. They also found themselves aboard the same ship: USS Oklahoma. Leo served as a Petty Officer Second Class and Rudolph was a Fireman First Class. Both brothers were killed during the Japanese attack, and their remains were never identified. Even nearly 80 years later, the remains of the two brothers remain unidentified, their names inscribed in the Courts of the Missing, part of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Kirby and Delbert Stapleton

In the midst of the Pearl Harbor attack, Delbert Stapleton was on the deck of USS Oklahoma. It’s to this fact that he attributed his survival as his brother, Kirby, was less fortunate. Kirby was trapped within the ship’s hull when the torpedoes exploded. In the wake of the attack, it was known that he had been killed, but his body was never found. Dilbert survived the attack and the war, eventually passing away in 2004. Fifteen years later, Kirby’s remains were finally identified and buried next to his brother’s.

Robert and James Headington

USS Oklahoma capsized with rescue crews

Rescue crews work on the upturned hull of USS Oklahoma (BB 37), 8 December 1941

Robert and James Headington shared similar assignments at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but James was on leave on the morning of the attack. From shore, he was watched helplessly as Oklahoma erupt from torpedo strikes and sank into the harbor, taking his brother with it. It wasn’t until 2018 that Robert’s remains were finally identified.

Clifford and Daniel Goodwin

Electrician’s Mate Clifford Goodwin and his brother Daniel, a gunner’s mate, both served below decks aboard USS Oklahoma. On the morning of the attack, however, Daniel was off base and Clifford was aboard the battleship. Daniel was  never able to locate the remains of his brother. He passed away in 1988, 30 years before Clifford’s remains were finally identified and buried next to his brother’s.

Two Who Survived: Paul and Harold Steen

Serving aboard USS Oklahoma, Paul and Harold Steen were stationed in separate parts of the ship, with Paul in the hold and Harold topside taking up arms and firing on the attacking Japanese planes. When the order to abandon ship was given, both brothers escaped into the harbor, though Paul suffered a neck injury that rendered him mute for several days. Both brothers miraculously survived the incoming torpedoes and machine gun fire in the fiery waters of the harbor. In the wake of the attack, they were assigned to different ships during the war and both survived to see it end.

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