|Science teacher John La Castro became the navigator (standing second from right) for the B-24 Thunder Bay Babe.|
Old Saybrook High School 1942 Year Book
John J. La Castro never had a chance to reach 100 years old today. Instead, he sacrificed his life for our freedom.
He was born on July 29, 1917 in Connecticut. His mother was born in New York and his father was born in Italy. His father worked as a shirt cutter and later as a leather worker making belts. John had two older sisters and one older brother. By 1940 John had graduated from Rhode Island State College where he lettered in basketball. His degree was in science. He moved back in with his parents and worked as a science teacher at Old Saybrook High School, his old high school, where he also coached the basketball team to their league championship. When not working as a teacher or coach, he was a firefighter.
He enlisted in the army on October 27, 1942. He eventually became a first lieutenant and navigator in the 717th Bombardment Squadron, 449th Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force. The 449th Bomb Group was equipped with B-24 Liberators. It operated out of Italy beginning in December 1943.
On March 24, 1944 Lt. La Castro was the navigator on the B-24 Thunder Bay Babe that took off from Grottie Field in Italy for a mission to bomb railroad yards in Austria. The plane took a direct flak hit in the bomb bay while flying near Mostar, Yugoslavia. Four of the airmen somehow survived and became prisoners of war. Lt. La Castro and the others were killed in action.
Two months after John's death, his older brother enlisted in the army. He survived the war and died on 2004.
Lt. La Castro's grave is at St. John's Roman Catholic Cemetery in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.
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