Pearl Harbor remembered

Costine talks about the call to war, taking the fight to the enemy

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK John Costine, a veteran of the Pacific Theater of World War II, reflects on the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and U.S. involvement in the war.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The attack on U.S. forces at Naval Station Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan propelled this country into World War II and led to a call for soldiers in the fight against the Axis Powers.

John Costine, a practicing attorney at Costine Law Office in St. Clairsville, was one of the men who answered the call and who served in the Pacific Theater during the conflict. Today, on this 77th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, Costine, now in his 90s, is reflecting on that military strike and what it meant to him and other Americans.

“I was in high school as a senior on Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 7 in 1941,” he said. “We got the news on Sunday (Dec. 7), by radio, of the attack.”

A few years later he found himself aboard his first ship, the U.S.S. Barnwell, a Haskell-class attack transport.

“In 1942 I went to Bethany College, and in ’43 I joined the V-12 Unit (Navy College training program) at Bethany College. … I was given a commission as an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve. From there I went to Harvard for communications training. My specialties in the Navy were navigation and communications,” he said. “I enlisted in the V-12 Unit in Bethany. I did that because I knew I was probably going to be drafted if I didn’t, so we just enlisted in the program. There were probably about 750 of us in that program. We studied naval things, naval courses we had to take.”

One of the position plotting sheets from his years of service hangs in Costine’s office today. He can still trace his service in the western and southern Pacific in 1943 and 1944 as American forces took the war to the Japanese.

“We sailed pretty much the whole distance of the area,” he said. “We were transporting troops. The ship was about 300 feet long, 60 feet wide. We could feed and bed 1,500 troops, and we moved them from island to island. … I did the navigation most of the time on the Barnwell.

“I saw a lot of ships sunk in the island harbor at Kure (Japan’s largest naval base during WWII). They were Japanese ships, of course,” he said. “We floated from island to island, unloaded troops, loaded troops, fed them and bedded them down.”

Costine also served on a PT boat tender. Those vessels generally supplied other boats with fuel, equipment, ammunition and sometimes basic repairs.

Costine has never been to Pearl Harbor or seen the site of the attack, but he said other veterans of the conflict that he knew have visited, though many of them are now deceased.

“A lot of my friends have gone to Pearl Harbor, gone on board the (U.S.S. Arizona Memorial),” he said, noting the attack and the entire conflict have been depicted again and again through the years.

“I’ve read a lot about it, the number of men killed at the time,” he said of the strike that drew the United States into the war. “I’ve seen the movies made of it.

“Someone who was actually at Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack, that (story) would be precious,” he added.