CLAYTON, N.J. — A sailor killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor that launched the United States into World War II has been laid to rest in his New Jersey hometown.
Hundreds gathered Saturday in Clayton to bid farewell to Fireman 3rd Class Harold Kendall “Brud” Costill, 18, a sailor on the battleship West Virginia who was killed in the Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941.
"He was one of the greatest guys I ever knew," said former Clayton mayor Gene Costill, 93, his only surviving sibling. "He was fantastic."
Costill was in an engine room when the ship, moored at Ford Island, was rocked by explosions.
One detonation consumed the ship’s ammunition and unleashed a devastating fire.
His remains were interred in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu in one of nearly three dozen caskets buried as “unknowns” among the 106 killed on board the West Virginia, but the family was notified in June that he had been identified through DNA, anthropological and other examinations.
Harold Costill was affectionately known as “Brud,” a child nickname he was given because he couldn’t pronounce “brother.” His sister, Joan Burke, spearheaded the effort to find her brother’s remains and bring them home, but died three years ago.
"My mother and my sister never knew when this day would come," Gene Costill said. "They never knew where, but they never gave up hope, they knew it would happen."
Lawn signs and American flags welcomed him home in the Gloucester County community of about 8,000, and a banner in his honor stretched across Delsea Drive, the main thoroughfare. Gov. Phil Murphy ordered flags across New Jersey to be flown at half-staff on Monday in his honor.
Thelbert "Puggy" Snyder recalled climbing apple trees daily with Harold, who loved hunting and the outdoors. Snyder, 96, served in the South Pacific.
"I don't know how Brud died, but what I do know, he died bravely," Snyder said in his tribute. "He was a very, very special friend."
In his last letter to his sister, dated Dec. 3, 1941, Costill said he didn't "regret a single day" of serving in the Navy, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
“If I had it to do over I would join up in a second,” he wrote. “Even though I have been away from home so long, I have been to places and seen things that I never would have seen.”