Where Staff Sgt. William Kittiko Rests

By O'Neill, Brian | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), May 29, 2016 | Go to article overview

Where Staff Sgt. William Kittiko Rests


O'Neill, Brian, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Casualties of war aren't limited to those who die in battle, and Monday in Ft. Myers, Fla., a McKeesport airman whose plane crashed in the Gulf of Mexico in November 1942 will be honored along with his five crewmates.

Staff Sgt. William Kittiko, the turret gunner who dropped out of high school to join the Army and learn to fly, did not survive the first full year of America's entry into the war nor reach his 21st birthday. But for the nieces and nephew who never knew him, but knew how much their uncle's death rocked their mother's world, this is the first of two ceremonies that will bring a measure of peace.

The second will take place later this summer 43 miles offshore, when memorials will be lowered 70 feet to the floor of the ocean basin where their uncle's B-26 Marauder went down. It is to be deemed sacred ground.

I met Abigail Kittiko Casey, who died at 90 in December 2014, six years ago at the Casey home in White Oak. I heard how the disappearance of her brother's plane when she was a teenager devastated her family.

She and her brother "and best friend in many ways" had written regularly, but she threw away all his letters upon his death because she didn't want anyone else to read them. Her mother, who had lost her husband 15 years before, was never the same. Later, Mrs. Casey's own four children would grow up in a home where Uncle Bill's picture was displayed but no one was to speak of him.

Sgt. Kittiko's body was never found but, in 1990, a charter boat captain fishing far off Florida's Gulf Coast pulled up a piece of a plane. He thought it might belong to the legendary plane that had flown from Cuba more than three decades before, loaded with the cash and gold of dictator Fulgencio Batista, and had crashed into the Gulf.

It wasn't. In May 2008, a team of divers near the site found a plane's encrusted dashboard that was determined to be from the B-26 that disappeared Nov. 16, 1942.

Not long after, Mrs Casey and her four adult children flew to Florida and made the two-hour boat trip to the site. They threw wreaths on the water and later would place a memorial stone in the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies. …

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