William J. Casey’s parents died when he was a boy and he was raised by his grandparents and his aunt in Shrewsbury and Rumson, New Jersey. He graduated from Red Bank Catholic High School and enrolled at St. Bonaventure College, where he studied, gained a reputation as a boxer and earned a reputation as a prankster and a nickname that stuck: “Wild Bill.” Graduating with a B.S. in Chemistry in 1941, Casey was commissioned a second lieutenant in the field artillery through the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program. His uncle had taught him how to fly a Curtis “Jenny” Biplane when Casey was a young man and Casey was one of the first Bona men accepted as an Army Air Corps student in the summer of 1941. He completed flight training school in February 1942 and earned his aviator’s wings.
In the midst of his training, the United States entered World War II and Casey’s first assignment was as a P38 fighter pilot in the Pacific Theater. In June 1942, while flying in the Battle of Midway, his two-engine fighter was hit by Japanese anti-aircraft fire and one engine was disabled. The plane lost altitude and skipped across the waves until, having run out of fuel, Casey ditched in the Pacific Ocean. He eventually made contact with an American submarine and was returned to his unit. Soon after this, he was transferred to the Eighth Air Force in the European Theater of Operations and assigned as a B17 Flying Fortress pilot. His comrades would remember that although he had switched to flying bombers, Casey continued to fly as if he was a fighter pilot.
Casey flew his first bomber missions in a 367th Bomb Squadron B17 named “Banshee” and on November 23, 1942, after delivering his ordnance on a German submarine base at St. Nazaire, France, a large formation of Focke-Wolfe 190 fighters attacked the American formation. Diving in and firing at the Americans from as close as 50 feet, the German fighters damaged a number of planes, but Casey’s crew, during the ensuing hour-long battle, accomplished the extraordinary feat of shooting down seven German fighters in twelve minutes. The citation for the Air Medal Casey received read that “his action undoubtedly saved his own crew and aided materially in the defense of the other planes in the flight.”
Several days later, while part of a 91st Bomb Group mission, Casey saw another American B17 trailing smoke and being harassed by enemy fighters. “Smoke and flames were spurting from [the plane] as Casey, abandoning ordinary flight procedure, wheeled his big ship around like a fighter, climbed over the low-flying Fortress, and flew above it” while the enemy attacked. Having entered an aerial hornet’s nest, Casey protected the crippled plane as it returned safely to England, and the “Banshee” claimed two more enemy fighters. In recognition of his talent and bravery, Casey earned several Air Medals and for action on 27 February 1943, the Distinguished Flying Cross, as he continued to fly his B17. On 17 April 1943, he was wounded when his Flying Fortress was shot down over Bremen, Germany. Having ejected from the plane, he was subsequently taken prisoner and eventually held near Dachau. In April 1945, Casey escaped from the camp and joining with other Americans, acquired a German ambulance which he drove through enemy lines to freedom at a British air base. The War in Europe ended while he convalesced.
Casey remained in the United States Air Force until retiring as a major in 1960. He married and had a son. He earned a doctorate in political science and as a Fulbright Fellow studied in El Salvador for 18 months. He taught at the University of Florida and at St. Leo College before retiring from teaching and passed away on 17 March 1988.
Louis V. Iasiello grew up in Staten Island, New York and graduated from St. Bonaventure University with a BA in History in 1972. He went on to earn an M.S. in Education from Niagara University in 1973, and that same year entered the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans) and began his preparation for solemn vows and ministry. He was awarded a Masters of Divinity from the Washington Theological Union in 1977 and following ordination to the diaconate, he ministered in Anapolis, Brazil. After his ordination to the priesthood, he was assigned to a Franciscan parish in a Hispanic community in the Bronx and then became chairperson of the Modern Languages Department at Bishop Timon High School in Buffalo, New York.
Iasiello was commissioned as a Navy Chaplain Lieutenant (Junior Grade) in the Naval Reserves in 1981, and in July 1983, he was recalled to active duty. His active duty assignments include: Naval Air Station, Memphis; U.S. Coast Guard, Kodiak, Alaska; USS Ranger (CV-61) during Operation Earnest Will in the Iran-Iraq War and other deployments to Korea and the Persian Gulf; Second Marine Division; (8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Regiment, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Special Operations Capable [MEU SOC] and Marine Forces Panama (including two deployments to Norway, Operation Just Cause, Panama, and deployments to the Mediterranean.)
A Distinguished Military Graduate of Command and Staff Naval War College in 1990, Father Louis Iasiello has served as Assistant Fleet Chaplain, U.S. Atlantic Fleet and Deputy Chaplain, U. S. Atlantic Command; Staff Chaplain Joint Task Force JTF-160 (with deployments to Cuba and Haiti); Director for Operational Ministry, Atlantic Fleet, and Director, Naval Chaplains School. After his selection to flag rank, he became the first chaplain flag officer to hold both the positions of Deputy Chief of Navy Chaplains and Chaplain of the United States Marine Corps.
He also has served as a representative to the Presbyteral Council of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, since 1994, as a member of the Board of Trustees of Saint Bonaventure University since September 2000 and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society since 2003.
In 2003, Father Louis earned his Ph.D. from Salve Regina University, writing a highly respected dissertation entitled Jus In Bello: Key Issues for a Contemporary Assessment of Just Behavior in War.
Father Louis is currently the twenty-third Chief of Navy Chaplains, and the highest ranking graduate of St. Bonaventure currently serving on active duty. His personal decorations include the Legion of Merit (Gold Star in lieu of two awards), the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal (three awards); Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal (two awards), Coast Guard Commendation Medal; Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal; the Combat Action Ribbon; and numerous other unit and service citations and awards.
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