World War II veteran suffers nightmares 60 years later

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - An Army veteran tortured by the Japanese during World War II suffers from painful nightmares nearly 60 years later.
Louis Frank DeCastro of Akron lost his memory of the 15 days he spent on Bougainville Island in December 1943.
What DeCastro knows is basically what he and his family were told in 1944, when he was a patient at a veterans hospital in Marion, Ind.
Marines had rescued him and other members of the Army's 37th Infantry Division from a death camp.
When he arrived at the hospital, he weighed 90 pounds, less than half his normal weight. He had a bullet wound in one leg and shrapnel in the other. The military identified him using dental records.
DeCastro's family was told he had been tortured -- his feet burned with a hot iron, his toenails pulled from the roots, his tongue cut on the bottom and many of his bones broken. The 22-year-old could not talk and didn't recognize his parents.
He did not speak for months until June 1944, when his 14-year-old sister walked into his hospital room and he called out her name.
Doctors then began giving DeCastro a series of 30 electric-shock treatments to bring back his memory. Several months later, he was released from the hospital on 100 percent disability.
In October 1945, DeCastro married his wife, Josephine, and went back to work at Bell Music, where he was employed before the war.
Over the years, the couple had eight children, and DeCastro's military benefits dwindled to 10 percent, or about $19 a month. He retired from Bell Music after more than 50 years of service.
About six years ago, after his retirement, DeCastro began having nightmares -- visions of children running out of a cave on fire, of being tortured and of electric-shock treatments in a hospital.
The family sought help for DeCastro and found a stress class for veterans in Canton.
"It messes with your mind," DeCastro said. "But the stress classes have been helpful. They taught me to think of a stop sign or something pleasant, like going fishing, if I have dreams about the war. It gets me out of the dream, and I realize I'm not in the war anymore."
DeCastro was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and his military benefits were increased to 60 percent.
One of the things that troubles DeCastro's family is that he never received recognition for his service in World War II. Before leaving the Indiana hospital, DeCastro was told he would receive a medal of honor, but that never happened.
His military records were among the more than 16 million military personnel files destroyed in a 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.
DeCastro is more concerned with taking care of his 76-year-old wife, who has emphysema.
"As long as my benefits are enough to take care of my wife, I don't need a medal," he said.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)