Breaking News Bar
updated: 12/7/2016 2:11 PM

Constable: Local photographer captures Pearl Harbor survivors' 'Final Salute'

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • Controlling his emotions, photographer Paolo Cascio of Schaumburg captures three veterans who survived the Dec. 7, 1941, attack that sank their ship as the trio pay tribute to those who went down with the USS Arizona.

    Controlling his emotions, photographer Paolo Cascio of Schaumburg captures three veterans who survived the Dec. 7, 1941, attack that sank their ship as the trio pay tribute to those who went down with the USS Arizona.
    Courtesy of Paolo Cascio

  • With a message of "welcome to the family," the handful of remaining survivors from the USS Arizona allow Schaumburg photographer Paolo Cascio exclusive access to their reunion this week in Hawaii. The ship exploded and sank in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

    With a message of "welcome to the family," the handful of remaining survivors from the USS Arizona allow Schaumburg photographer Paolo Cascio exclusive access to their reunion this week in Hawaii. The ship exploded and sank in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
    Courtesy of Paolo Cascio

  • One of four survivors of the USS Arizona meeting in Hawaii for the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Donald Stratton, left, and his son, Randy, board the USS Missouri for a special lunch. Schaumburg photographer Paolo Cascio is photographing the reunion for an upcoming coffee-table book.

    One of four survivors of the USS Arizona meeting in Hawaii for the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Donald Stratton, left, and his son, Randy, board the USS Missouri for a special lunch. Schaumburg photographer Paolo Cascio is photographing the reunion for an upcoming coffee-table book.
    Courtesy of Paolo Cascio

  • Touring Pearl Harbor with four remaining survivors of the attack that sunk the USS Arizona is "like touring with the Beatles," says Paolo Cascio, a Schaumburg photographer who has spent five years working on this project and will turn it into a coffee-table book. The survivors, all in their mid-90s, sign autographs and pose for photos.

    Touring Pearl Harbor with four remaining survivors of the attack that sunk the USS Arizona is "like touring with the Beatles," says Paolo Cascio, a Schaumburg photographer who has spent five years working on this project and will turn it into a coffee-table book. The survivors, all in their mid-90s, sign autographs and pose for photos.
    Courtesy of Paolo Cascio

  • As the only photographer invited to exclusive events this week at Pearl Harbor, Paolo Cascio of Schaumburg meets Ray Chavez, who, at age 104, is the oldest survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Chavez was on the base at the time of the attack.

    As the only photographer invited to exclusive events this week at Pearl Harbor, Paolo Cascio of Schaumburg meets Ray Chavez, who, at age 104, is the oldest survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Chavez was on the base at the time of the attack.
    Courtesy of Paolo Cascio

  • Video: Passion project for veterans

  • Video: Photographer's "Final Salute"

 
 

The passion shows in Paolo Cascio's photographs and in his eyes.

"I'm sorry. I'm breaking up a little," the Schaumburg native says, pausing to wipe tears as he explains how he became the exclusive photographer for a "Final Salute" reunion of four crew members of the USS Arizona, which was sunk Dec. 7, 1941, in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. "My, God. I can't tell you how rewarding this is. It's been an amazing journey for me."

An award-winning cinematographer whose film credits include "The Untouchables," "Groundhog Day" and "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," Cascio, 53, has spent the past five years trying to hunt down and photograph the remaining handful left from the 334 survivors of the USS Arizona -- the warship that still rests at the bottom of Pearl Harbor and serves as the memorial and final resting place for most of the 1,177 sailors and Marines who were killed on the ship that morning 75 years ago.

An award-winning cinematographer whose film credits include "The Untouchables," "Groundhog Day" and "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," Paolo Cascio of Schaumburg has spent the last five years on a quest to photograph the handful of surviving sailors from the USS Arizona, which sank 75 years ago at Pearl Harbor.
An award-winning cinematographer whose film credits include "The Untouchables," "Groundhog Day" and "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," Paolo Cascio of Schaumburg has spent the last five years on a quest to photograph the handful of surviving sailors from the USS Arizona, which sank 75 years ago at Pearl Harbor. - Courtesy of Paolo Cascio

Having shot an iconic photo of his father, Iggy -- a Korean War-era veteran who still lives with his wife, Shirley, in Schaumburg -- Cascio became obsessed with photographing veterans as a way to honor them.

While working on a movie in Atlanta in 2011, Cascio planned to photograph a Dec. 7 event to honor a Pearl Harbor veteran, but a rainstorm canceled the ceremony.

In 2013, Cascio was shooting photographs for a mountain bike company in Colorado when he spotted an old man wearing a USS Indianapolis cap at a local breakfast place. That led to Cascio shooting photographs of Paul J. Murphy, who not only survived the initial torpedo blasts that sunk that ship in 1945, but several days of horrific shark attacks that followed.

That same year, Cascio photographed the graveside service at Arlington National Cemetery for Col. Edwin Ramsey, who led the last cavalry charge on horseback during World War II.

But his personal and online search for survivors of the USS Arizona hadn't turned up a thing.

"It was like chasing a ghost," Cascio says.

That changed March 25, when his inquiry about a post on Facebook hit pay dirt.

"Oh, my gosh. I found one," Cascio says, again tearing up at the memory of hearing from Nikki Stratton, the granddaughter of survivor Donald Stratton. "I get this message sitting in church at Willow Creek on Easter Sunday. I'll never forget it."

As the only photographer invited to exclusive events this week at Pearl Harbor, Paolo Cascio, center, of Schaumburg joins USS Arizona survivors Donald Stratton, left, and Lauren Bruner on Tuesday.
As the only photographer invited to exclusive events this week at Pearl Harbor, Paolo Cascio, center, of Schaumburg joins USS Arizona survivors Donald Stratton, left, and Lauren Bruner on Tuesday. - Courtesy of Paolo Cascio

The veteran's son, Randy Stratton, was organizing a reunion in Pearl Harbor for all the surviving members of that crew. Four of the five living survivors of the USS Arizona are spending this week in Hawaii, with Cascio as the group's exclusive photographer, capturing it all on film for a coffee-table book he plans to title, "Faces of Freedom: Pearl Harbor's 75th Anniversary."

Financing the trip with his own money and donations he receives from his GoFundMe page, Cascio says his book will be sold in the USS Arizona Memorial gift shop and at bookstores and veteran events, with a portion of the proceeds going to the USS Arizona Survivors Foundation, which helps care for those veterans.

"He just said, 'I'm going to do this on my own,'" Shirley Cascio says of her son. "He's a good kid with a kind heart."

Being at Pearl Harbor with four USS Arizona veterans "is like touring with The Beatles," Paolo Cascio says, explaining how tourists want autographs and photographs of the men.

"I sit down and have breakfast with these guys every morning," says Cascio, who adds that he finds visits with these men in their mid-90s more rewarding than his times making movies with director John Hughes or music videos starring Elton John. "They are not actors or famous people. They're heroes."

As the only photographer invited to exclusive events this week at Pearl Harbor, Paolo Cascio of Schaumburg captures this moment when four survivors of the attack that sunk the USS Arizona are feted aboard the USS Missouri.
As the only photographer invited to exclusive events this week at Pearl Harbor, Paolo Cascio of Schaumburg captures this moment when four survivors of the attack that sunk the USS Arizona are feted aboard the USS Missouri. - Courtesy of Paolo Cascio

Everywhere those heroes go this week, Cascio follows.

"Welcome to the family," Randy Stratton told Cascio as he met with the elder Stratton and the other veterans, Ken Potts, Lou Conter and Lauren Bruner.

"When these guys are gone ..." Cascio says, not bothering to finish that sentence. "I am incredibly honored to have this opportunity to be part of this historic gathering, and to be able to record for posterity this historic event."

As Cascio captures the moments for the veterans, a crew from SmugMug Films is filming a documentary about Cascio's project of passion.

"You could not pay a million dollars to hear what I've heard," Cascio says of his time with the veterans. "It gives me chills."

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.