.

After 66 Years, Missing WWII Soldier Finally Gets Proper Burial

A distant cousin, the only known survivor, received the burial flag at a service Friday at Golden Gate National Cemetery.

It took 66 years, but U.S. Army Private First Class Edward L. O’Toole, a San Francisco native, is finally home from World War II.

O’Toole was buried today with full honors at a service at . He died in November 1944, but his remains were not discovered until late 2009.

Some 300 people attended the service, including veterans, representatives of veterans groups and civilians who had read about O’Toole in an article in Thursday’s San Francisco Chronicle.

Until yesterday, it was believed that O’Toole had no living relatives. A distant cousin, Barry Berg, who lives in the same house on San Francisco’s Potrero Hill where O’Toole grew up, happened to see the article and contacted the paper.

“I was jolted when I saw it,” said the 68-year-old Berg, who was only 2 years old when O’Toole went missing.

“I remember my mother told me about him when I was about 16, but then she never talked about it," he said.

Edward O’Toole was born in San Francisco on March 16, 1921, the youngest of seven in an immigrant Irish Catholic family. Berg said that he also had a sister who died when she was only 6. 

O’Toole attended San Francisco’s now-closed High School of Commerce, graduating in 1940. His high school yearbook reveals the patriotic tenor of the times, with silhouettes of battleships, fighter planes and American flags prominently featured. The graduating seniors were asked what they would do to defend their high school and America. O’Toole had a one-word answer: fight.

Army records show that O’Toole enlisted in the army in San Francisco on Dec. 7, 1942, exactly a year after Pearl Harbor and two years after graduating from high school. He was 21 and single, stood 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighed 161 pounds. He listed his occupation as an electrician’s apprentice.

Almost two years later, on Nov. 20, 1944, O’Toole was killed in action in Süggerath, a town in the western part of Germany. He was among 2,000 men who died during a three-day battle for control of several German towns in the Süggerath area. O’Toole was 23 years old.

In late 2009, a German national digging in a forested area around Süggerath discovered O’Toole’s skeletal remains. O’Toole’s dog tags were the only things intact. The army later found his dental records and made a final identification.

When the army went searching for his next of kin, they came up empty handed. Somehow they had missed Barry Berg.

However, O’Toole’s family hadn't forgotten him after the war. In the 1950s, his mother and one of his sisters asked the Army to provide a memorial headstone for him in the San Bruno cemetery. The Army finally complied in 1961.

Berg said that he and his family spent many Thanksgivings and Christmases at the O’Tooles’ home when he was growing up.

Berg’s life took him out of the Bay Area for a time, but he came back in the late ‘70s when his mother asked him to take care of two of O’Toole’s ailing elderly sisters. When they died, he inherited O’Toole’s Purple Heart—awarded posthumously—and the telegram the O’Toole family received that declared Edward missing in action.

O’Toole's remains will lie alongside those of a brother, Michael O’Toole, who served in the U.S. Navy in World War II and who was killed in an accident in 1951.

Laury Bakie July 17, 2011 at 06:56 AM
This truly brings tears to my eyes....welcome home.....angels are watching over you!
Rodger Higgins July 17, 2011 at 07:29 AM
God bless Mr. O'Toole and God bless the German man that found his remains and turned them over to the US Army. RIP brother now you can rest at home for your eternal sleep.
Richard Vandervort July 17, 2011 at 07:56 AM
The 2008 Elections there was one statement that has stuck with me and in actuality irritated me all this time. Michele Obama stated for the first time in her life she could respect this country. Did she mean that there was a level of hate towards it before the election? Mr Obama has shown little respect for our country and it's Constitution and less for it's citizens. Obama has openly said that he doesn't listen to what the people think about what he's doing and cares less for any criticism towards himself. Can we allow a man like this be the Commander in Chief and ask our troops to fight battles and put their lives on the line for someone who doesn't love this country as much as they do? To show your true heart felt respect to our military we should all be demanding the removal of the worst kind of infiltration into our nations security, The man in the Oval Office.
Steven R. Russell July 17, 2011 at 07:58 AM
Very interesting. O'Toole was born March 16, 1921, the youngest of 7 children. I was born much later of course, but also in March, March 31, 1956, and am the middle child (child #4), of 7 children, fortunate to be alive of course, as a Christian private pilot, who holds 2 Honorable Discharges from the United States Air Force. It is because of the sacrifices of such Hero's, as Ed O'Toole here, woven into the very fabric of our free society, and into "Old Glory" itself, that we, by the grace of God, enjoy the freedoms we enjoy. I have 2 older brothers, Jerry and Greg, in Heaven with the Lord.
Ralph Dietz July 17, 2011 at 08:08 AM
Vietnam veterans welcome you home. Thank you from all Americans.
Leonard F. Hashman USN RET July 17, 2011 at 08:13 AM
RIP Commrade, Your eternal watch is over and you now stand relieved. May those who read your story remember...What it took, and what it takes to keep our country FREE. God bless the troops, God bless those who have not been relieved.
Mike Murphy July 17, 2011 at 08:22 AM
Welcome Home Edward, my Dad served in WW2. Mike Vietnam 1967, 68, 69
Bonnie Tragesser Tibi July 17, 2011 at 09:02 AM
Wwlcome home P.F.C. Edward O'toole. Thank you for serving. Rest In Peace. My mother served in WWII. She was a WAC. Veterans are close to my heart.
Kitty July 17, 2011 at 09:11 AM
God Bless your precious Soul U.S. Army Private First Class Edward L. O’Toole, for your sacrifice was most courageous, more so than anC common man or woman can possibly know. May God Bless all of our Solider's in the military, we are forever grateful. You are right, Richard Vandervort... I am concerned for our Country, for these are trying times and very confusing for our youth. They are being taught that our Constitution gets in the way of a "One World Government". Our public schools are attempting to remove the History of the Holocaust, Our president has turned on Israel, He DOES NOT represent Americans with dignity and honor. I pray that our Soliders most sacrificial lives will be honored for the FREEDOMS that this Country was founded on. May God guide our youth and our Country back to our Founding Fathers miracle of a REPUBLIC... If we can hang on to it... "Who will stand On either hand And guard this bridge with me?" ~Macaulay
Kitty July 17, 2011 at 09:14 AM
God Bless your precious Soul U.S. Army Private First Class Edward L. O’Toole, for your sacrifice was most courageous, more so than any common man or woman could possibly know. May God Bless all of our Solider's in the military, we are forever grateful. You are right, Richard Vandervort... I am concerned for our Country, for these are trying times and very confusing for our youth. They are being taught that our Constitution gets in the way of a "One World Government". Our public schools are attempting to remove the History of the Holocaust, Our president has turned on Israel, He DOES NOT represent Americans with dignity and honor. I pray that our Soliders most sacrificial lives will be honored for the FREEDOMS that this Country was founded on. May God guide our youth and our Country back to our Founding Fathers miracle of a REPUBLIC... If we can hang on to it... "Who will stand On either hand And guard this bridge with me?" ~Macaulay
Dave July 17, 2011 at 09:33 AM
BORN: March 16, 1921 DIED: November 20, 1944 BURIED: July 15, 2011 Now that's a real hero!
Gary July 17, 2011 at 09:40 AM
Rest in Peace soldier for your battles are over forevermore. Gary L. Vassar Jr Charleston, SC 4th generation combat vet WWI WWII & Korea Viet Nam Desert Storm There is no greater love than for a man to lay down his life for his brother Amen
Linh Vo July 17, 2011 at 10:01 AM
God. Country. Papas San. Rest in peace, our American hero. Linh Vo, gratitude.org
Cathleen Prout July 17, 2011 at 10:06 AM
Rest in peace Private O'Toole... You are home now....
Sandra Reinhart July 17, 2011 at 10:27 AM
I AND MY HUSBAND ARE HONERED BY YOUR SERVICE; WECOME HOME!! MY HUISBAND IS A VETERAN, TOO!
Peter Domina July 17, 2011 at 10:44 AM
welcome home EDWARD ! we have been waiting for you to join us-your brothers and sisters-your country is safe and free-your job- WELL DONE!-now you can rest in our open arms and live forever in our hearts-we will take your WATCH -REST IN PEACE
GCarey July 17, 2011 at 10:46 AM
Pfc O'Toole, I for one am proud to be an American because of men like you. Your courage and strength give testimony to the difficulty of war which kept you on foreign soil for so long. Now you can rest, cradled in the thoughts and arms of not only the hundreds responding to you now, but to those who wil as word gets out that you are finally home. Thank you and your brothers like you could sacrificed or us, so that we could have tomorrows. We will hold you in our thoughts and graces for as long as we live
Grant Azbell July 17, 2011 at 10:47 AM
A real "Freedom Fighter" back in the Free Country you freely gave your life for, and may the Lord grant you peace and comfort Thanks
Richard July 17, 2011 at 11:07 AM
Thank You Private Edward O'Toole
Anthony July 17, 2011 at 11:29 AM
May you rest in peace now that you are Home Pvt. O'Toole! Thank you for all you gave!
PBEVAN July 17, 2011 at 11:36 AM
Yes Chris you are correct about the interest in this story. However, i think it is because we Americans care deeply for our military. We understand and appreciate more than words the sacrifice they do for our freedom and it is immeasurable. But we have to honor them with more than words, we have to take care of them financially and do the right thing. Do we remember the horrors of Walter Reed hospital? Do we remember the Vietnam vets? We need desparatley for this administration to put our military first. They put us first with their selflessness. God Bless America and our men and women who allow us to be free.
PBEVAN July 17, 2011 at 11:40 AM
Kudos James...........you get it! Always remember!
John E. Manolis July 17, 2011 at 11:48 AM
Thanks Pal......
Kevin Warchol July 17, 2011 at 11:56 AM
RIP Pvt. O'Toole. His work for his country will never be forgotten.
Glenda Whatley July 17, 2011 at 12:02 PM
I can empathize with this Mother. I cried all thru the story.But now you are home with your brother Michael. May you rest in peace.. G. Whatley
aerohobo July 17, 2011 at 12:16 PM
Thank you Private O’Toole for your service and sacrifice. God bless you and your brother, Michael you are resting alongside. I will pray for you both at church today. You are both Heroes! I served in (West) Germany 40 years later at Ramstein AB while in the United States Air Force. This would have not happened without your service and sacrifice.
Richard Vandervort July 17, 2011 at 01:06 PM
The 2008 Elections there was one statement that has stuck with me and in actuality irritated me all this time. Michele Obama stated for the first time in her life she felt pride for this country. Did she mean that there was a level of hate towards it before the election? Mr Obama has shown little respect for our country and it's Constitution and less for it's citizens. Obama has openly said that he doesn't listen to what the people think about what he's doing and cares less for any criticism towards himself. Can we allow a man like this be the Commander in Chief and ask our troops to fight battles and put their lives on the line for someone who doesn't love this country as much as they do? To show your true heart felt respect to our military we should all be demanding the removal of the worst kind of infiltration into our nations security, The man in the Oval Office. Isn't it only right that we bring them home to the same land of the free that they fought so hard for?
PBEVAN July 17, 2011 at 01:53 PM
For Richard Vandervort and all reading this blog..... Well said, I cannot add another thought except to say.......I wish more Americans would wake up to this cry. It is genuine and the real threat to our way of life. Thank you Richard!
Robert L. Scott July 17, 2011 at 02:19 PM
From another Vietnam veteran, who received curses and spit from his fellow Americans, when he arrived in the bay area, Thank you sir, for your sacrifice, for you and your fellows taught me well, and made it my duty to serve during another time of war. My Father and uncles served with you, and I salute all of you for giving me freedom to do my very best. May you rest in peace, with your comrades and mine, in the House of Our Lord! May we never see our service men and women treated the way the vets of the Vietnam War were treated! Your duty is done, and it is time for rest, We are still free, because you believed, and did your best! Can Do!
Chris Corbett July 18, 2011 at 06:32 PM
this article must have broken records for most posts in the shortest amount of time!

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something