Well-known WWII vet dies at 96

March 10, 2017

POCATELLO — A well-known World War II veteran passed away Tuesday at the Idaho State Veterans Home in Pocatello.

Edwin “Ed” Dewey McCasland was 96.

McCasland served with the U.S. Army and was taken captive by the German army during a firefight in France. But his captivity lasted just two weeks until he and two other POWs managed to escape.

But during an interview three years ago, McCasland told the Journal that the fight for survival started after they escaped the German prison camp.

Trapped behind enemy lines and with no weapons and no food, McCasland said they laid low until other American troops arrived.

But they were starving, so the American soldiers blocked the road with a tree branch and waited.

“The first truck that came was a German chow wagon. There was just one German and we hit him in the head and took the food and his gun,” McCasland said during that 2014 interview.

McCasland’s grandson, Cody Benintendi, said his grandparents helped raise him, and he described his grandfather as stern and capable.

“When my grandfather was 93 years old, he was still mowing his own yard,” Benintendi said. “He loved to sit on his front porch and visit, and that’s where you were most likely to find him. He liked to discuss politics and the way the world was being ran.”

Benintendi said he believes his grandfather’s military service and his commitment to veterans is his greatest legacy.

McCasland was drafted in the Army. Right after basic training, he found himself on a ship bound for North Africa, where allied forces were preparing to invade Italy. He was wounded three times during his service and awarded three Purple Hearts.

After the war, he stayed involved in veterans’ affairs by serving with the American Legion Post 4 and as a member of the Pocatello Veterans Honor Guard.

“(McCasland) stayed involved in the honor guard until he just couldn’t do it anymore,” the Rev. Jim Jones said.

Jones is the pastor at Blazing Grace Church in Pocatello and the executive director for the POW*MIA Awareness Rally and Motorcycle Rally. He conducted funeral services for McCasland’s late wife and said he knew the World War II vet well.

“He was humble, but direct,” Jones said. “We used to go for coffee after the honor guard, and he used to tell these great stories. He was just a really great guy and the epitome of patriotism.”

The POW*MIA will pay tribute to McCasland during a memorial service next week, but that service has not yet been scheduled.

Josiah Dahlstrom, administrator at the Pocatello veterans’ home where McCasland spent his final days, said the WWII vet is among the last of his kind.

During a special tribute held at the Pocatello facility two years ago, Dahlstrom said 19 WWII vets were honored. Today, there are only four still residing at the veterans’ home.

Among those veteran are two former POWs and a veteran of Iwo Jima and the spouse of a veteran who fought at the Battle of the Bulge.

“These weren’t the kind of guys to sit by and do nothing,” Dahlstrom said. “They all have amazing stories that need to be told.”

John White, a veteran of Desert Storm and the commanding officer of American Legion Post 4, said the patriotism and the action of WWII veterans is part of history and it’s important to keep that history alive.

“I am grateful to all vets. They sign a blank check to the country,” White said.

White said McCasland will receive full military rights during final services.

Funeral arrangements are pending under the direction of Colonial Funeral Home in Pocatello. Condolences can be made online at colonial-funeralhome.com/obits/obituary.php?id=689769.