Oscar Davis Coaston was a member of Battery A of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion that stormed Omaha Beach on D-Day. Born in northwest Mississippi, Coaston’s family joined the Great Migration north, settling for a while in Tennessee before moving to Cincinnati, Ohio. Before the war, Coaston worked for the Works Project Administration until he was drafted into the Army in 1942. “As a black man in Cincinnati,” says his son, Earl Coaston, “he didn’t feel that whatever was being reported in the newspapers had any opportunity for him or portended any positive change in the life that he was leading. So he ignored the wider world.”
Like many veterans, Coaston spoke little of his time in the war. Earl Coaston, who contacted this website after the publication of FORGOTTEN, believes there were two reasons for his father’s silence. “Certainly the terror and horror of the war played a part, but for him to give that part of himself to a country that did not believe that he deserved the respect due any human being, let alone a war veteran with two Bronze Stars, ate at him for the rest of his life.” After the war, Coaston married Sallie Smith, and they had three children. Earl Coaston says his father ”lived totally dedicated to his family. He was proudest about the education of his children.” After Coaston’s death in 1969 at age 49, Earl got an MBA, daughter Audrey earned a Ph.D., and son Byron an MA.