August 15 – Happy Birthday Frank M. Cassetta

cassetta2When WWII ended, I’m willing to wager that every parent of a son born after 1926 breathed a huge sigh of relief. They could finally be certain their boy would not join the hundreds of thousands of young Americans who made the supreme sacrifice during that horrible conflict.

No doubt that end-of-the-war relief was felt in the Cassetta household up on 22 Mathias Avenue in Amsterdam. Their oldest son Frank had been born on August 15, 1928 and would graduate from Wilbur Lynch High School in 1946. Now he could plan a future free from the worry that his young life might suddenly end in a jungle on a Pacific island or a beachhead in Europe.

Instead, life got back to normal in the Rug City, which for young Frank meant getting a job in the Bigelow Sanford Rug Mills after he graduated from high school. But the normalcy didn’t last. The country of Korea was at war with itself and neighboring China, which had turned communist after WWII was actively supporting the efforts of Korean revolutionaries fighting for the same outcome in their nation. Harry Truman and a majority of the US Congress were hell bent on preventing that from happening and suddenly, all those parents of kids born after 1926 had a brand new war to worry about.

Frank Cassetta’s turn came in May of 1951, when he enlisted in the US Army at the age of 22. After basic training at Fort Dix in New Jersey and a stint in Leadership School, he was shipped to Korea two days before Christmas in 1952. He must have done well in that school because not long after he joined the fighting, he was made a Sergeant in his Company G, 27th Regiment, 25th Infantry Division and then later, a Master Sergeant. But this young man was more than just a good leader, he was a tremendously brave one as well as he proved on August 21, 1952, just six days after his 24th birthday.

On that day, Frank was serving as the assistant leader of an assault patrol about to attack a heavily fortified enemy hill near Sataeri, a city situated just to the northern side of the present day border between North and South Korea. As the patrol was moving up a narrow valley to position itself for the attack, one of the soldiers tripped an explosive device, alerting the North Koreans of their location. Frank’s patrol came under intense fire and was greatly outnumbered. As the American soldiers scrambled, they triggered another booby trap and with enemy grenades and small arms fire pouring down on them from both sides of the valley, their situation became bleak. Though Frank had been wounded himself, he made two perilous trips back into the field of fire to retrieve injured comrades and bring them to safe cover. He then returned to direct friendly fire against the enemy positions and realizing that additional support was essential, he volunteered to make his way back to contact reserve forces for assistance. While attempting to do so, he was mortally wounded by enemy machine gun fire.

For his gallantry in action, Master Sergeant Frank M. Cassetta of Amsterdam, NY was awarded a Silver Star posthumously. His Dad traveled down to the US Army Reserve Office on Catalyn Street in Schenectady to receive the medal on his beloved oldest son’s behalf. It must have been a proud but very bittersweet ceremony for a wonderful Amsterdam family, who just a few years earlier got the all too brief opportunity to feel confident that such a moment would never be part of their lives.

Another Amsterdam-born war hero was born on August 15th. Here is his story.

 

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