Joseph P. Cascio

My father, Joseph P. Cascio faithfully served his Country in the Korean War in the 45th Thunderbird Division.

His rank was Master Sergeant. He had a platoon of about seven men fighting in trenches on the front line and was pinned down. His men spoke Italian and he instructed his men to speak soft and stay low, so as to throw the enemy off. In the evening, the enemy tried to fight with psychologically by getting my father’s men to help out with someone they ‘thought’ was a fallen comrade. But my father told them it was a trick.

As they fought my father instructed his men to spread out and since they only had a cock and bolt rifle and not enough ammo to spread out and threw their grenades to make the enemy think they were surrounded. But out of the whole platoon, my father was shot multiple times and was the only survivor. The enemy stabbed the rest of the men until they were dead. As for my father and his Lieutenant, they were captured.

They tortured the Lieutenant for the American’s locations, but he wouldn’t do that. Instead he provided them with his name, rank and serial number in Italian. The North Korean Officer then pulled out a sword and cut off his hand, and as he screamed, he was killed. My father was then told he would be next. He somehow escaped the POW camp and tore off all of his indications that he was an American from his uniform and took off his socks and boots and ran through the rice patty fields for days. My father made it to the next U.S. Army camp, but he was stopped, as they didn’t know if he was an American or the enemy, since he had no insignias on his uniform. He was asked who he was and he told the officer his name, rank and platoon. Dad was asked what happened to the rest of his platoon and when he told them, they asked how he made it out alive. My dad said that was between him and God. The officer said to my father, “You have multiple wounds and your feet are bleeding. The officer advised that he would put through papers to show that he would received the Purple Heart and a bump up in rank. But it never came through.

Unfortunately, his DD2–14 Military records were destroyed in a fire in 1978. I called the Department of Defense in Washington, D.C. for help, but was told that the only way to get my father his medal now was to get it form a pawnshop. With the aide of my son, Chris and, I was able to get the Purple Heart for Dad. You see, my father is now 82 years old and in a nursing home. We had a nice small family ceremony and pined the long awaited Purple Heart on my father. The wedding picture is my parent’s military wedding photo. The other photos is of Dad on the left and myself on the right during the last baseball season. I was able to take him to a local ball game and we had a few beers. He had a great time.

He is not only a Hero, but to have survived being a POW and escape the POW camp took a lot of guts and he is one ‘Bad Ass’.

~ Russell J. Cascio

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