Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

State Honoring Teaneck Veteran Who Survived 2 Years in Stalag 17

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

State Honoring Teaneck Veteran Who Survived 2 Years in Stalag 17

Article excerpt

TEANECK -- Donald Cassidy drank only black coffee and expected his boys to clean their plates at dinner, and he was so frugal, he shut off the water in the shower while soaping up so as not to waste a drop.

A "master of moderation," he never uttered a curse, said David Cassidy, recalling that he thought even as a child his father was of another time. After all, his dad spent his own childhood in the Great Depression and fought in World War II, an experience he never spoke about.

It was only when his father, in his 70s, was being interviewed by an Army historian that David Cassidy learned he had spent two years as a prisoner of war in an infamous Nazi camp, surviving the bitter cold on stale bits of bread and staying warm by burning old sauerkraut in barracks ovens.

By chance, Gordon Johnson, a state assemblyman and himself a former major in the Army Reserve, heard a friend of 92-year-old Donald Cassidy speak about his experience as a prisoner at the notorious Stalag 17 during a Veterans Day program at Heritage Point of Teaneck, a retirement community where the elder Cassidy lives. Johnson said he instantly thought this is a man who deserves to be recognized.

"Young folks should be made aware of this hero," Johnson said.

On Friday, Cassidy will be guest of honor for an event at the nursing home that comes nearly 70 years after he was freed from Stalag 17. Johnson, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle and state Sen. Loretta Weinberg are expected to present a joint resolution of the Legislature recognizing his wartime service.

Cassidy was a radio operator in a B-17 flying his sixth mission over Germany on Nov. 30, 1943, when the plane had mechanical trouble, dropped in altitude and, isolated from the main group, became a target. German fighter planes fired barrages that pierced the bomber's skin, and the airmen were forced to abandon the plane in midair. …

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