in our Midst
Valley Patriot of the Month
Corporal James M. Cassidy
U.S. Army - WW II
HAVERHILL On the morning
of June 6, 1944, the Allies finally began the liberation
of Europe from the Nazi nightmare. Tens of thousands of
American, British, and Canadian troops poured onto the
shores of Normandy to engage the Germans and drive them
out of France. The Allies had trouble at first fighting
through the treacherous French hedgerows, but by late
fall General Eisenhowers armies were nearing the
As the Americans advanced, Pfc. Jim Cassidy and his
machine gun squad were attempting to enter a Rhineland
town when almost immediately they were pinned down by a
German sniper perched in the church steeple. There was
little they could do as they hunkered down in their
foxholes to avoid the bullets whizzing by. Finally, late
in the day, supporting artillery moved up and demolished
the church. Once again, the squad, as they had so many
times before, picked up their gear and pushed forward
with the rest of their unit during that miserable winter
Eighteen-year-old Jim Cassidy was just one of the many
young men who had stepped forward to risk their lives in
the worldwide struggle for freedom against the Axis
powers. He and his men were typical of what Tom Brokaw
calls The Greatest Generation.
Jim was born in 1926 and grew up in Worcester. He vividly
remembers the day World War II began. On the evening of
December 7, 1941, he and his brother Bill were on their
way home from the movies. Jim noticed that there was a
lot of talk on the trolley car about the Japanese bombing
of Pearl Harbor and some women were crying. The brothers
didnt know what or where Pearl Harbor was, but they
knew that the news was bad. The next day the Cassidy
family heard over the parlors Philco radio that the
country was at war.
When Jim turned 17, he tried to enlist in the Navy but
was turned away because of a minor vision problem. So he
returned to Worcester South High School for his senior
year. He graduated early, in February of 1944, and
shortly after his 18th birthday was drafted into the
Army. He remembers that his mother, Grace, went to pick
up his diploma later that spring in the high school gym
and she remarked on how many empty seats there were for
those who had already gone into the service.
On May 15, 1944 Jim reported to Ft. Devens in Ayer for
induction. The Army then shipped him to Ft. McClellan,
Ala. for 17 weeks of infantry training in the tropical heat of summer. Then
Jim was sent to Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri for
additional training and, after a short leave at home, was
ordered to Camp Myles Standish where he arrived in a
blinding snowstorm. This was his final stop before
shipping out to Europe. At this point, Jim
was assigned to the 70th Infantry Division, famously
known as the Trailblazers. For all this, Jim was paid
In November 1944 Jim Cassidy boarded the SS Mariposa
troop ship in Boston and headed to Marseilles, France.
The trip over was uneventful, but Jim remembers well his
arrival on December 10th. There was mud everywhere and it
was cold. He pitched his tent in the ever-present mud and
awaited orders to the front. That didnt take long.
Ten days later he and the other troops were loaded onto
cattle cars and started towards Brumath, France. Five
hundred miles later they arrived at their destination on
Christmas Eve. Jim remembers the next day, Christmas
1944, very well. He went to open his C rations for dinner
and found them full of ice.
At this point, Jim had been assigned to Company H, 274th
Regiment of the 70th Division, 7th Army. Company H
carried heavy weapons to support the infantry, primarily
machine guns and mortars. Jim was part of a machine
gun squad, an eight-man unit operating the
water-cooled Browning .30-caliber machine gun. The unit
consisted of a #1 Gunner, who carried the heavy support
tripod, the #2 Gunner who carried the machine gun itself,
and six ammo carriers who each hauled two boxes of the
250-round cartridge belts.
Jim began as an ammo carrier but quickly moved up to
Gunner as other squad members became casualties.
Promotion during the war was as likely to be based on
survival as it was on battlefield prowess.
The 274th Division fought just
south of Pattons 3rd Army during Hitlers
last-gasp Panzer attack in the Battle of the Bulge. As
Jim and his Division moved forward from France into
Germany, they endured constant shelling and sniper fire.
They lived in foxholes in what was one of the coldest
winters that Europe had seen in many years. Jim remembers
carrying extra socks and innersoles in his parka to keep
his feet dry. Dry feet were important because it meant
warm feet and no frostbite.
Perhaps Jims closest brush with death came when a
screaming meemie, the nickname for a German
88 mm rocket or artillery shell, landed no more than ten
feet from his position. Fortunately, it was a dud and did
nothing more than to spray him with lots of dirt and
debris. Did I mention that it also scared the hell out of
As the 274th fought its way into Germany, Jim recalls
that his unit was pulled back every so often and allowed
a one-minute hot shower, given clean underwear and served
some hot meals. One time Jim was even given a 3-day pass
to Paris. It was the first time he had seen electricity
since leaving Marseilles.
Jim also remembers sending V-mail back home.
V stands for victory and the mail itself
might be called the predecessor of todays e-mail.
The soldier would write his letter on a special form and
the Army would then shrink it onto microfilm for
transport back to the states. There the letters would be
restored to actual size and sent on to the intended
Despite the primitive conditions, the troops were kept up
to date on the news by the Armed Forces Radio and Stars
and Stripes. Jim remembers the sad day when their
Commander in Chief, President Roosevelt, died.
As the war wound down in the spring of 1945 and
Germanys surrender was near, Jim recalls the 274th
taking many prisoners. A substantial number were no more
than 12-13 years old as the German Army had exhausted its
supply of regular troops.
After the Germans had surrendered to the Allies, Jim and
the 274th started planning to go to the Pacific for one
more battle. This was for the invasion of Japan where Jim
knew the casualties would be very high. He was still in
Europe when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima
and Nagasaki and he remembers the jubilation and relief
of the troops when Japan surrendered. Instead of one more
battle to fight, thankfully, they would be going home.
In early January of 1946, Jim boarded the Liberty Ship SS
John Holland for New York. He had been in Europe for 13
months and was eager to get back to the states. He will
always remember that wonderful site of the Statue of
Liberty as his ship made its way into New York harbor. On
May 1, 1946 Jim was discharged from the Army.
For his service, Jim was awarded the Victory Medal, the
Distinguished Presidential Unit Badge, the European
African Middle Eastern Theater Campaign Ribbon with Two
Battle Stars, and the Combat Infantry Badge. At the 2004
North Andover Memorial Day Service, Jim was also finally
awarded the Bronze Star, the third highest award the U.S.
Army bestows upon a soldier for distinguishing
oneself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service
in connection with military operations against an
After the war, Jim used the GI Bill to attend UMass at
the Ft. Devens campus. He studied agriculture and, after
graduation, went on to a distinguished career with the
Massachusetts Department of Agriculture. For 37 years he
was the states Director of the Bureau of Farm
Products and enforced the regulations on all fruits and
vegetables. He even had a long running and popular
gardening program with a Boston radio station.
On July 4th, 1947 Jim met his future wife, Lorraine,
while on an outing at Hampton Beach. They were married in
1950 and in 1954 moved from the Tower Hill section of
Lawrence to a home on Perry Street in North Andover. They
lived there until 2005 when they decided to move into a
townhouse just across the line in Bradford. Sadly,
Lorraine passed away this last year after a sudden
Jim Cassidy is perhaps best known for his efforts to help
veterans and seniors, and promote the American spirit. He
is past commander and current vice commander of American
Legion Post 219 in North Andover and a member of VFW Post
2104. After the 9/11 terrorist attack, Jim also helped
champion the effort to get the American flag painted on
the Bradford Street water tower in North Andover.
As many of you know, until recently Jim was a regular
contributor to The Valley Patriot with his column on
Senior Moments. He always had great stories
to share with us and wanted to pass along his famous
lessons on life. We are all appreciative for
having the opportunity to read them.
Jim Cassidy, we thank you for your service to our
Editors Note: Jim Cassidy was featured as this
papers first Valley Patriot of the Month in March
2004. However, at that time stories were not included
with the veterans picture. This months column
finally shows why he so richly deserved our prior
*Send your questions comments to ValleyPatriot@aol.com
The February 2007
Edition of the Valley Patriot
The Valley Patriot is a Monthly
All Contents (C) 2007, Valley Patriot, Inc.
We publish 10,000 newspapers and distribute in Andover,
Methuen, Haverhill, Chelmsford, Georgetown, Groveland,
Lawrence, Dracut, Tewksbury, Hampton & Salisbury
Beach, and Lowell.
Valley Patriot Archive
Valley Patriot Story
Valley Patriot Editorials
Prior Columns by ...
Patriot of the Month