, Derry, New Hampshire


November 8, 2012

Column: Derry’s Vincent Cassidy was a poet, soldier and scholar

One of my Derry heroes has always been Vincent Cassidy (1923-1989). Recently, I was very moved when Pauline Hamer and Robert Cassidy, his sister and brother, gave me a book that had been in Vinnie’s personal library. The only reason I haven’t already written a story on his life was because his life was so well lived that there wasn’t any way I could chronicle it within the space of a single article. This story today is just one incident from his life. In the years to come I’ll tell more Vincent Cassidy stories.

After a Derry boyhood, he attended Pinkerton Academy where he was on the student council, literary editor of the Critic and wrote the class poem. He entered the University of New Hampshire in 1940 to major in history but then came the attack on Pearl Harbor. One month later, on Jan. 7, 1942, Cassidy enlisted in the Marines. After training in Virginia and South Carolina he was assigned to the Leathernecks’ 1st Raider Battalion at Guadalcanal. Soon the 5 foot, 9 inch soldier with broad shoulders, muscular biceps and almost no hips got his first tattoo. On his arm was now written “Bend But Never Break.”

Soon he was seeing combat in the Solomon Islands. Every day was a green hell as they fought countless battles with the enemy. Every day in the jungle it was kill or be killed. For 90 straight days Cassidy fought in the Solomons with little rest and living on C-rations. He soon proved his mettle and was appointed squad leader.

On Aug. 7, 1942, Private Cassidy’s squad came under enemy fire while on the island of Tulgai in the lower Solomons. They were pinned down from withering machine gun and rifle fire coming from a cave on the side of a nearby slope. The Japanese soldiers couldn’t be seen and were perfectly protected in their little rat hole. Cassidy’s men were in the open and were, as the expression goes, “sitting ducks” and would soon be “dead ducks” unless something was done immediately!

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