Nick John (Nicola Gaetano) CASSANO

Poppy

CASSANO, Nick John (Nicola Gaetano)

Service Number: 5716427
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 5th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (5RAR)
Born: Bari, Italy, 7 August 1947
Home Town: Perth, Western Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: National Serviceman, Panel Beater
Died: Killed in Action, South Vietnam, 7 December 1969, aged 22 years
Cemetery: Karrakatta Cemetery & Crematorium, Perth, W.A.
Wall 9 - Row C
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour
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Vietnam War Service

20 Aug 1969: Involvement Australian Army, Private, SN 5716427, 1st Australian Reinforcement Unit, Vietnam
3 Sep 1969: Involvement Australian Army, Private, SN 5716427, 5th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (5RAR)

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Biography

Birth: Aug. 7, 1947
Bari
Provincia di Bari
Puglia, Italy
Death: Dec. 7, 1969, Vietnam

5716427 Private Nicola John Cassano (Nick) was born in Italy in 1947 before migrating to Australia. He was conscripted into the Australian Army and posted to 1st Australian Reinforcement Unit, arriving in Vietnam on 20 August 1969. He joined 6 Platoon 5th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment as a reinforcement on 3 September 1969 but was then transferred to 5 Platoon where he excelled as a forward scout.
On 7th December 1969 during Operation Kings Cross in the thick jungle of the Hat Dich Secret Zone he was killed in action during a bunker battle. Pte Cassano had killed the enemy sentries to the bunker system as 5 Platoon assaulted and penetrated the enemy defences. A ferocious fire fight followed, causing the platoon to become pinned down in the middle of the bunker system until relieved by a force led by Company Commander Major Ray Harring with a troop of tanks that literally crushed the system. Unfortunately it was too late for Nick.

Information from Finda a Grave Memorial

NICOLA (Nick) Cassano was 22 when he died, shot through the head during the Vietnam War.
The private is one of 13 soldiers who will be commemorated on a plaque created by Quinns Rocks RSL for Vietnam Veterans Day next week.
The plaque, which will be donated to Clarkson Library, lists soldiers who died during that war and who have streets named after them around Clarkson.
Remembering how his younger brother served and died 45 years ago, Morley resident Con Cassano said his brother lived fearlessly.
'He was full of life, frightened of nothing and full of courage,' he said.
Their parents Frank and Rosa, who spoke no English at the time, moved to Perth from Italy with their four children when Nick was nine and Con was 16.
They also had two sisters, Teresa, who was four years older than Con, and Rita, who was two years younger.
After finishing school, Nick was working as a panel beater, living with his parents in East Perth and had a girlfriend when he was conscripted into the army.
He was drafted in January 1969, and became a private with the Fifth Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment.
Mr Cassano said they learnt Nick had been sent to Vietnam when a letter, dated August 21, 1969, arrived a few days after he finished his first week-long R and R break in Perth.
'Well I am finally in Vietnam " talk about a wish coming true,' the letter said.
'No it's not all that bad here at least I've got a good chance to get a decent suntan while I'm here.'
Mr Cassano said the family, including Nick, had believed he was returning to the Puckapunyal Military Camp in Victoria.
'We were quite close, the whole family was very close,' he said.
'I was working in a hotel at the time and I sent him a carton of beer and it was very well received by all the boys.'
Nick initially carried the radio for his platoon, then became a scout and it was in that role that he died on December 7, 1969.
'The story I got from his superior, they were on platoon in the jungle,' Mr Cassano said.
'He was 200m in front of everybody. He saw the enemy; he lay down; he started to shoot.
'He was behind a little bush " no cover whatsoever.'
Mr Cassano said it took 10 minutes for the rest of the platoon to surround the area, then Nick was called back.
'He yelled out 'why don't you stop you bastards? Don't you know it's lunch?',' he said.
'When he went behind the log, he copped it in his head.
'He didn't die straight away " he was alive for about 10 minutes.'
Back in Perth, Mr Cassano was on his boat, with a friend driving it, and the motor cut out abruptly.
'I had this sensation something was wrong that day,' he said.
'Right on 12 o'clock, there was a huge bang on the motor and it seized there and then.'
When he got home, Mr Cassano found a note on his front door asking him to go to his parents' house in East Perth.
There he found an army captain trying to explain to his parents that their youngest son had died and would be buried in Butterworth in Malaysia.
'I was 29 years old and I said to the captain, 'no you won't, you will bring him home here, bury him here',' Mr Cassano said.
The grandfather said that was the first time a soldier was brought back, but it still took 31 days and two autopsies before the family could bury Nick.
'We had no problem with him being in the army,' he said.
'When he was called up in the army, dad said 'that's fine, it will make a man out of him'.
'Myself and my brother did not believe in wars (but) he had no choice " they called him up and he had to go.'
Mr Cassano said there were now several tributes to Nick and his peers, including a war memorial in Canberra, plaques from the Vietnamese Community of WA and the street names in the City of Wanneroo.

Information from Lucy Jarvis, North Coast Times | August 12, 2014, 12:00 AM | NORTH COAST TIMES

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