Bridge dedication honors local Korean War causality

By Randy Bartley

Staff Writer

CLARINGTON

A bridge spans a gap across a river, a gorge and, sometimes, a loss. That was the case Aug. 23 when the State Route 899 bridge crossing the Clarion River was named for a soldier killed during the Korean War.

The bridge was named for Private First Class Patrick Thomas Cassatt who was reported as killed in action in 1953. His body was never recovered.

Patrick T. Cassatt was one of six boys in the Cassatt family raised in Clarington. Patrick and four of his brothers served in World War II. He lied about his age and at 16 joined the Army. He was sent to Germany at the end of the war. When he returned he went to Erie with one of his brothers to work for General Electric.

He joined the Army Reserves and in the summer of 1950 his unit was called to go to Korea.

According to the Department of the Army, POW/MIA Accounting Agency, PFC Cassatt was serving with the 1st Cavalry Division near the North Korean city of Unsan in October 1950 when it was attacked by units of the Chinese Communist army.

On Nov. 1, 1950, his unit came under heavy enemy fire and lost 600 of the 800 men assigned to it.

PFC Cassatt was listed as missing in action. On Dec. 31, 1953, the U.S. Army pronounced him Killed in Action. His remains were never recovered. He was 19 years old at the time of his death.

Vietnam veteran Terry Cassatt, the nephew of Patrick Cassatt, led the movement to have the bridge named for his missing uncle. He said that in 1998 his father, Patrick's brother, was contacted by the Department of Defense because it was attempting to identify the remains of American soldiers reported as MIAs.

Officials from the Defense Department explained they needed DNA from the family for some unidentified remains that had been brought to the Center for Remains in Hawaii.

Patrick Cassatt was not among those returned.

State Rep. Cris Dush (R-66) said, "Our young people need to see these things and it is our responsibility that whenever we cross these roadways and bridges to explain to them the reason. It is only fitting this bridge be named for PFC Patrick Cassatt."

"We are here today to celebrate a young man and to celebrate the freedoms he helped preserve for us," said Deborah Pontzer who represented U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-15).

In the letter read by Pontzer, Thompson noted a marker has been placed at the Arlington National Cemetery for PFC Cassatt.

"The legacy of Private Cassatt will live on with this bridge," said Thompson.

Christine Gibbs read a letter from state Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-63).

"I hope that everyone who uses this bridge will remember and acknowledge the sacrifice Patrick made to preserve our freedoms and democracy. For years to come whenever someone crosses that bridge, they may not know who Patrick Cassatt was but they will know that he died for our country."

"This is a day of memory but also a day of rejoicing because we live in the greatest country ever devised," said state Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-21). "This country is blessed not only in material ways but with a continuous stream of men and women in each generation who come forward and say ‘I am willing to defend this way of life with my last breath.'

"Patrick Cassatt is a shining example of one of those individuals. We will remember."

"Every time I cross this bridge from now on it will be with a heavy heart and also with a joyful heart that Patrick will never be forgotten, ever," said Clarington native Bill Littlefield, Commander of American Legion Post 102 in Brookville. "And, if his remains are ever brought back, I will be here to celebrate that also."

"We still believe the remains will be found and we can bring him home," Cassatt said.

The unveiling of the sign at the PFC Patrick T. Cassatt Bridge followed the service held at the Clarington United Methodist Church.