Nick Casertano of Venice, Fla. helped Merrill’s Marauders rid the Burma Road of Japanese soldiers during World War II. He was a mortar-man in the 475th Infantry Regiment.
The 20-year-old “dog face” from east Manhattan was drafted into the Army in 1943. He wound up in the China-Burma-India Campaign working with the fabled Marauders clearing enemy troops from 400 miles of what would become the main Allied supply route between India and China.
“The first day I was out on the road, a Japanese sniper missed my head with a bullet by a foot. Some guardian angel told me to get down,” he said with a smile.
His company commander wasn’t as lucky. He was hit on day one. He had to be flown out for medical treatment in a light plane.
“Those guys transporting our wounded in Piper Cubs had a lot of guts,” Nick said. “They were always being shelled and shot at by the enemy. I give them a lot of credit.”
During the time Nick was in Burma, he used a mule named “Gonzalez.” Mules carried most of their ammunition, cannons and other equipment in the bush. Food for men and their animals was parachuted in.
Before Nick and the 475th hooked up with the Marauders, the commando unit’s primary assignment was to capture the all-weather airfield at Myitikgina in Northern Burma. It was from this field Japanese fighter planes took off to attack Allied C-47 transport planes flying “The Burma Hump,” the Himalayas, from India to China, supplying Chinese forces fighting the Japanese.
Once Nick’s regiment, with the support of what was left of the Marauders, ran the Japanese off the Burma Road, the Allied forces’ fortunes in the CBI took a dramatic change for the better.
Nick’s lasting recollection of his tour in Burma was a case of malaria he contracted while jungle fighting. He also received a Bronze Star for valor, for some reason he can’t recall. It’s obviously his. His name is inscribed on the back.
What he does remember: “My father put up a big ‘Welcome Home’ sign for me when I returned home on Christmas Eve 1945.”
This story was first published on Monday, Jan. 21, 2002 in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on and is republished with permission.
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Nicholas Casertano was born on October 22, 1922 and passed away on Monday, February 21, 2011.
Nicholas was a resident of Venice, Florida.
No other information could be found at this time.