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Kassal was born in Harlem, New York on 28 February 1917. His parents were Polish immigrants. At a young age, his family moved to the Bronx. His family did well economically when he was young. He attended public schools in the Bronx. He attended a high school for boys only. Kassal graduated high school at the age of 16. He was athletically gifted. He attended New York University for one year, but did not like traveling back and forth by subway. A friend told him about the University of Alabama and their football program. He attended college there for one year.Kassal decided to attend an academically driven school to better his chances of attending law school. He applied to the University of Pennsylvania and was accepted. He graduated after three years of college and played for the school's football team before fracturing his left arm and right hand. He attended Harvard Law School and played rugby for the school's team. He had never played rugby before, but he excelled in the sport. He graduated from Harvard Law School towards the top of his class in 1940. He was well informed about the war in Europe and he felt they could join the war shortly.Kassal found a job as a lawyer with an alcohol distributor for $10 per week, he found a better paying job six months later and worked there until World War II broke out. He remembers being at the New York City polo grounds when he found out about the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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Kassal enlisted in January of 1942 and was assigned to the Army Air Forces. He was sent to Camp Upton at Yaphank, Long Island, New York. His first assignments included kitchen duty and handing uniforms to new recruits and draftees. He remembers giving heavyweight fighting champion Joe Lewis his uniform. He was then assigned to Mitchell Field with the quartermaster corps for about five months. He attended OCS [Annotator's Note: Officer Candidate School] at Miami Beach, Florida. He recalls meeting Clark Gable at OCS and women lining up to meet him. Kassal received a commission as a 2nd lieutenant upon graduating OCS; he graduated 14 out of 2,000 men.At that time, the Army Air Force wanted to expand their intelligence units. Kassal was accepted to attend the Army Air Forces intelligence school at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He recalls his time in Miami; marching down Collins Avenue and antisubmarine patrols. He attended intelligence school for six weeks. He graduated number four in his class and was given the opportunity to choose his assignment. His first choice was England, second choice was North Africa. Kassal was eventually given an assignment to North Africa and deployed overseas on the SS Dorothea Dix in the fall of 1942. They traveled overseas in a convoy, Kassal's ship was at the end of the convoy. After a few hours at sea, the water pumps on the Dorothea Dix failed and Kassal was sent back to the states.

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Kassal was sent back to the United States for five weeks before finally making it overseas. They traveled through Gibralter before landing in Mers-el-Kebir [Annotator's Note: Algeria], east of Oran. He remembers before they landed, he was told that all the men were being to sent to an infantry camp, Camp Canasel. This scared Kassal because he was never training to shoot a rifle or handle any infantry equipment. Instead they were sent to an Army Air Force replacement depot near Mostaganem. He was in a group of 25 officers, 5 of which were Jewish, including Kassal. The Jewish officers were the last to receive assignments.Kassal was assigned to the 12th Tactical Air Command, which was assigned to land with the 7th Army in Sicily. Before they departed, he was assigned to the 2nd Armored Division. The Army officers did not want him there at first. They boarded LCVPs [Annotator's Note: Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel] at Arzew and departed North Africa for the invasion of Sicily [Annotator's Note: July 1943]. They landed at Gela, Sicily one hour after H-hour. He only saw one other Army Air Force officer on the beach, a major general digging a slit trench. He had no idea what the major general was doing until they were bombed and shelled 15 minutes later.Kassal slept in a slit trench the first night of the invasion, he recalls that he felt like he was sleeping in his own grave, he did not think he was going to survive. The next morning, he remembers General Patton [Annotator's Note: General George S. Patton, Commander of the US Seventh Army at this time] leading the briefing. He thought Patton was extraordinary looking in his appearance and dress and he had a high squeaky voice. Kassal thought he was the best general in Europe and he admired him greatly.

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Kassal remembers making it to Palermo, Italy after three to four weeks with the 12th Tactical Air Command. He was in charge of coordinating intelligence for aircraft, fighters and bombers. He remained in Palermo for two weeks to plan for the invasion of Salerno, Italy. He recalls General Patton [Annotator's Note: General George S. Patton, Commander of the US Seventh Army at the time] being dismissed at this time for striking a soldier. Palermo was unscathed by the war. He recalls staying in a mansion in the city. While in Palermo, he was assigned to gain intelligence about the German Luftwaffe through prisoner of war (POW) interrogation, radio intercepts, and photo reconnaisance. He became an expert on the German Luftwaffe [Annotator's Note: German Air Force].The 12th Tactical Command's mission was to support the ground forces. The commanding general of the Italy invasion was General Mark Clark [Annotator's Note: General Mark Clark, commander of the US Fifth Army]. Kassal was still a 2nd lieutenant at that point, the 12th Tactical Command was too disorganized to promote him. He boarded an LST [Annotator's Note: Landing Ship, Tank] from Sicily to Salerno. The invasion went smoothly even though there was a large German presence in Italy. He was not as scared as he had been when they landed at Palermo. Within a few days, they moved into Naples. Kassal traveled with the famous war correspondent Vincent Sheehan. He remembers the Italian civilians sincerely cheering for them as they traveled through the cities.

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Kassal recalls the 12th Tactical Air Command's headquarters were setup at Caserta, just north of Naples. They were stationed just north of the palace for only a few days before moving north to Venafroy and Cassino, a few miles from Montecassino, a strategic German stronghold. The only way the infantry could make it to Rome was through Monte Cassino. They had strict orders from President Roosevelt not to bomb Monte Cassino because of its religious importance. However, because the city was so strategically important, Roosevelt gave permission to bomb. Kassal was given the task of bombing targets operations, organizing heavy bombers to hit the abbey at Monte Cassino.After the bombing, Kassal remembers thinking to himself how lucky he was to participate in this attack, until he saw American bombers fly overhead and drop four bombs. He received some small lacerations on his knees. Kassal goes back to talk about his first meeting with General Clark [Annotator's Note: General Mark Clark, commander of the US Fifth Army] . He personally delivered intelligence to Clark. He also recalls meeting General Hap Arnold [Annotator's note: Henry Harley "Hap" Arnold], commander of the US Army Air Forces, and personally briefed him on the situation in Monte Cassino. A week before the bombing at Monte Cassino, three RAF [Annotator's Note: Royal Air Force] intelligence officers came to their headquarters. Kassal was assigned to show them the town and the German positions. They came under German artillery fire, one of the RAF officers was wounded and later died of his injuries.

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Kassal remembers moving into Rome with ease. The men had more liberty in Rome than they had in the other Italian cities. They stayed in Rome for a short period of time because the Germans were being pushed back rapidly. They made it as far as Civitavecchia, Italy before he was assigned to his third D-Day invasion. He was flown to Naples and assigned to assist in the invasion of southern France. He was the only intelligence officer from the Army Air Force assigned to the invasion. In Naples, they boarded the USS Augusta [Annotator's Note: (CA-31)] a heavy cruiser. This landing occurred two months after the invasion of Normandy. They attacked various German positions along the coast of France.Kassal recalls they had a very easy landing and advanced to Salon in Provence [Annotator's Note: Salon-de-Provence, France]. While he was at headquarters, a French farmer informed him that he had a group of German antiaircraft soldiers at his farm that would only surrender to the Americans. Kassal was interested by this, so he volunteered to accept the surrender. He took six men with him. He had no idea what to tell the German prisoners of war (POWs), so he thought to himself "what would John Wayne do in this situation?" The farmer brought the 16 POWs to Kassal, most of which were under 16 or over 50. The leader of the POWs was Kassal's counterpart; they were the same age, both were lawyers, and the German spoke fluent English. The German officer told Kassal that they would win the war because they had a secret weapon. Kassal thought he was arrogant and he wanted to hit him. To get back at him, Kassal asked the German if he ever thought he would be taken prisoner by a Jew.

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Kassal remembers they moved very quickly through France, through the Rhone Valley, stopping in various cities like Dijon, Lyon, and Ness. They were in support of the 7th Army under General Patch [Annotator's Note: General Alexander McCarrell "Sandy" Patch]. They moved quickly into Alsace Lorraine by December of 1944. In November of 1944, Kassal recalls being at an officers party in Saverne when they were recalled to headquarters because they had to retreat to Nancy, the Germans had counter attacked. They retreated to Luneville just outside of Nancy for a week. He remembers hearing the news of Patton [Annotator's Note: General George S. Patton] taking control of the Third Army and breaking through the German lines. He received the Bronze Star for his intelligence actions at Nancy.Kassal and the rest of the 12th [Annotator's Note: 12th Tactical Air Command] crossed the Rhine River south of Frankfurt into Darmstadt. The German resistance was not as strong in Germany as it had been in Sicily and Italy. They moved into Munich and remained there until the end of the war in Europe. He had no job because there was no intelligence to be gathered. He did a lot of sightseeing with some of the other men and played baseball, he was a team captain.Kassal goes back to talk about the breaking of the ultra secret and the enigma machine. This took place at Bletchley Park, England. This consisted of the Allies breaking the German code. This was top secret work, but there were secrets that Kassal did not even know, like breaking the code. Colonel Corning came to Kassal one day to ask about a German airfield in a particular area. He sent out a photo recon [Annotator's Note: photographic reconnaisance] mission, which ended up being a cover up to hide the fact that they had broken the code.In May of 1945, Kassal was told that he was being assigned to the Japanese theater. He could not understand why he was being sent to Japan, but the general explained they had reason to believe that German Luftwaffe [Annotator's Note: German Air Force] pilots might try to escape to Japan and fight against the Americans. He was considered the top expert on Luftwaffe intelligence

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Kassal prepared to go to London to deploy to Japan, but the war ended before he reached London. He stayed in Europe for occupation duty. They had plenty of liberty and downtime. He was given two options at that time; a regular Army assignment, which he did not want, or to go to Biarritz, France to take a six month course. He chose to return to the states out of Antwerp to Boston. He decided that he should play a role in the government when he returned. He began to cry when he was on the train to New York because he was so pleased to be returning home alive and able to resume his career.In 2004-2005, he sent in his application for the French Legion of Honor, he did not hear anything back for three to four years. He was selected to go to France to receive the French Legion of Honor Medal. He was the oldest recipient there by at least six years. They received first class accommodations from the French government. They visited Normandy and Omaha Beach. He took his Harvard Law School hat because he knew he would meet President Obama. There were 35 men that received the medal.

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