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"[The landing craft] came up to dock and folded down the front of it. It made an imprint on my life forever. I looked into the inside and all I could see was black body bags with military personnel in them." (Audio interview, 3:04)

   Robert Emmett Cassidy
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War: Korean War, 1950-1953
Branch: Army
Unit: 8204th American Graves Registration Service Unit, Field Operation Service
Service Location: Camp Kokura, Japan
Rank: Corporal
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The son of a funeral director, Corporal Robert Cassidy was a natural candidate for assignment to the 8204th American Graves Registration Service Unit, a mortuary team that processed remains during the Korean War. Still, despite having grown up around a mortuary, he was taken aback upon arriving for duty at Camp Kokura, Japan, and confronting the sheer number of American casualties. He estimates that the 8204th AGRS handled two-thirds of the American casualties over the course of the war. In his oral history interview, he discusses the emotional impact of his duties, and how his commanding officers constantly checked in with their enlisted men to make sure their daily exposure to death did not become overwhelming. He also relates the deep dedication and respect with which he and his colleagues approached caring for the bodies of servicemen who had given their lives for their country--a task that is seldom talked about or even thought of, and for which his unit received a Presidential Unit Citation.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (6 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: audio (82 min.)
 Official Documents
»DD-214, Report of Separation
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 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (6 items)
Arriving at Camp Kokura, Japan; assigned to a boat detail; seeing arrival of boat carrying hundreds of American casualties. (02:43) Members of his team; processing the bodies; making sure to take days off; taking the job very seriously. (04:10) Attitude toward job; handling the emotional impact. (02:49)
Constantly working; challenges of job; treating each member of the team like equals, regardless of rank. (03:20) Seeing the individuals he worked on as heroes; no psychologist on hand; talking to the chaplain. (02:05) Life after service; attending mortuary school; still waking up in a cold sweat thinking about the sacrifice of those he processed. (02:01)

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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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