Wilton loses war hero Peter Kaskell

The Bulletin has learned that former Wilton resident and World War II hero Peter Kaskell died Dec. 12. A memorial service will be held early next year.

Two years ago, Kaskell was awarded the Croix de Chevalier dans l’Ordre de la Légion d’Honneur, one of France’s highest honors, for his efforts during World War II. The medal, also known as the Legion of Honor, is bestowed on eligible United States veterans of WWII who contributed significantly to the liberation of France from 1944 to 1945.

A German native, Kaskell immigrated to New York with his family as a child. He enlisted in the Army in 1943 when he was 19 and trained to become a combat engineer. However, when the Army learned he’d been born in Germany, it reassigned him to train to interrogate German prisoners. He also became an “expert” on the order of battle — defined as “the planned sequence in which military units arrive and are deployed on a battlefield.”

With that training, Kaskell became a technical sergeant and one of his responsibilities was to obtain information about the enemy, he told The Bulletin in 2017.

Kaskell was sent to the front in Italy and his work obtaining and analyzing information from a German messenger as the Americans fought through a gap in the Germans’ last line of defense before Rome earned him a Bronze Star.

Kaskell was sent to southern France in August 1944 with a section of the U.S 6th Army Group, and as they made their way north, Allied troops were heading south. Kaskell’s unit was involved in major fighting for nearly a year, until the Germans surrendered on May 8, 1945.

A letter from Gen. Jacob L. Devers praised Kaskell’s “natural ability” in acquiring technical knowledge of the German Army “to produce intelligence of superior quality.”

In “critical periods when information on the enemy was scarce,” according to the letter, Kaskell “worked with the utmost diligence and understanding of the importance of his task to produce valuable data required for the successful conduct of operations in the field.”

After the war, Kaskell returned to Columbia University, which he had left to enlist, and completed his law degree. He worked 27 years with the Olin Corporation in Stamford, 12 as vice president and general counsel, and moved to Wilton in 1970 where he and his wife Joan lived for 40 years before moving to Meadow Ridge in Redding.

Kaskell left Olin in 1983 and co-founded the International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution, formerly known as the Center for Public Resources.

Kendra Baker contributed to this story.