Making It Count – Part 5, by Pat Cascio

(Continued from Part 4. This concludes the article.)

My first meeting with Colonel Applegate

As I’ve mentioned before in SurvivalBlog, from 1990 to 1993 I worked for the late Colonel Rex Applegate as his assistant, on numerous projects. I also maintained his gun collection. He had more than 850 guns – many were prototypes and one-of-a-kind. It was a great honor working for the good Colonel. He taught me a lot about a lot of things, especially when he served in WWII for the military. He told me a lot of things that he said that he’d never mentioned to anyone else. He also taught me a lot about point shooting and knife fighting.

(l. to r.) John Taffin, Rex Applegate, and Pat Cascio


It was Applegate who introduced me to my favorite gun writer, Chuck Karwan. Chuck used to help Applegate with some projects. Chuck and I became close friends. Chuck helped me with my magazine articles and I helped him with several of his books and magazine articles. Whenever Chuck had a question about combat shooting he would call me, and when I needed help with military weapons, then I’d call him.  Applegate and I also worked with gun writer John Taffin.

I met and trained with the late John McSweeney. He was the first martial artist to bring Kenpo Karate to Ireland. He was the founder of the American Kenpo Karate Association. He served in three different branches over the years. He was one of the best martial artists, period. He was one bad guy on the mat or on the street and you didn’t want to mess with him. I also became friends with Tom Saviano, who took over the American Kenpo Association after McSweeney passed away. Tom is now 82 years old and he has some of his Black Belts who now run his school. However, he still puts on some seminars, all over the world.

I’ve always been very picky with friends, and few know me as well as they think they do. I have two dear friends, one is Tom Saviano – who I’ve known since the late 1980s, and the other is Rob Powell, back in Colorado, and I’ve also known him since the 1980s. Both of these men are closer to me than a brother and they’d do anything for me and I’d do the same for them. I haven’t seen either Tom or Rob face to face for more than 30 years but we stay in very close contact, just the same.

My Time in Rhodesia

In 1976, I went to Rhodesia — the nation now called Zimbabwe — to help the British South Africa Police (BSAP) force form something of a quick reaction force. Whenever a farm was attacked they called us and we’d track down the terrorist. Until now, I have never spoken or written much about what went on in Rhodesia, mainly because it was illegal in the eyes of the US Department of Justice. They considered anyone who fought for a foreign government as a paid mercenary, as per the Foreign Relations Act, Section 959. This law is entitled “Enlistment in foreign service.” The statute prohibits anyone in the United States regardless of nationality, from “enlisting, recruiting or leaving the United States in order to serve any foreign principality, state, colony, district, or people whether as a soldier, marine, or seaman.”

I never did any soldiering per se, since I was a “consultant” to the BSAP force. I trained some of their police officers in something akin to a fast-reaction force. When terrs would attack a farm or ranch, we’d fly in on a helicopter, with a black African tracker, and track them down. Most of my work was in garrison, doing training. But I went out twice, on those missions.

As it turned out, I was cheated out of my pay. I found out that I could only take $25 in Rhodesian dollars when I left. The Rhodesian military tried to get me to enlist – but I wasn’t about to do that. Upon returning to the United States, I was questioned by our own FBI about my time there and was told I could be put in prison for what I did. I explained to them that I never enlisted or did any fighting per se when I was in Rhodesia. So that was the end of that, because there was certainly no proof that I had done any soldiering, in the true sense.

The Cruise Ship Cases

A couple of years later,  I got involved in an undercover case. A gang of six from New York was going to hijack the SS Emerald Seas — a cruise ship out of Miami, and hold it and the passengers for a $6 million dollar ransom. This made the news all over the world. I infiltrated the gang in Chicago, with the two would-be hijacking leaders, and was quickly accepted. These guys were sooooo stupid that they tape-recorded all of our meetings. I saw dollar signs and contacted the cruise line and made a nice bundle of money when it was all said and done. You can do a web search for this story, I’m sure there are still a few articles out there about it. It happened in 1978. Some stories about this plot were spot on, but others made stuff up.

Lin DelVecchio and Joe Piston
Lin DeVecchio (l.) and Joe Pistone.

There were lots of really funny stories I could tell about during the hijack planning – too much to go into here. FBI agent Roy “Lin” DeVecchio was brought into the gang undercover as an underworld “arms dealer” that I knew. He wrote about this in his autobiography which was published a decade ago. That was his very first undercover assignment for the FBI. He still teaches every now and then at the FBI academy and tells new agents about the SS Emerald Seas case.

The picture at the top of this installment is one of me and Lin DeVecchio walking out of a restaurant on Staten Island, after we met with the two leaders of the hijack gang. There were at least 15 agents inside the restaurant and many more outside. Some of them were taking pictures. The restaurant was right across from the Federal Building. I introduced DeVecchio, as an underworld arms dealer. They wanted to buy guns for the hijacking. It was comical at a few times, when Lin showed them some handguns. We were sitting in a booth at the back of the restaurant and the conspirators started talking really loudly. There were agents in there in plain clothes, but also some real customers. We were afraid one of ’em would call the police on us.

I met Joe Pistone (aka “Donnie Brasco”) during one of my trips to the New York City FBI office while working on the hijacking case. Pistone was a good friend of Lin DeVecchio. You may recall that Johnny Depp played Pistone in the movie Donnie Brasco.

All six of the gang pleaded guilty to hijack conspiracy. They got five years in the Federal Pen.
As an aside, back in 1980, the same cruise ship line hired me again, when they purchased a new cruise ship in California. The Marine Union was trying to unionize the crew. This is legal if it is done right, but they didn’t do it right, and we found proof. The union was not able to attempt to unionize the crew for five years, after that. This ship was the SS Azure Seas. After it was all over with, they told me that if I hadn’t stopped the union, the cruise ship line would have gone out of business. I should have charged the cruise line a lot more money…

I’m sure I’ve left out a lot in describing my life, but it’s been a very hectic one just the same. I’m now mostly retired from writing, and I do not teach any firearms or martial arts classes any longer. I learned early on how to work and work hard – many times working several full-time jobs – and by no means am I rich. My wife, Mary is retired from teaching now and we live on a fixed income. Most months we make ends meet, but some months we don’t quite make it – but we always manage to somehow get by.

We love the Lord and we know, we couldn’t have made it without Him in our lives.