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HomeMedicalWWII vet Robert Persichitti dies traveling to France for D-Day commemoration

WWII vet Robert Persichitti dies traveling to France for D-Day commemoration

A 102-year-old American World War II veteran who witnessed the raising of the US flag at Iwo Jima tragically died while he was en route to France to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
Robert Persichitti, of Fairport, NY, suffered a medical emergency and died in a hospital in Germany last Friday, a veterans organization said.
The Navy vet, who had flown oversees with a group tied to the National World War II Museum, was on a ship sailing down the coast to Normandy ahead of Thursday’s D-Day events when he suddenly fell ill and had to be airlifted to the hospital.
6 Robert Persichitti, of Fairport, NY, passed away in a hospital in Germany last Friday after suffering a medical emergency, a veterans organization said. He was 102. 3rd Marine Division
6 He was among the dwindling number of surviving US veterans who were making the pilgrimage to the Normandy beaches this week. AP
He was among the dwindling number of surviving US veterans who were making the pilgrimage to the Normandy beaches this week to mark the anniversary of the June 6, 1944 invasion that helped bring about the end of World War II.
“I’m really excited to be going,” Persichitti, who had a history of heart problems, had told WROC-TV a day before setting off.
In his final moments, Persichitti had listened to his favorite singer, Frank Sinatra, his friend and travel companion, Al DeCarlo, told 13WHAM.
“The doctor was with him. He was not alone, he was at peace and he was comfortable,” DeCarlo said. “She put his favorite singer, Frank Sinatra, on her phone and he peacefully left us.”
Persichitti had served in Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Guam as a radioman second class on the command ship U.S.S. Eldorado during WWII.
6 Persichitti died at the age of 102. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District
6 Persichitti served as a radioman second class on the command ship U.S.S. Eldorado during WWII. Family Handout
He was among the US troops who witnessed the raising of the American flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945 — a moment that would go on to become one of the most famous photos captured during the war.
“I was on the deck,” Persichitti told Stars and Stripes in a 2019 interview when he returned to region. “When I got on the island today, I just broke down.”
In the interview, he recalled some of the horrors he witnessed from the Eldorado — including injured Marines being brought aboard the ship and countless burials at sea.
“When they made the landing, they started losing all these guys,” Persichitti said at the time. “It wasn’t a very good sight.”
Persichitti had previously revealed in interviews that he paid his respects to his fallen comrades every Friday — not just on commemorative days.
6 US servicemen escorting WWII veterans in wheelchairs at the 80th anniversary of D-Day ceremonies in Normandy American Cemetery, France. AFP via Getty Images
6 He was among the US troops who witnessed the raising of the now-iconic raising of the American flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945. AP
“I wear a red sleeveless t-shirt … Every Friday, I put that red on, to represent all the blood that was lost during World War II,” he said.
After the war, Persichitti became a public school teacher in Rochester. When he retired, he continued visiting school kids to speak with them about the war.
“It was a privilege to know him, and I will miss him. He had a real zest for living,” Pastor William Leone, who was friends with Persichitti for four decades, said.
“He would go visit children in the grammar schools in the area, talk with them about his experiences growing up, his experiences during the Second World War.”
Persichitti was named to the New York State Senate’s Veterans Hall of Fame back in 2020.

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