D-Day: 102-year-old American veteran dies during a trip to France for his birthday

  • Author, Hafsa Khalil
  • Role, BBC News

A US Navy veteran of World War II who was traveling to France for an event marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings has died, a veterans organization has confirmed.

Robert “Al” Persichitti of Rochester, New York, was flown to a hospital in Germany on May 30 after suffering a medical emergency aboard a ship bound for Europe.

He died the next day, at the age of 102.

Considered a “great and humble man,” Mr. Persichitti participated in the Allied operation in Japan.

Honor Flight – a veteran organization to which Mr Persichitti belonged – confirmed his death on social media and said he had “served his country courageously and without hesitation”.

The nonprofit helps transport former U.S. military personnel to memorials in the respective wars in which they fought.

The 102-year-old was selected to attend the Normandy event by the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, which funded and organized the trip, a local CBS News affiliate reported. American partner of the BBC.

“I’m really excited to go,” he told WROC-TV a day before leaving.

His cardiologist had encouraged him to travel, he added.

Al DeCarlo, who acted alongside Mr. Persichitti in Japan, was also on the trip. He told local Rochester media that his friend did not die alone.

“The doctor was with him… he was at peace and he felt comfortable,” he said, according to WHAM-TV, an affiliate of the ABC news agency.

“She put her favorite singer, Frank Sinatra, on her phone and he left us peacefully.”

The two men served together on Iwo Jima, a Japanese island that the United States captured from the country’s Imperial Army in 1945.

Mr. Persichitti’s friend of 46 years, the Rev. William Leone, told WHAM-TV that “he had a real zest for life” and visited local school children to talk about his experiences.

The veteran was also a former teacher. In April, students at a local school helped organize a birthday party in his honor.

In 2020, he was named a New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame honoree by then-Senator Rich Funke.

His local chapter of Honor Flight in Rochester said they would miss him.

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