World War II veteran, 102, dies on his way to D-Day 80th anniversary commemorations in France

6 June 2024, 10:53

World War II veteran, 102, dies on his way to D-Day 80th anniversary commemorations in France
World War II veteran, 102, dies on his way to D-Day 80th anniversary commemorations in France. Picture: Alamy/NY GOV

By Christian Oliver

A 102-year-old World War II veteran has died while on his way to France to participate in 80th anniversary D-Day commemorations.

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Robert 'Al' Persichitti, who witnessed the iconic raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima by U.S. Marines, died on Friday, a veterans association confirmed.

Mr Persichitti was one of very few D-Day veterans still alive and attending anniversary commemorations - 80 years on from the largest amphibious assault in military history.

The veteran was flying to Normandy, France, with a group of fellow veterans from the National World War II Museum.

He fell ill on a boat in the North Sea and was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Germany, where he later died.

In his final moments a doctors played the veteran's favourite singer Frank Sinatra on her mobile phone.

The raising of the flag at Iwo Jima - US Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington D.C, United States
The raising of the flag at Iwo Jima - US Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington D.C, United States. Picture: Getty

“He died peacefully, and he did not die alone,” his friend and fellow traveller Al DeCarlo said.

The day before he left Mr Persichitti told Rochester, New York's, WROC how excited he was to be making the journey to France.

He also made a similar journey back to Iwo Jima in 2019 some seven decades after he watched on as six U.S. Marines raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in the final stages of the Pacific War.

Mr Persichitti told the outlet: "I got ahold of my friend that went to Iwo Jima with me, Al Di Carlo, and he says: 'Yes, we're going'."

“I’m really excited to be going,” he added.

Despite being a centenarian with heart problems, the veteran said even his cardiologist encouraged him to make the pilgrimage to France.

Mr Persichitti's friends described him as a generous man with a zest for life.

Pastor William Leone, a longtime friend of the veteran, told a local ABC news outlet, that he loved travelling the world and sharing his stories with younger generations.

"It was a privilege to know him, and I will miss him. He had a real zest for living.

"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."

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