New York WWII veteran dies while traveling to D-Day anniversary event in Normandy

bob persichitti

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A World War II veteran who was there when U.S. forces secured the island of Iwo Jima died while en route to attend an event for the 80th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, Nexstar’s WROC has confirmed.

Bob “Al” Persichitti was among the dozens of WWII veterans selected to attend the anniversary event. He was traveling to Normandy via a ship in the North Sea last week when he suffered a medical condition, WROC learned.

Persichitti was flown by helicopter to a hospital in Germany on Thursday, and died the next day. He was 102.

A Pennsylvania native, Persichitti enlisted in the Navy and became a radioman second class on the USS Eldorado, serving in the Pacific Theater, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Guam. Speaking with WROC in December, he recounted his time fighting at Iwo Jima.

“When we got to Iwo Jima, we spent like, three days bombing that island. And that island, you couldn’t even see it through the smoke,” Persichitti explained, reflecting on the moment that five Marines and one Navy corpsman raised the American flag on the island.

After his discharge, Persichitti moved to the Rochester, New York, area. He went on to be a teacher in the Rochester City School District, and wrote a book about his service and life, titled “Bob’s Book: Building an American Life.”

In 2020, Persichitti was inducted into the New York State Senate’s Veterans Hall of Fame.

In April, students at Calkins Road Middle School in Pittsford helped to throw a birthday celebration for Persichitti. The WWII veteran frequently visited the school to speak with the students.

On Thursday, a dwindling number of World War II veterans in a parade of wheelchairs joined a new generation of leaders to honor the dead, the living and the fight for democracy in moving commemorations on and around those same beaches where they landed exactly 80 years ago on D-Day.

Those who traveled to Normandy include women who were among the millions who built bombers, tanks and other weaponry and played other vital World War II roles that were long overshadowed by the combat exploits of men.

Feted everywhere they go in wheelchairs and walking with canes, veterans are using their voices to repeat their message they hope will live eternal: Never forget.

“We weren’t doing it for honors and awards. We were doing it to save our country,” said 98-year-old Anna Mae Krier, who worked as a riveter building B-17 and B-29 bombers. “We ended up helping save the world.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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