New York WWII veteran dies while traveling to France for D-Day anniversary

Robert Persichitti, a World War II veteran from New York who witnessed the raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima, died as he traveled to France for an event marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day, a veterans organization confirmed. He was 102.

Perischitti, a decorated Navy vet, served as a radioman aboard the USS Eldorado in the Pacific during WWII, according to his bio on the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame website. His tours of duty included the Pacific theater, Okinawa, Guam and Iwo Jima, where he bore witness to one of the global conflict’s most poignant moments.

Perishcitti, who’d been living in Fairport, New York, was traveling with a group linked to the National World War II Museum and companion Al DeCarlo, WHEC 10 reported. They were headed to France to commemorate D-Day, the turning point of WWII, but he suffered a medical emergency on May 30 as they sailed toward Normandy. He was airlifted to a hospital in Germany, where he died the next day.

Honor Flight — a nonprofit established to help veterans attend war memorials and events — confirmed his death, saying he had “served his country bravely without hesitation.”

While his cause of death was not clear, Persichitti did have a history of heart problems. Prior to his travels, he told WROC-TV his cardiologist encouraged him to make the journey.

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

DeCarlo said Perishcitti died “peacefully” while doctors played some of his favorite Frank Sinatra tunes.

“He was not alone, he was at peace and he was comfortable,” DeCarlo told the news outlet.

Perishcitti was among the U.S. troops who witnessed the raising of the American flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945.

“I was on the deck,” he told Stars and Stripes in a 2019 interview upon his return to region. “When I got on the island today, I just broke down.”

Following the war, Persichitti became a public school teacher in Rochester. New York. When he retired, he visited schools to speak with students about the war.