Robert Persichitti: 102-Year-Old World War II Hero from New York Dies While Traveling to France for 80th Anniversary of D-Day

Persichitti served in Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Guam as a second-class radioman aboard the command ship USS Eldorado during WWII.

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A World War II hero died sadly while on his way to France for the 80th anniversary of D-Day commemorations this week. Robert 'Al' Persichitti, 102, served in the Pacific theater during the war and witnessed the iconic raising of the flag at Iwo Jima by US Marines. Persichitti, of Fairport, NY suffered a medical emergency and died in a hospital in Germany last Friday

The Navy veteran, who had traveled overseas 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 fell ill and had to be airlifted to the hospital.

Didn't Live to See the 80th Anniversary

Robert Persichitti
Robert Persichitti X

In an interview with WROC in his hometown of Rochester the day before he left, he expressed his excitement about the trip. "I'm really excited to be going," Persichitti, who had a history of heart problems, had told WROC-TV a day before setting off.

He was among the handful of surviving US veterans who were making the journey 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.

In his last moments, Persichitti listened to his favorite singer, Frank Sinatra, as shared by his friend and travel companion Al DeCarlo with 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 served in Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and Guam as a second-class radioman aboard the command ship USS Eldorado during WWII.

Witnessing the Iconic Moment

Robert Persichitti
Robert Persichitti X

He was among those who witnessed the raising of the American flag on top of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945 — a moment that would 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 the region. "When I stepped onto the island today, I just broke down."

In the interview, he remembered some of the horrors he saw from the Eldorado — such as injured Marines being brought on board the ship and numerous 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 shared in interviews that he honored his fallen comrades every Friday, not just on commemorative days. "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.

Following the war, Persichitti pursued a career as a public school teacher in Rochester. After his retirement, he continued to visit schoolchildren to share his experiences of the war with them.