WWII Veterans Honored on D-Day in D.C. (photos)

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Robert Levine was just 19 when his 90th Infantry Division was overcome by German soldiers during the Battle of Normandy. Minus a leg, he spent the next three months in a German POW camp. Photo by Jeff Malet

Veterans of World War II were honored in a solemn ceremony to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day at the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. on Thursday, June 6. What happened on June 6, 1944 changed the world forever. Below, a partial list of those attending the event.

Luis Perrone, 96 of Edgewater Md., was a ball turret gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress for the 533rd Bomb Squadron from 1942 to 1945, completing 32 bombing missions over western Europe. He is personally credited with 3.5 kills. Flying these bombing missions proved to be one of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S. Army.

Herman Zeitchik, 94 of Silver Spring Md., was one of the distinguished Americans singled out by President Trump during his last State of the Union address. He was part of the landing on Utah Beach, and participated in the Battle of the Bulge, the liberation of Paris and the Dachau concentration camp. Zeitchik was part of the group that uncovered a cave full of stolen artwork and treasure hidden in the woods of Germany. He is a member of the French Legion of Honor.

Robert Levine of Teaneck N.J. and Eli Linden of Lansdowne Va. stood together in conversation after the ceremonial wreath laying portion of the event. The two had much in common. Bob was only 19 when his 90th Infantry Division was overcome by German soldiers during the Battle of Normandy and spent the next three months in a German POW camp. Linden, now 96, joined the Normandy invasion a few weeks after it began and was wounded in the Battle of the Hedgerows. Eli recovered from his wounds but was later captured near the German border and was also held as a POW.

What was especially precarious for both Levine and Linden was that they each had the letter “H” stamped on their dog tags indicating they were Jewish, a virtual death sentence should their religion be discovered while in German hands. Thinking quickly, Linden dug a hole and buried his dog tag in the ground before being shoved into a German tank. When Bob Levine was captured he was badly wounded. When he woke up from an operation, he found he was missing both a leg, and the incriminating dog tag which had been removed by a compassionate German doctor. Levine discovered the doctor’s name, and though Dr. Woll had since died, their families connected 40 years later and remain close.

Judge William Hedgcock Webster took his place among the veterans at the Memorial. His distinguished carreer included stints with the Federal Judiciary, and as Director of the FBI and CIA. He served with the Navy in the Pacific during the War and again later in Korea,  and at age 95 says he is fully prepared to serve again if needed.

Time is running out to honor the veterans of “The Greatest Generation”. There were over 16 million veterans of the United States Armed Forces during World War II. Less than 500,000 are still alive, according to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. Roughly 400 are passing away every day.

Kenneth Oakes enlisted into the U.S. Navy in 1944 at the age of 17. At age 92, Oakes was perhaps the youngest of the contingent at the World War II Memorial. Nearby stood one of the oldest, 98 year old Anthony H. Grant, the lone African American at the dais. Grant began service in the quartermaster corp in Europe. He woud fight again in the Korean War, retiring in 1962 as a major.

The emcee, author Alex Kershaw, summed up his feelings at the conclusion of his introductions; “Thank you gentlemen from the bottom my heart for 75 years of freedom, democracy and peace in Europe.”

View Jeff Malet’s photos of these outstanding individuals from the Operation Overlord 75th Anniversary Commemoration “D-Day 75” at the World War II Memorial by clicking on the photo icons below.

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