102-year-old US veteran dies on his way to commemorate D-Day in France

World War II Navy veteran Robert "Al" Persichitti was from Fairport in New York. Credit: AP

An American World War II Navy veteran died during his journey to France, where he was due to take part in commemorating the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

Robert “Al” Persichitti, from New York, became ill during a stop in Germany last week and died in hospital on May 30.

“He’s been to most of the World War II remembrances down in Washington and Louisiana, and he wanted to get to the D-Day remembrance ceremony too," said Reverend William Leone Mr Persichitti's priest and friend.

“But the Lord took him in Germany. He was on his way to France, but he didn’t make it.”

On Thursday, ceremonies took place in France to mark 80 years since D-Day, the Allied invasion of occupied Europe in 1944.

The landmark day saw 156,000 troops cross the English Channel by air and sea and land in France.

A friend travelling with Mr Persichitti said a doctor who was with him when he died played Frank Sinatra as he passed away.

The National WWII Museum in New Orleans called Persichitti a “longtime friend.”

After enlisting in the US Navy in 1942, he was assigned as a radioman to the USS Eldorado. In 1944, he sailed to the Pacific and took part in the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in Japan.

Before he left for Europe, he told a local radio station he was "really excited" to be going.

A retired public school teacher, Persichitti regularly spoke about his wartime experiences in schools and community gatherings. He also wrote an autobiography for his family in 2015.

Reverend Leone said: “He wanted to keep the memory of the sacrifices that had been made alive.”

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