Tag Archives: World War II

Queens Boy Scouts need money for historic Normandy trip


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Hedy Debonet

Four Boy Scouts from Queens and about a dozen more in the city need help funding a historic trip to Normandy.

The Boy Scouts of America Greater New York Councils is hoping to give 15 young leaders a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tour Europe and visit France during the 70th Anniversary of D-Day.

Nearly 160,000 American soldiers landed on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944 to march across Europe to defeat Hitler at the height of World War II.

“The soldiers who stormed the beach that day are probably no older than the boys we’re taking on this trip,” said Hedy DeBonet, a trip leader from Fresh Meadows.

“This is what we will be showing to the youth on this trip — a reminder of the sacrifices made a generation ago, acknowledgement that freedom is bought at a terrible price,” she added.

Each teen must come up with $2,600 for airfare, hotels and admission fees for nearly a dozen tourist spots, including the Eiffel Tower and the Imperial War Museum.

So far, each Scout has paid for half. But more is needed before the nine-day trip, beginning April 18, DeBonet said.

“There’s so much history that the kids don’t really learn anymore,” she said. “It’s just a real hands-on learning experience.”

Tax deductible checks can be made out to the Greater New York Councils, Boy Scouts of America, at 350 Fifth Avenue, Suite 7820, New York, NY 10118.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

LIC photographer to be honored by towns he helped liberate during WWII


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Troy Benson / War photos by Tony Vaccaro

ALAN CAPPER

“I was one of those American soldiers who was put off the landing craft too soon when it was still over 10 feet of water. All around me men were drowning before they could get to the beach. We were carrying packs weighing 45 pounds, and a rifle weighing another 10. I sank to the bottom, but fortunately I was physically strong enough to keep bouncing up from the bottom to grab some mouthfuls of air, and then a huge wave hit me and I was pushed to the beach. I was in France. It was D-Day 6th of June, 1944.”

Tony Vaccaro, the great photographer who was featured in LIC Courier in July, is about to leave his home in Long Island City to return to Normandy, this time to be honored in some of the towns he helped liberate. In addition, there will be a major exhibition of his war photography at the International War Museum in Caen, one of the cities that was the subject of some of the fiercest fighting of the war. Already honored by both the French and German governments for his work, this trip will return him to places where he witnessed absolute horror — and much valor with his comrades in the 83rd Infantry Division.

He is also being taken back on the Queen Mary by a French film company, Sundeck Films, which will make a documentary about Tony’s return to Normandy, and will use some of the crossing to interview him in detail about his war experiences. The film will be shown on French television in 2014.

During the war, Vaccaro was on a journey that would take him from the beach to 40 miles from Berlin in the ruins of the Third Reich. Getting off the beach and driving through Avranches to St. Denis and then the liberation of St. Malo was the beginning of a series of liberations of villages and towns. The Germans fought hard and it was a long and painful road with many losses.

“I know that some of my comrades felt that the French people were resentful of them, and did not like them as a result. I had the good fortune of being able to speak French, and therefore to really understand them. I like the French people very much and was glad to be there.”

As the war progressed, its grimness did not recede. Vaccaro was in his foxhole when a shell burst nearby, killing two colonels.

“I always dug my foxholes deeper than most,” he said. “I had worked on the family farm and knew how to use tools, and even when the ground was hard in winter I still dug deep. It probably saved my life.”

After the fall of Paris, the drive into Germany began. Vaccaro was involved in the Battle of the Bulge, Germany’s last great offensive and all the vicious smaller battles on the way. He recalled the moment when he killed his first German soldier.

“The impact on me was enormous. I cried, and just took off and ran for 100 yards or so. It was an awful moment, but after I composed myself I was reminded of why I was there, and that if he had shot first I would have been dead.”

The photographs that he took have formed the basis of a book published by Taschen, “Into Germany-1944-1946,” and the basis of an exhibition, which has been seen in Germany and many other countries. Elements of this will be included in the exhibition in Caen.

In January 1945 Vaccaro and three other soldiers were lying in the snow on the outskirts of a small village in Belgium, the scene of heavy fighting. They were tense, expecting more conflict at any time. Suddenly, through the mist a shape emerged. It was a single German soldier coming towards them. Their fingers were on the triggers ready to kill him when the soldier, not knowing they were there, threw his rifle into the snow, shouting in German, “I am sick and tired of this bloody war!” Within seconds he was captured by the group, and was much relieved to be so.

“The German spoke for all of us,” recalls Vaccaro.

This return with honor to Normandy will bring back many memories, but Vaccaro will bring to his audiences the humanity and nobility that makes his photography great.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Pol wants to rename Jamaica street in honor of Tuskegee Airmen


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Office of Councilmember Ruben Wills

The Tuskegee Airmen broke the race barrier as they flew through the skies and fought the enemy during World War II. Now, one southeast pol wants to honor them at home.

The “Tuskegee Experiment” was developed in the 1940s by the Department of War to assess whether black men could function under pressure and operate and maintain combat aircraft.

“We not only fought, we won,” said original Airman Dabney Montgomery.

On October 3, the City Council’s Parks Committee held a hearing on renaming South Road in Jamaica to “Tuskegee Airmen Way.”

“Etching their name in the permanent fabric of our city through the renaming of this street is a fitting tribute to the sacrifices they have made to protect our liberties and integrate the United States Armed Forces,” said Councilmember Ruben Wills.

Montgomery said he hopes the renaming could educate youngsters about what “their elders had to go through for them to be where they are today” and be able to see the name of “real heroes” in their community.

Mongomery, 90, worked in the airmen group’s ground crew from 1943 to 1945. He explained each pilot during the war had over a dozen people working to get them safely up in the air.

“It was the people on the ground level, people on the mountain base [and] people on the mountain top doing the job for the whole world,” he said. “Everybody is important. This is what we are saying.”

The Parks Committee hearing also allowed for testimony from children of deceased Tuskegee Airmen who settled in Jamaica. A written statement of support for the street renaming from Commissioner Terrence Holliday from Mayor’s Office of Veteran Services was also provided.

“They said we couldn’t fly a plane. We proved them wrong,” Montgomery said. “Young people should be aware of what we have done.”

The renaming proposal will now be voted on by the Parks Committee and then the City Council.

If it passes in City Council, it will be submitted to the mayor to sign and the name change will be effective immediately. There is no specific time frame.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Queensborough students connect with Korean ‘comfort women’


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Queensborough Community College

Ok Sun Lee was kidnapped by Japanese soldiers at age 15.

She was raped on average 30 times a day.

She spoke so history would not repeat itself.

Korean “comfort women” recounted their tales of survival to a group of students at Queensborough Community College’s Kupferberg Holocaust Center. The survivors represent a small handful of the 200,000 young women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Army in World War II, according to accounts.

“She was just a little girl,” said student Alexander Crombez. “When you’re face to face, hearing about completely horrible events, things we can’t imagine as being possible, it feels much more immediate. These are people who are grandparents.”

Crombez, 19, of Flushing, said he and eight others studied the history of World War II in East Asia before receiving a firsthand account of the brutalities from the comfort women through videoconference. Most of them are now in their 90s, living in South Korea, students said.

“That’s when it moved from an academic type setting to a more personal, emotional trip,” he said. “It’s hard not to imagine the terror she went through when she was a young child.”

Student Wei Wu Li, 22, said he interviewed Ilchool Kang. Soldiers in the comfort station, he said, cracked the back of her head open because she drank water without permission.

“That was a heartbreaking story,” Li said.

The group of scholars said it was their goal to ensure the tales are remembered.

“It is because these students have studied the atrocities committed against the women of Korea during World War II that they have emerged as spokespersons for social justice,” said Dr. Arthur Flug, executive director of the Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center. “By doing so, they have guaranteed these women that they will not be forgotten.”

Councilmember Peter Koo said he is pushing for a Flushing street to be named in honor of the comfort women. State Senator Tony Avella hopes to soon announce a resolution memorializing them.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Queens filmmaker memorializes uncle’s World War II experiences


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Queens resident and military veteran Joe Reveman’s experiences during World War II are forever memorialized in a biographical film depicting his life as an active member of the United States Armed Forces.

Filming began almost two years ago when Reveman’s nephew, Bryant Falk, proposed the idea for a documentary. Falk always enjoyed hearing his uncle’s stories depicting his days in the Army. Having previous experience as a commercial film director, Falk saw this as a great chance to make his first documentary-style movie.

Reveman was drafted to be a pilot in the Air Force of the United States Army in 1943

“I was young, 18. I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t have much of a choice,” said Reveman. “When I got to England I was apprehensive, but I was glad to help at the end of the war.”

As the war continued, Reveman became a radio operator onboard B17 Bomber planes. Their mission was to obliterate the German air and railroad supply.

He flew 24 missions over Germany. His last mission took place on Friday, April 13, 1945.

“It’s a date that will live in infamy in my mind,” said Reveman.

Flying in formation, the planes prepared to release their bombs over Germany. One plane’s bomb release malfunctioned and several bombs dropped at the same time, striking each other and exploding. Reveman’s plane lost control.

The pilot regained control of the plane and they began to gradually descend over the border between England and German-occupied territory. Unsure of which side they would touch down on, the crew prepared for a wheels-up landing.

But as the wheels touched ground, they struck a slab of marble, slicing the plane in half.

When Reveman regained consciousness, he crawled from the crushed aluminum.

“I saw blue skies,” he said.

Trucks appeared in the distance. Still unsure of his location, Reveman hoped the approaching vehicles were those of the Allied Forces. A Red Cross ambulance with a United States insignia pulled up next to the destroyed plane.

“Everyone breathed a little easier,” said Reveman.

The line where Reveman crashed had been occupied by American forces only a few days prior. Two weeks later, the war ended.

Reveman received a Purple Heart award and five air medals, one medal for every five missions he flew.

World War II vet gets Purple Heart


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy Congressmember Bob Turner

Congressmember Bob Turner recently held a ceremony to honor 93-year-old World War II veteran Anton Dietrich Jr. of Richmond Hill, presenting him with the Purple Heart for his actions during the Battle of Sedjenane, Tunisia in 1943.

The event, held at the Sgt. Edward R. Miller VFW Post 7336 in Richmond Hill, began with Disabled Americans Veterans Chapter #118 Commander Louis Nicoletti welcoming everyone and leading those in attendance in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Turner then thanked the distinguished guests and told the story of Dietrich’s life.

“Anton Dietrich has shown the type of bravery and resilience that every American should aspire to,” said Turner. “Neither a German torpedo that left him stranded in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea nor the injuries he sustained from the shrapnel of a German mortar in Sidjenane could break Mr. Dietrich’s will. His actions in battle are a testament to why he and all of the other heroes that fought during World War II are truly part of the Greatest Generation.”

Captain Christina Mouradjian of the Fort Hamilton Army Garrison in Brooklyn then read the history of the Purple Heart before Turner pinned the medal onto the veteran.

“It is an award that no one seeks but an award I am proud to wear,” he said.

Commissioner Terrance Holliday of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs read a letter on behalf of Mayor Michael Bloomberg thanking Dietrich for his service to the country.

“I have been able to present 12 medals to WWII veterans since taking office,” Turner said following the event. “Each one of them serves as a special opportunity to give thanks and recognize the heroes who deserve it most. If it weren’t for the sacrifices of the men and women who fought in this war, we would not have the freedoms or opportunities that we often take for granted today.”

Dietrich was awarded the Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster for injuries sustained while serving with the Army’s 39th regiment, 9th infantry division, 2nd battalion, Company G, on April 28, 1943, in support of the Allied invasion of North Africa in World War II.

The Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster is a U.S. Armed Forces individual military decoration awarded for “being wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces.”

More than 700 World War II veterans die each year. Seventy five percent of those veterans living today are 85 or older.

World War II vet awarded Bronze Star


| mchan@queenscourier.com

A 91-year-old war veteran was recently awarded with the U.S. Army’s Bronze Star Medal.

Arno Heller, a former sniper in World War II, was honored by Congressmember Bob Turner in a ceremony for the Rego Park native on February 3.

“Mr. Heller is a prime example of a man who puts country before self,” Turner said. “As a private in the army, he rose to the occasion — putting his life on the line to defend his adopted homeland and the principles it stands for.”

Heller was awarded for his achievement in the Rhineland Campaign of 1944.

“It’s very emotional because, after all these years, sometimes I lie awake at night and a lot of memories come back. No bad memories. It’s been a terrific experience,” Heller said. “This means so much — I can hardly describe it… I am speechless.”

The event was held at American Legion Post 1424 in Forest Hills. Among those in attendance were Post Commander Tom Long, Major Charles Jaquillard of the Fort Hamilton Army Garrison in Brooklyn and Commissioner Terrance Holliday of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs.

“Private Heller joins an elite class of United States servicemen and women who exceed the call of duty to protect our nation and his or her fellow soldiers. Mr. Heller bravely defended his country and his brethren in arms, and today our nation says thank you,” Turner said.

The Bronze Star is a U.S. Armed Forces individual military decoration and the fourth highest award for bravery, heroism or meritorious service. It is the ninth highest military award, including both combat and non-combat.

Borough President bestows honors


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Billy Rennison

Besides celebrating Queens during her State of the Borough address, Borough President Helen Marshall honored a special few whose spirit and dedication have made the borough a better and safer place to live.

Marshall reserved the end of her speech to recognize a handful of residents and workers who went above and beyond the call of duty this past year and one whose dedication 70 years ago helped protect the country.

Arno Heller, a 91-year-old volunteer in Marshall’s office, emigrated from Germany shortly before World War II and served for the U.S. Army during the global conflict.  His service during that time earned him a Bronze Star, which he will receive shortly, more than a half century after serving the country.  For his service, Heller was bestowed the Declaration of Honor from Marshall.

“What I did in the Army, a lot of people did a lot more,” Heller said.  “I was just a small cog and I was glad to be able to fight for this country that gave me a home and a refuge in 1939.”

Other heroes who received the declaration from the borough president included: Firefighter Ronald Daly, a member of Rescue 4 in Woodside, who entered a raging home fire to rescue a man and his dog; Detectives Charles LoPresti and Richard Johnson, who captured the suspect in four fire bombings that took place in December; and Department of Sanitation workers Joseph Maneggio and Semi Nkozi, who while on duty saw five children and their mother on the roof of a house fire in Far Rockaway and caught each as they leapt from the burning building.

Mr. Met was also on hand to invite Maneggio and Nkozi to a Met game and give them gloves in honor of their life-saving catches.

“These acts are just a sample of the compassion and commitment you find on streets across our borough,” Marshall said.

Remember Pearl Harbor


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

As we mark the 70th anniversary of the vicious and unprovoked attack by Japan against the United States at Pearl Harbor, we must never forget the over 2,000 soldiers and civilians who were killed that day.

They did not die in vain. Four years later, in August of 1945, Japan finally capitulated and surrendered following the dropping of two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.One Japanese officer commented after the attack on Pearl Harbor, “I fear that we have awakened a sleeping giant.”

He was so very right. The Japanese got just what they deserved — what goes around, comes around. Let us remember all of those who lost their lives on that awful day and pray for them and their families, as well as those remaining survivors of the attack that will live on in infamy, forever.

 

John Amato

Fresh Meadows

Benefits for Veterans


| rfatoullah@queenscourier.com

Veterans with limited income who are permanently and totally disabled or 65 years or older may receive an improved pension. To receipt this benefit, the veteran must have been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions and served 90 days or more of active duty, one day of which was during World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War or Gulf War. A Veteran Administration’s improved pension has three levels: Basic Pension, Housebound Pension and Aid & Attendance.

The first level is the Basic Pension, for which veterans 65 and older are eligible. The Veterans Administration (“VA”) classifies any veteran who reaches the age of 65 as permanently and totally “disabled.” This classification entitles the veteran or his widow to a Basic Pension. A doctor’s assessment is not necessary to confirm disability.

In order to receive the Basic Pension, the veteran must be financially eligible for the pension after a review of income and assets. The VA must determine that the veteran’s assets, excluding his home, furnishings and vehicles, are not sufficient to support him for his lifetime. A commonly used measure is whether there is $80,000 or less in assets, regardless of whether the veteran is married or single. The current maximum monthly basic pension is approximately $1,201 monthly ($12,255 annually).

The second level of pension is the Housebound Pension. To be eligible for Housebound Pension, the individual need not require assistance with activities of daily living per se, but must require some assistance as confirmed by the veteran’s personal physician. The veteran must have a single permanent disability that is 100 percent disabling and be permanently confined to his premises or have a single permanent disability that is 100 percent disabling and another disability that is 60 percent or more disabling. The maximum housebound pension is $1,248 per month ($14,977 annually). The veteran cannot receive Aid and Attendance and Housebound benefits at the same time.

The highest level awarded is Aid & Attendance. Aid & Attendance is a benefit for veterans and surviving spouses who need assistance with activities of daily living, without which they would not be able to function independently. To qualify medically, a veteran or surviving spouse must need the assistance of another person to perform daily tasks, such as eating, dressing, undressing, taking care of the nature’s needs, etc. Being blind or in a nursing home for mental or physical incapacity, or residing in an assisted living facility also qualifies. The attending physician must certify that the individual’s physical limitations are such that he cannot live independently without assistance. The current maximum monthly Aid & attendance benefit is $1,703 ($20,446 annually).

If Medicaid is covering a nursing home resident’s care, the facility will receive the pension and Aid & Attendance and the resident will receive $90 monthly for his personal needs. Due to the complex nature of benefits for veterans, it is advisable to consult a professional who can provide advice regarding what benefits may be available, and to ensure that the Veteran has his legal house in order.

Ronald Fatoullah is a leading expert in the field of elder law. He is the founder and managing attorney of Ronald Fatoullah & Associates, a law firm concentrating in elder law, Medicaid eligibility, estate planning, special needs, trusts, guardianships, & probate. He is certified as an elder law attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation, and he is the current Legal Committee Chair of the Long Island Alzheimer’s Association. This article was written with the assistance of Yan Lian Kuang-Maoga, Esq. Ms. Kuang-Maoga speaks Mandarin and Cantonese and assists with the firm’s Chinese speaking clientele. The firm’s offices are conveniently located in: Long Island, Queens, Manhattan & Brooklyn and can be reached at: 1-877-Elder Law 1-877-Estates.