A World War II veteran and Bensonhurst native will be awarded the French government’s highest honor this Veterans Day which, if you didn’t know – is today.
Nicholas Pavone, 87, will receive the Legion of Honor for his part in helping to liberate France from Nazi Germany. According to a report in the Daily News, three generations of his family have risked their lives in the U.S. Army – including his WWI veteran father and Vietnam veteran son.
From Daily News:
“I was born in Brooklyn and I went to fight for Brooklyn,” said Pavone, who was a 19-year-old Army volunteer with the 82nd Airborne Division when he parachuted in behind enemy lines in advance of the D-Day invasion, helping capture the town of St. Mere Eglise.
“We jumped two miles in behind the beaches and liberated the first big town in Normandy,” he said. “We were there, thank God, before the boys hit the beaches that next morning.”
He spent 33 days fighting in Normandy – despite two bullet wounds sustained on D-Day. “The next thing I knew I was hit in the foot and in the leg with machine gun bullets and I went down,” he said.
After three days at a makeshift aid station, it was back to the front lines. “They patched me up and said, ‘Go back to your outfit. You’re alright,’” he said. “It hurt, but you overcome these things somehow when you’ve got other things to do.”
And the task he was given, he said, was simple. “For 33 days I was killing Germans,” Pavone said.
French Deputy Consul Marie-Laure Charrier told the News that Pavone would receive the award, which was established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, along with 44 other veterans.
Nicholas Pavone’s father Angelo, an Italian immigrant who, according to Nicholas could barely speak English, joined the Army at age 30.
Like his son would do decades later, Angelo Pavone traveled to France to fight, taking part in Saint-Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne – two of the bloodiest battles of the war.
After D-Day, Nicholas Pavone fought in Holland, as well as in the Battle of the Bulge, before coming home to Brooklyn, marrying his high school sweetheart and raising three children – including his son Bill Pavone, who fought as a paratrooper with the 173rd Airborne in Vietnam.