Antonio Vaccaro is 100 years old. On Friday, in a special ceremony at Dover city hall in New Hampshire, he finally received five medals for his service in WWII as part of the famous Flying Tigers.
Vaccaro was not a pilot; he was a communications chief, having been employed as a radio engineer prior to the Pearl Harbor attack. After the attack, he wanted to join the Army. The only way he could enlist was if he found a replacement for his position at the radio station. He did that.
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen assisted Vaccaro’s family in obtaining the awards. “He’s credited with climbing into the hills accompanied by five Chinese soldiers to rig up the radio beacons that brought the Enola Gay home after dropping its atomic cargo in Japan, according to WMUR.
According to the article in Military.com, he found himself part of the American Volunteer Group (AVG) that became known as the “Flying Tigers.” He manned a B-25 “belly gun and cobbled together radio networks in the field” according to Fosters.com.
The medals he earned during the war were never given to him, but the criteria for them was found in his personnel file. So on Friday, Brig. Gen. Bill Conway presented the medals to Antonio Vaccaro (also known as “Tony”).
Presented in a display box, Vaccaro was awarded the American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with Bronze Star, World War II Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Expert Marksmanship Badge with Rifle Bar and the Honorable Service Lapel Button.
In the typical fashion for one of the “Greatest Generation”, the only thing he said to the people in attendance was, “Thank you all for coming. That’s all.”
Antonio Vaccaro pledges allegiance to the flag every day. When the local National Guard heard about his faithfulness, they trimmed the trees round his home so he’d have a better view of the flag.
We are losing our Greatest Generation daily. They are humble, tough, and now frail. Thank you, Mr. Vaccaro, for your service!
Featured photo of Antonio Vaccaro is a screenshot via Deb Cram at seashoreonline.