NY State American Legion Commander to Address May 5th WWII 60th Anniversary Ceremony in Italy

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Paul A. Cortright, the 2004-2005 New York State Commander of The American Legion, will provide an address on May 5th in Florence Italy, at WWII memorial ceremonies to be held at the Florence American Cemetery. The ceremony will be the concluding WWII 60th Anniversary ceremony in Italy that Commander Cortright and his delegation will participate in from May 2nd to 5th.

Paul A. Cortright, the 2004-2005 New York State Commander of The American Legion, will provide an address in Florence Italy, at WWII memorial ceremonies to be held at the Florence American Cemetery. The ceremony will be the concluding WWII 60th Anniversary ceremony in Italy that Commander Cortright and his delegation will participate in from May 2nd to 5th. The delegation will include members of Post 50 from Pelham NY, as well as veterans and family members from across the country.

On Monday May 2nd, the 60th Anniversary date of the unconditional surrender of enemy forces to the Allies ending World War II in Italy, the delegation will participate in a major ceremony to be held at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery located in Nettuno, Italy. Commander Cortright will present a wreath on behalf of all veterans. The cemetery is the resting place of 7,861 Americans lost in the fight to liberate Italy. Additionally, the names of 3,095 Americans who were missing in action in the region are memorialized in the white marble walls of the chapel.

The delegation led by Commander Cortright will pay respects at the cemeteries of several Allied countries who served in the fight to liberate Italy from 1943 to 1945. On the afternoon of May 2nd, the delegation will place a wreath at the British Beach Head War Cemetery, located in Anzio, Italy. The cemetery was established in January 1944, following the sea-borne landings, near the site of a casualty clearing station. It contains 2,200 British, 70 Canadian, small numbers of Australian, New Zealand and 25 South African burials. On May 3rd, the delegation will present a wreath at the Polish War Cemetery, located at Mount Cairo, in Cassino, Italy where 1,049 Polish soldiers are buried who lost their lives in the battle preceding the liberation of the Montecassino Abbey, which took place on May 18, 1944.

On May 5th at 11 AM the delegation will conduct a traditional American Legion “Memorial Day” ceremony at the Florence American Cemetery located 7.5 miles south of Florence along the Via Cassia highway. Commander Cortright will provide remarks at this event. Short readings will be conducted reflecting on the heroism of individual US service men and women who served in the Italian campaign of WWII. This cemetery is the final resting place of 4,402 American military members and the "Tablets of the Missing" remember 1,409 Americans who were missing in action from the region. New York State has 642 residents interred or memorialized at this cemetery the most of any one state.

These WWII 60th Anniversary ceremonies in Italy were initiated by The American Legion, Dept. of New York, Pelham Post 50 in order to remember members of its Post who served in Italy, their colleagues, and the nine Pelham NY residents who were among the 19,475 Americans* lost in the nearly two year fight to liberate Italy. Interred or Missing in Action service members memorialized at the two cemetery sites include 1,761 New York State residents. Plans are being coordinating with the Department of Defense World War II 60th Anniversary Commemoration Committee (http://www.60wwii.mil/), the American Battle Monument Commission (http://abmc.gov/), which operates 24 overseas cemeteries and staff of the US Embassy in Rome.

Commander Cortright, a resident of upstate Redwood, New York; has been a 20 year member of the John B. Lyman Post 904 located in Alexandria Bay. He is both a past Post commander and Jefferson County commander. He has served in numerous county, state and national leadership positions within The American Legion including vice chairman of the Foreign Relations Council on the National level. In 2001 he received honors as Legionnaire of the year from Jefferson County, the Fifth District and the Department of New York. The Department of New York is one of The American Legion’s largest state organizations with 1,003 local Posts and a membership goal in 2005 of 178,000 Legionnaires.

A U. S. Army veteran, Commander Cortright served in Hawaii, Germany, Italy, Korea, and Vietnam between 1958 and his retirement in 1981. His military decorations include a Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, Vietnam Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and Army Recruiter Badge. A native of Syracuse NY, he graduated from North Syracuse High School. After his Army career he served as a security specialist at Fort Drum, until his retirement in 2000. Married to the former Linda Adams, the couple have three sons and nine grandchildren.    

Service members from Pelham who were lost in the Italian campaign of WWII include fliers Richard Lewis Elliott, Kendall King Fish, Paul A. McCarthy, Bertley H. Moberg, James H. Scott, and Ellsworth Totten III. Herbert Retallack was lost when the destroyer USS Rowan was torpedoed after leaving Salerno. William Lisecki and Herbert W. Butcher of the US Army were lost as infantrymen.

Travel opportunities to Italy can be obtained by calling Harriet Balter of Rich Worldwide Travel at 1-888-882-7400 or Andy Ambrose of the Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours at 1-888-903-3329. Armed Forces Television is expected to provide video highlights available to domestic broadcasting organizations, for information on usage contact Mr. Melvin Russell of the Pentagon Channel at 703-428-0200

The American Legion with 2.7 million members, is the world's largest veteran's association. Pelham Post 50, commanded in 2004-2005 by Michael Barrett, organizes Pelham's Memorial Day parade and a variety of other veteran's and community support projects. Additional project information can be found at WWII60th Italy.com

Project Information:        

Kenneth G. Kraetzer:    

914 - 630-3457    

kgk914@aol.com

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*U.S. Army Center of Military History

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