ELKINS PARK, Pa. (CBS) –Victory in Europe Day is Saturday, marking Germany’s surrender in World War II. Eyewitness News spoke with a WWII veteran, an Elkins Park native who was in France on that fateful day.
World War II veteran Alan Shapiro, 96, was always interested in flying, even as a young kid.
“Kept scrapbooks of fighter planes,'” he said.
The Elkins Park native distinctly remembers when he heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“We had a Sunday touch football game and somebody came running on the field and said, ‘Pearl Harbor’s been bombed,'” he said.
After the Elkins Park native heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor, he knew he had to do something. So, when he turned 18, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He had asthma, but his condition didn’t stop him.
“I knew how to disguise it, so I lied about it,” he said. “Because I wanted to fly. I wanted to fight.”
Shapiro was told he would be trained as a fighter pilot, what he had always dreamed of doing.
“We were to train as glider pilots for one major airborne mission in Europe,” Shapiro said.
Throughout his service, Shaprio experienced a lot of sad times. He still remembers wounded men he saw on Christmas Day.
“There were Red Cross women,” he said. “And it brings tears to my eyes today as I tell you this, as the badly wounded men were brought by, these women would put a spring of holly on their chest and say, ‘welcome home for Christmas.'”
But he also has happy memories from his time as well in the war. In fact, he was in France on Victory in Europe Day, and he remembers the celebrations that took place.
“I got a quart of Australian red wine and a bottle of French champagne,” he recalled.
After about two years, Shaprio had to make the decision to stay enlisted or be discharged, and he decided it was time to get back home and finish college, where he had started at Lehigh University.
“I graduated in February of ’48,” he said.
Shapiro never had the opportunity to fly as a fighter pilot in active combat, but he traveled across the world, from Europe to Brazil, flying C-47s with paratroopers, ammunition, gasoline, and even prisoners.
He learned some pretty remarkable lessons along the way.
“A realization of what a great country the United States of America is,” Shapiro said. “Friends and colleagues were from Dallas, from Muskogee, Oklahoma, Boston, from St. Louis, from Columbus, Ohio, from Philadelphia. We were one group fighting one war, and I’ve taken that feeling about this wonderful country wherever I go.”