Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

On Eve of the 71st Anniversary of D-Day, Congressman Brian Higgins Presents Over 50 Medals Earned by Nine WWII Veterans

Jun 5, 2015
Press Release

In a special presentation on the eve of the 71st anniversary of D-Day, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) will present over 50 military service medals to five WWII veterans and the families of four additional WWII veterans.  In each of the nine cases constituents reached out to Congressman Higgins’ office to request assistance in receiving the medals they earned and never received after the war. 

“It is incredible to think that the veterans we are recognizing served this nation more than seventy years ago,” said Congressman Higgins.  “Like many of our humble veterans, these men served their country and came home to work and raise a family, without fanfare or formal recognition of their service.  Today, on behalf of a grateful nation, it is our sincere honor and privilege to pay tribute to these World War II heroes.”

Participants in the program included: Brigadier General Anthony Caruana, U.S. Army (Ret.) and Town of Tonawanda Supervisor; Pascal Soares, Honorary French Consul of NY at Buffalo; Col. Patrick Cunningham, Executive Director of the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park; VFW District 6 Commander Dan McMahon, Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 187 Commander Ken Speaker, Erie County American Legion Senior Vice Commander Wayne Sorrentino and Color Guards from the United States Army & Navy. 

U.S. Army Corporal Stuart J. Keller
Stuart J. Keller grew up in Cheektowaga and joined the U.S. Army on September 24th 1940, well before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 and the United States’ declaration of war on Japan the following day.

Corporal Keller’s 16th Infantry Regiment landed at Omaha Beach during the Invasion of Normandy. Despite being faced with fire from artillery, mortars, and machine guns, the soldiers managed to clear the beach and establish a beach head which would eventually link up with the rest of the Allied landing sites. He also took part in Operations Torch and Husky, the invasions of Northern Africa and Sicily.

Corporal Stuart Keller was honorably discharged on June 23rd 1945 after serving nearly 5 years and never received his medals before his passing on December 25th 1980.

Corporal Keller’s family from Grand Island was presented with:

  • The Silver Star Medal, the third-highest military decoration for valor awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States. 
  • A Bronze Star Medal for heroic achievement in connection with military operations against the enemy in a combat zone. The Bronze Star that his family will receive today has an oak leaf cluster which indicates that he was awarded two Bronze Star Medals.
  • the Good Conduct medal,
  • Presidential Unit Citation,
  • American Defense Service Medal,
  • American Campaign Medal,
  • European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 2 bronze service stars and 1 silver service star,
  • World War II Victory medal,
  • Combat Infantryman Badge 1st Award,
  • Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII,
  • and the Marksman Badge with Machine Gun Bar.

U.S. Army Technician Fifth Class Eugene J. Dollman

Eugene Dollman grew up in Buffalo and joined the 157th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army on August 4th 1943. Technician Fifth Class Eugene J. Dollman helped to lead the drive along with the 157th Infantry Regiment towards Rome.

Following the Rome campaign, the 157th would be involved in Operation Dragoon - the allied invasion of southern France. While not as famous as its sister operation Overlord, the allied invasion of Normandy, Dragoon was a necessary step towards pushing German forces out of occupied France and beginning the march towards Berlin.

Just over two months after the Invasion of Normandy, on August 17th, 1944, during Operation Dragoon, Dollman suffered injuries, which earned Dollman the Purple Heart. Nevertheless, on August 22nd 1944, just a few days later, he returned to duty. After continued service, he was honorably discharged on January 11th 1946.

Mr. Dollman passed away on September 5th, 1999, never receiving the medals he earned during the war.  For his heroic service to the nation Technician Fifth Class Dollman’s family from Buffalo was presented with the following:

  • A Purple Heart Medal,
  • Bronze Star Medal,
  • Combat Infantryman Badge 1st Award,
  • Good Conduct Medal,
  • European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze service stars with arrowhead,
  • World War II Victory Medal,
  • Army of Occupation Medal with Germany clasp,
  • Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII,
  • and the Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar.

U.S. Army Private First Class John L. Accardi
Private First Class John Accardi grew up in Buffalo and joined the U.S. Army on February 17th, 1943.

He comes from a family dedicated to military service including three siblings who served during World War II. His brother Corporal Anthony J. Accardi served in the Pacific, Private Philip L. Accardi served in Italy, and Seaman Second Class Frank Accardi served in Florida.

Private First Class John Accardi served in the 249th Combat Engineer Battalion and was involved in the Central Europe, Rhineland and Normandy campaigns. After nearly three years of service, Private First Class Accardi was honorably discharged on January 7th 1946.

Private First Class Accardi, a West Seneca resident, was awarded:

  • the Purple Heart for wounds that he received from the enemy on Utah Beach during the Invasion of Normandy on June 6th 1944 when an explosive detonated nearby early in the invasion.
  • The Good Conduct Medal,
  • Presidential Unit Citation,
  • American Campaign Medal,
  • European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 3 bronze service stars with arrowhead,
  • World War II Victory Medal,
  • and the Honorable Service Lapel Button World War II.

U.S. Army Technician Fifth Class John L. LaSpisa
John L. LaSpisa joined the U.S. Army on August 14th, 1943 and served in the 351st Infantry Division during World War II.

Mr. LaSpisa participated in 33 battles helping to free Italy from Fascist rule and German occupation. He utilized his expertise in the food industry, serving as Mess Sergeant for two months and cooking for 170 men. John was reported missing in action on October 21st, 1944. He was later honorably discharged on December 23, 1945.

After the war, using his G.I. Bill education benefits, he attended the University at Buffalo and received a degree in engineering followed by post graduate work at the University of Geneva in Switzerland.

John LaSpisa married Linda Piazza in 1952 and has four daughters: Marigrace, Lisa, Lynette, and Leila who gave him six grandchildren.

He also started working for Bell Aircraft Corporation in 1952.  After Bell Aircraft Corporation became a division of Textron in 1958, he became an engineer in charge of tanks and rockets. He was involved with the space program but never lived to see the first man walk on the Moon.

For his honorable service the family of Technician Fifth Class John L. LaSpisa, from Buffalo was presented with: 

  • the Bronze Star Medal,
  • Combat Infantryman Badge,
  • Good Conduct Medal,
  • a Presidential Unit Citation,
  • European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with double Bronze Star attachment,
  • World War II Victory Medal,
  • Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar,
  • and the Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII.
  • In addition, to these medals he was previously awarded the Croix De Guerre, a French military decoration, to honor soldiers who fought with the Allies against the Axis force during World War II.

U.S. Navy Seaman First Class Donald Francis Coles
Donald Coles grew up in Buffalo and wanted to be part of the “The Total War” – World War II - so he left high school and enlisted in the U.S. Navy on February 5th 1944.

The first ship he served on was the Queen Mary which was converted into a troopship and transported Allied soldiers during World War II. Seaman First Class Donald Coles was stationed aboard LST 370 that landed on Gold Beach during the Invasion of Normandy. The landing ship was charged with transporting troops and material to the beaches before any type of harbor was established.  The sailors on the ship were on 24 hour gun duty during the Invasion of Normandy.

U.S. Seaman First Class Donald Coles served until November 2nd 1945 when he was honorably discharged. After the war Donald Coles married Gloria Mae Clarke, settled in Tonawanda and worked for Spaulding Fibre Company.

Seaman First Class Coles was presented with:

  • the World War II Victory Medal,
  • European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one Bronze Star,
  • Discharge Button,
  • and the Honorable Service Lapel Pin.

U.S. Navy Seaman First Class Vincent James Cottone
Vincent Cottone was raised in Buffalo and joined the U.S. Navy on July 19th 1942.

Seaman First Class Vincent Cottone served on three ships before being promoted to Coxswain, a position he maintained while serving aboard another two vessels.  During his service, Mr. Cottone’s ships played crucial roles in various operations, including Operation Torch in North Africa, and did important domestic work sweeping the US coastline for sea minefields using state-of-the-art technology for that time.

On February 10, 1945 Mr. Cottone risked his life to try and rescue a comrade who was washed overboard in heavy seas.  His heroic story is retold in a letter from his grandson who wrote: “They were on patrol in the North Atlantic when his friend Jimmy Smith went overboard. My grandfather stripped down had a rope tied to him and dove into the freezing cold water to attempt to save his friend.” He was later commended by his commanding officer for this brave and selfless action.

After lengthy service to his country, Seaman First Class Vincent Cottone was discharged on November 24th 1947 and currently lives in Buffalo.

WWII Navy veteran Vincent Cottone was presented with:

  • the American Area Campaign Medal,
  • European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal,
  • Good Conduct Medal,
  • and the World War II Victory Medal.

U.S. Navy Seaman First Class Albert R. Pearce
Albert Pearce grew up in Buffalo and joined the Navy on October 12, 1944.

He received his basic training in Sampson, New York and was sent to Corpus Christi, Texas. As an airplane mechanic for TSA Squadron 18A he taught South American Cadets how to fly a plane and flew over the Gulf of Mexico every day to look for enemy craft, particularly submarines.

When World War II ended Mr. Pearce stayed in Corpus Christi, Texas for a while before returning home. He was discharged from the U.S. Navy on August 15th 1946 and currently lives in West Seneca.

His father started a concrete business called J. Pearce & Son 62 years ago.  Albert worked at the business for years and today the business is operated by the third generation of Pearce men – Albert’s three sons.

For his service to this nation, Seaman First Class Pearce was presented with:

  • an American Campaign Medal,
  • World War II Victory Medal,
  • Discharge Button
  • and an Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII.

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Richard Anger
Richard John Anger grew up in Cheektowaga and joined the U.S. Navy on September 26th 1944. His three brothers, Harold, Arnold, and Norman all served our country as well.

Petty Officer 3rd Class, Boatswain Mate, Richard Anger was stationed aboard two separate ships, both of which were designed to carry troops directly to beaches during amphibious assaults while providing close fire support for the soldiers.

He was stationed in Manila, which is close to Okinawa, before the war ended. He remembers finding a 500lb bomb that never exploded on the Island of Corregidor.

One of his most fond memories is of all of the ships blowing their horns when the war ended. Like the others he couldn’t wait to get home. He was honorably discharged on July 6th, 1946 and currently lives in Cheektowaga.  

For his heroic service to our nation Mr. Anger was presented with: 

  • the Asiatic Pacific Medal,
  • American Theatre Medal,
  • World War Two Victory Medal,
  • Honorable Service Lapel Pin,
  • the Discharge Button,
  • and the Philippine Liberation Medal

U.S. Navy Seaman First Class Vincent Santo Ricci
Vincent Ricci grew up in Depew and joined the U.S. Navy on May 2nd 1945.

Seaman First Class Vincent Ricci was stationed aboard two ships, both of which were Essex-class aircraft carriers. This was the class of carriers which helped to turn the tide in the Pacific theatre of war against the Japanese Imperial Navy.  As an Aviation Storekeeper First Class, Mr. Ricci was tasked with ensuring that his ship was kept stocked with equipment, tools, and consumables.

He served for over seven years until his honorable discharge on October 15th 1952. He was eager to return to his family and never received the medals he earned before his passing in 2010.

In recognition of his service to the United States Mr. Ricci’s family, from Buffalo, was presented with:

  • the Navy Good Conduct Medal,
  • Navy Occupation Service Medal with Europe clasp,
  • National Defense Service Medal,
  • World War II Victory Medal,
  • American Campaign Medal,
  • and the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal.

Any veteran or family of veteran seeking assistance with obtaining military service medals or assistance with veteran benefits or service connected matters is welcome to call Congressman Higgins’ office at 716-852-3501.  

Issues: