Return to Normandy: John Cipolla

Updated: 04/17/2014 5:54 PM
Created: 04/17/2014 5:33 PM WHEC.com
By: Scott Kilbury

Over the last couple of weeks, News10NBC has been doing special reports on "Return to Normandy".

Today we have the inspiring story of a local veteran who is traveling to Normandy, France this summer for the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

There are only 1.2-million veterans remaining of the 16-million who served our nation in World War II and even fewer were paratroopers in Normandy on D-Day in 1944. One of those decorated soldiers lives in the Rochester area. 

John Cipolla's four years in the 101st Airborne has provided him with a lifetime of stories. Like the time he was shot in the hand. He still has the bullet to remind him. He also served in the same platoon as Private Ryan, the basis of one Steven Spielberg's blockbuster films.

Cipolla grew up in Rochester and signed up with Uncle Sam to be a paratrooper in 1942. "Paratroopers were strictly voluntary, they don't draft you but they pay us extra pay."

Cipolla admits 1944 was the most momentous year of his life including the most memorable day - D-D-day. "That night jump was frightening. I saw planes going down. As a matter of fact, our plane was hit."

Cipolla, now 93, was a young and spry 23 year old when he parachuted down on France in 1944. He jumped out of a C-47 plane.

Commercial pilot Chris Polhemis said, "It shows to the world what we did in the 40s. We not only saved Europe from the tyranny and oppression but the entire world is a different place for what the U.S. did for the world. The men that died over there deserve to be honored."

Cipolla is looking forward to seeing Whisky 7 when they meet up in Normandy. "It's one of the best events in my entire life to go back to where we dropped."

Cipolla leaves for Europe the first week in June but Whiskey 7 departs from the Geneseo War Plane Museum on May 15.

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