97-year-old World War II veteran awarded six medals at family ceremony in San Antonio Chabad

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Gerald Teldon, a veteran of the Allied air war over Italy and the Balkans during World War II, was decorated for his service at a ceremony in San Antonio on Friday.

Teldon, now 97 and living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, fought with the 85th and 87th Fighter Squadrons, both part of the 79th Fighter Group, over Italy and the Balkans in 1944 and 1945. He flew 62 missions on the P-47. Thunderbolt.

His six decorations included the Air Medal with a cluster of oak leaves, the American Campaign Medal, the Europe-Africa-Middle East Campaign Medal with three bronze stars, the Victory Medal of the World War II and the National Defense Service Medal, as well as the Distinguished Unit Citation for actions over Italy in April 1945.

Major General Robert Whittle, Deputy Commanding General of the Northern Army, presented the medals to Teldon, and four of his grandchildren and a great-grandchild pinned them to his jacket.

Rabbi Levi Teldon pins a medal on his grandfather’s jacket during Lt. Gerald Teldon’s decoration ceremony on Friday, July 29, 2022.

“I never realized the results of what was going on that I was doing. I was a fighter pilot, and as a fighter pilot you never see the action that resulted from what you did. And now when I received these medals and they announced the reasons for these medals, I was absolutely amazed that I was involved in this,said Teldon. “My name is ‘Mr. Lucky.’ I mean, to live 62 missions and live to be 97, you have to be very lucky for that.

He began service in April 1944 and was honorably discharged as a lieutenant in March 1946. He then served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. But he never received his medals.

Teldon doesn’t remember why, but he tried to get them back for decades, to no avail. Recently, his family intervened.

I think there was a sense of urgency as my dad turned 98 in August. So it’s not like, oh, you know, we’ll do it next month, next year,” said Chaya Teldon, Lt. Teldon’s daughter-in-law.

She and other family members worked with a number of people and organizations to organize the decoration ceremony, including Army North leadership, 106th Brigade Chaplain Mendy Stern at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston and Long Island Congressman Lee Zeldin.

The ceremony included four generations of Teldon and 25 of his descendants.

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Lt. Gerald Teldon surrounded by his family during his decoration ceremony on Friday, July 29, 2022.

“My grandfather, as well as my father, really cried. I feel with emotion the incredible historic impact his service has had,” said one of Teldon’s grandsons, Rabbi Levi Teldon of the Chabad Center for Jewish Living and Learning in San Antonio. “I also felt very grateful to live in the United States and the freedoms our country offers, especially as an observant Jewish person.

550,000 American Jews fought for the US Armed Forces in World War II, according to the National WWII Museum.

The ceremony came as a surprise to Lt. Teldon, who was in town celebrating his great-grandson’s bar mitzvah in Chabad. It was therefore an appropriate place for the decoration to take place a few hours before the services on Friday evening.

“It’s really cool. He always tells us cool things when we go to museums,” said Bar Mitzvah boy Mendel Teldon. uniform he wore.

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Lt. Gerald Teldon hugging his great-grandson, Mendel Teldon, during the decoration ceremony on Friday, July 29, 2022.

On a table, lay memorabilia – scrapbooks, pilot’s logs, old photos from Lieutenant Teldon’s time in the army. He first enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps in 1944 at the age of 18.

An official Air Force history explained that the 70th Fighter Group Teldon served in operations begun in March 1943. Initial duties included “escorting bombers, attacking enemy ships and supporting land forces”.

He then played a role in the Allied operations to retake North Africa and the invasions of Sicily and mainland Italy.

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Air Force Historical Research Agency

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Lt. Gerald Teldon serving with the 85th Fighter Squadron in 1944.

In late 1944 he supported campaigns to drive German forces out of France. He also continued to fight in northern Italy until the end of the European War in May 1945.

The group was deactivated in 1947, the same year the United States Army Air Force was reorganized into a new military branch: the United States Air Force. In 1955, the group was reborn and assigned to the Air Defense Command.

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Lt. Col. Andrew M. Stein talks to Lt. Gerald Teldon’s family at a table with memorabilia from Teldon’s service Friday, July 29, 2022.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairsthere are less than a quarter of a million World War II veterans alive today out of the 16 million who fought in the war.

Lt. Teldon used his moment to send a civic message.

“All of us here, especially the military, are here because we all believe fervently in our country and what it stands for,” he said. “And the things that are happening in our country today…I think it’s very important that everyone read the Bill of Rights.”

The magnitude of the ceremony did not escape anyone in the room.

“During the presentation, as the chaplain read what each medal was for, you saw his mind return to that incident in the war. And he had tears in his eyes. The memory of his wartime experiences came flooding back to him,” Chaya Teldon said, “I think for the great-grandchildren watching my stepfather’s closing remarks at the end, there’s pride in being an American.”

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