OCEAN TOWNSHIP, N.J. – Alfred Caponigro of Ocean Township would not accept the medals he earned in combat during World War II because of all of the other Americans who didn’t make it back, or who lost limbs and other injuries. Caponigro lost his hearing in the war and was discharged with a 100 percent disability rating by the Navy.
On Tuesday Caponigro, 90, joined by his family and friends, accepted his medals from Congressman Chris Smith, 73 years after he earned them.
Mr. Caponigro enlisted Dec. 28, 1942, and fought in the Battle of Normandy on D-Day and the days afterward off Utah Beach on the coastal patrol vessel PC 1176, the sister ship of which was sunk during the battle. During his service, he became deaf and was discharged with a 100 percent disability rating by the Navy. In front of many of the veteran’s seven children, 25 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren and other friends and family at the veteran’s home, Smith presented Mr. Caponigro with:
- World War II Victory Medal
- American Campaign Medal
- European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
- Combat Action Ribbon
- Honorable Service Lapel
- Navy Honorable Discharge Lapel
- NJ State Distinguished Service Medal
Smith also presented him with the French Legion of Honor, the highest honor France bestows on non-French citizens. Smith asked the French Consulate in New York to expedite the medal. Smith sent a letter to the National Archives’ National Person Records Center requesting the medals be issued. The Navy approved the medals and Smith received the medals in November.
“It is with a sincere gesture of gratitude that I give you these,” said Smith, who was the chairman of the Veterans Committee in the House of Representatives for four years. “You earned them. You are the greatest generation.”
Smith has written 13 bills that have been enacted into law to assist veterans.