As the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima unfolded directly around him, Bob Persichitti performed his duties as a U.S. Navy radio operator on the command ship USS Eldorado.
“So many young men lost their lives on that island,” the 97-year-old veteran said, speaking of the renowned 1945 battle in which the U.S. Marine Corps captured Iwo Jima from the Imperial Japanese Army.
And in March 2019—along with his friend Allan DeCarlo ’86 M’95 CAS’03 —Bob returned to Iwo Jima.
Bob and Al are both Lakers—Bob attended SUNY Oswego in the 1960s and Al, a Sigma Gamma brother who teaches American History for Pittsford-Mendon (N.Y.) High School, graduated from SUNY Oswego with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, as well as a certificate of advanced study.
Bob received a provisional certificate through SUNY Oswego in 1958 to teach vocational carpentry. In 1965, as a teacher in the Rochester, N.Y., schools, he began pursuing his degree through SUNY Oswego as a non-traditional student, traveling to campus during the evenings and in summers to take courses throughout the late 1960s. He ultimately completed his degree through SUNY Buffalo in 1972.
It wouldn’t be until 2013 that Bob and Al would meet and, eventually, travel together halfway around the world.
The Laker friendship began when Al’s high school students wrote letters to Bob following a trip Bob took as a member of the Honor Flight of Rochester, N.Y. Bob read the students’ letters, then showed up at Al’s school to thank them.
“I’ve been coming to speak in his classroom ever since,” Bob said. “As long as I’m alive, I’ll keep coming.”
According to Al, student access to a firsthand historical resource is a gift, but in Bob’s case, it is a rare and tremendous privilege. Not only are students learning so much more, but he’s gotten to be part of history, too—as one of “two Oswego guys on top of Mount Suribachi” on the one day every year Americans are permitted to access the site. The 2019 trip lasted 10 days and included stops at Pearl Harbor, Guam, Saipan and Tinian before culminating in a joint United States-Japan Memorial Ceremony on Iwo Jima.
To read more and see more photographs about the friends’ trip online, please visit