Sixty-seven years ago, Peter Carpou was with the U.S. Army’s 11th Armored Division as the soldiers marched into Austria, liberating a notorious concentration camp during World War II.
Click on the photo to the right to see more pictures of the Memorial Day event in the Presidio.
On Monday, the 92-year-old Carpou stood with hundreds of others at the San Francisco National Cemetery in the Presidio to remember those who didn’t make it back, and honor those who did.
Carpou, who lives with his wife of 61 years, Bella, in Southern California, has a son in Danville and visits the Bay Area each year. The Memorial Day weekend, he said, “is the highlight of our visit.”
“I think it’s the camaraderie, seeing all the people who’ve served in various conflicts,” Carpou said. “It’s amazing to see someone, with their disabilities, still here, and they’re still very, very good citizens, and good soldiers. It just makes you feel proud of this area, it makes you feel proud of this country. We have a lot going for us.”
Carpou’s division fought at the Battle of the Bulge, a critical Allied victory near the end of the war, and went on to liberate Mauthausen, a concentration camp along Austria’s Danube River, in 1945.
“The inhumanity, unbelievable,” Carpou recalled. “These people, they were just hanging on to the fence when they saw us coming ... and so elated, but they could hardly stand up.”
This year’s Memorial Day ceremony, attended by San Francisco and state officials, was one of many across the Bay Area. The ceremonies marked the 70th anniversary of America’s first year in World War II. But special attention was also paid to those who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
“My heart goes out to them,” Carpou said. “I know what they’ve gone through, and I think they deserve everything that’s coming to them. We should make every effort to take care of these people when they come back.”