A tribute to a Cherry Hill World War II veteran

Marci Zayon honors her father, Cherry Hill resident Simon Zayon, who served in the Navy during World War II.

Editor’s note: This article was submitted to The Sun by Marci Zayon

This is a tribute to my father, Simon Zayon, a navy veteran of World War II and a very proud American. He is from a family of military veterans. Simon was raised by parents, Sadie and Louis, who had immigrated to America in the early 1900’s. They were proud every day of their lives to be American. His father, used to say, “The Zayon family’s blood is red, white and blue.” Many relatives served in the United States Armed Forces. Last year the Zayon family was recognized for 100 years of military service and was written in the Congressional Record.

Simon resides in Cherry Hill. He has been involved in various community groups where he shares his military experiences during his service in the United States Navy. He feels a great sense of duty to pass on first-hand accounts of what our veterans and current military members do to serve and protect all of us. This Veterans Day, he was at a local school. He brings to the forefront what it means to be a proud and loyal American and just as importantly the respect for country that is so important for us to all have.

Simon learned at a very young age to give back to his country that has given him and his family so many possibilities. He had just completed 11th grade in 1944 when he enlisted in the navy. His four older brothers were in the military and he wanted to be a part of the war efforts.

Simon was able to go to so many parts of the world and learn many life lessons during his time in the military. Although he only served for two years in the navy, the navy never left him. He has always carried his loyalty of country close to him. He put the large flag out on every patriotic holiday. He has given many small flags to people throughout the years. It was very important to him, and still is. He sang patriotic songs on day trips to amusement parks, the swim club and the beach. He has a great respect for America. He knew at a young age, from his immigrant parents, how privileged he is to be an American.

Simon was a sailor on two ships during his service in World War II, the U.S.S. Savannah and the LST 275. The U.S.S. Savannah went to the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and the Atlantic. The first week at sea they traveled to Trinidad on a shakedown cruise. Not bad, Simon thought. The furthest he had been before this journey was a 12-mile trolley ride in Philadelphia.

Simon’s most historic tour of duty was when the U.S.S. Savannah escorted President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the U.S.S. Quincy to Malta in January to February 1945. The president was going to the Argonaut (Cricket) Conference to meet with Winston Churchill. After that he went to Yalta for the Argonaut (Magneto) Conference to meet with Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill. The U.S.S. Savannah waited in Alexandria, Egypt to escort the president back to the United States on the U.S.S. Quincy.

Simon signed up for underwater demolition towards the end of his first year in the navy. He was looking for a new challenge and thought he would have a chance of trading in his hammock for a bunk. In the spring of 1945, he went down to Fort Pierce, Florida for training. Unfortunately the training was interrupted when the sailors had to leave to go to war with Japan. They all boarded a train and went across the country to San Francisco. There were 300 sailors going west so they had to add a Pullman car to accommodate them. Simon was fortunate enough to get to sleep in a bed in the Pullman car.

Upon arriving in San Francisco, Simon was assigned to the U.S.S. LST 275. They were getting ready to join the task force for the invasion of Japan when the bomb was dropped. The U.S.S. LST 275 went to Pearl Harbor, New Caledonia and New Zealand where they picked up 400 Japanese prisoners of war. After returning the Japanese POWs to Japan. they performed the duties in the occupation of Japan. The U.S.S. LST 275 then sailed to Okinawa, Guam and the Philippine islands on their way back to Pearl Harbor. They left Pearl Harbor and went to San Francisco.

Simon completed his tour of duty in August 1946. He went into the navy as a young man. He had seen many things during his two-year tour of duty. He had become a man who had traveled the world and served his country honorably. He had been to more places than most people travel to in a lifetime. He gained great experience and discipline. And most importantly, Simon was very proud to serve his country with great loyalty.

Simon returned home after his service. After getting his high school diploma, he then enrolled in college. He attended the University of Miami. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.

Simon cherishes the memories of his time in the navy. Over the last four year, he was able to share some of his experiences in two documentaries. Rutgers University produced a documentary detailing the military experiences of six World War II veterans, told first-hand by five men and one woman. “The Voices of Camden County’s Veterans: World War II in the Pacific,” a documentary that gives an insightful account of six veterans who served our country. All who see it gain a great sense of duty, honor and sacrifice.

The other documentary, “Kaddish,” is about Simon’s desire to go back to Malta to say the Mourner’s Kaddish for his fellow sailors who did not return home. “Kaddish” is a short, heart-felt documentary produced and directed in Malta, 70 years later, by a young local high school student who went there on a family vacation. It is currently viewable on YouTube. It can easily be found by going to the story about Simon in February on the American Legion website, Legiontown, “Proud, first-generation American WWII Veteran.”

Simon’s parents gave their children, their children’s children, and so on down the family line the great opportunities of living in America. Since World War II their offspring gave, and continue to give back, to serve their country. Currently there are two great-grandchildren of Louis and Sadie serving in the United States military. Their great-grandson is an officer in the United States Army who has completed five tours in the Middle East. Their great-granddaughter is a navy nurse at Walter Reed Hospital. Louis and Sadie Zayon had a great life in America, as they had hoped. They provided America with many offspring who contributed to the hope of keeping life great in America for all of us.

Simon says, “Every day is veterans day.” We should remember this and thank our veterans for their service and loyalty to our country every day.