If your own kid’s graduation doesn’t get you tearing up at Wellesley High School’s ceremony on June 4, then this surely will. World War II veteran Cosmo Uttero, who left Wellesley High in 1943 to enlist in the U.S. Army at the age of 17 and would soon be landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day, will be receiving his diploma 78 years later.
Wellesley Public Schools Supt. Dr. David Lussier, a military dad himself, got the waterworks going early at Tuesday night’s School Committee meeting (see Welelsley Media recording about 30 minutes in), when he announced plans for this special diploma. Mr. Uttero, now in his mid-90s, will be watching the ceremony via livestream in Florida and get to hear his name called and the inevitable standing ovation that will follow.
Private First Class Uttero of the 175th Reg., 29th Division landed on Omaha Beach in France on June 6, 1944, and he returned 70 years after the historic day to revisit sites, including the Normandy American Cemetery, and be honored along with other veterans. His division landed in the face of enemy fire, and according to one recent interview with Mr. Uttero, he initially ditched his weapon in the water so as not to sink and wound up grabbing a replacement from a fallen comrade on the beach.
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The WWII hero returned to Normandy in 2014 thanks to a trip organized by the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. A report from the museum recounts that “On D-Day, Uttero’s unit was not set to land until the day after but the horrific losses suffered by the first waves of the 29th Division forced his unit to go in at Vierville-sur-Mer around 12:00pm on June 6th.” Mr. Uttero told the Los Angeles Times that he was one of just 3 men in his unit not to be injured or killed during the invasion.
Mr. Uttero has been interviewed about his war experiences numerous times in recent years, and he’s even on a trading card honoring military veterans.