Special Recognition of World War II Veterans & Hero Among Us Honoree Alfred “Al” Zelent
The City of Highland Park will host the Annual Veterans Day Observance on Friday, November 11, 2016 at the Highland Park Public Library, 494 Laurel Avenue in the Adult Services Room, at 11:00 AM. As 2016 marks the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, the event will recognize local World War II veterans. Representatives from the American Legion Post #145, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #4737 and Jewish War Veterans #29 will be in attendance. Special guest speakers include Illinois Senator Julie Morrison and Mayor Nancy Rotering. The Highland Park High School Brass Quintet will perform. The VFW Post #4737 has selected Mr. Alfred “Al” Zelent to be this year’s “Hero Among Us” honoree; below is his profile.
Alfred Zelent: Veteran of U.S. Navy, World War II
Alfred Zelent enlisted into the U.S. Navy during World War II on September 17, 1943 and was discharged on April 5, 1946. For ten months in 194, Al served aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Princeton as an Aviation Machinist assigned as Plane Captain to one of the Grumman Hellcat fighter planes aboard the Princeton. A Plane Captain on an aircraft carrier is charged with overall responsibility for his assigned plane’s maintenance, readiness, launch and retrieval.
On October 24, 1944, the Princeton was engaged in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippine Sea against the Imperial Japanese Navy. This battle is regarded as the largest naval battle of World War II and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history. On that day, Mr. Zelent was on the Princeton’s flight deck assisting the pilot of his assigned Hellcat fighter exit the cockpit after retrieval when a Japanese bomb crashed through the deck and exploded below, causing a fire which spread and ignited further explosions. After futile attempts to contain the fire by Princeton’s crew and nearby vessels, the Captain sounded “Abandon Ship.” Mr. Zelent spent 3 – 4 hours floating in the water among the dead and debris before being rescued.
For more information regarding the City’s Veterans Day Observance, please contact Jennifer Dotson at 847.926.1006 or [email protected]