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99-year-old WWII vet awarded the Purple Heart at Fort Hamilton

June 21, 2021 Ted General
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An unsung Brooklyn hero, at Fort Hamilton on Friday, finally received the Purple Heart medal he earned and should have been bestowed upon him 77 years ago. 

However, according to the Army, “Due to some of the racial inequalities at that time, his story had been overlooked for decades, despite rightfully earning this medal in the same historic battle.” 

World War II Army private Osceola “Ozzie” Fletcher, now age 99,  had been seriously wounded on June 6, 1944, during the Battle of Normandy, which began with “D-Day.”

He was a member of the Army’s 254th Port Battalion, a unit that was responsible for the loading and unloading of ships, in addition to delivering supplies and machinery on land. He also served as a crane operator.

According to Fletcher, while riding in a truck on Normandy, his group came under German fire, with a rocket hitting it. This caused the vehicle to overturn, killing the driver and injuring himself.

NYC Police Commissioner Dermot Shea congratulates Ozzie Fletcher. Photo by Ted General

 On Friday, June 18, U.S. Army Chief of Staff, 4-Star Gen, James C. McConville, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flew in an Army transport helicopter to Fort Hamilton in Bay Ridge.  At the base’s Community Club, he formally pinned the Purple Heart medal on Fletcher’s chest.  

The club room was packed with distinguished guests, Fletcher’s wife, Pauline, and their children and grandchildren; U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis; New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea; and Zeita Mechant, U.S. Coast Guard New York Sector commander and captain of the Port of New York.

Just as he was about to present the medal, Gen. McConville said, “He has spent his entire career giving to those around him, whether they were brothers in arms, family or his community. Well, today it’s Ozzie’s turn to receive.”

Coast Guard New York Sector Commander Captain Zeita Merchant holds Ozzie Fletcher’s hand. Photo by Ted General

Fletcher was born in Manhattan, but is a longtime Brooklyn resident to this day. He grew up as a foster child and later attended Jamaica High School in Queens, where he excelled in machinery.  

In 1942, he was drafted, processed and sworn in at the former Whitehall Street Induction Center in Manhattan.  When he returned from military service in 1946, he joined the New York City Police Department and served for 26 years, retiring as a sergeant. 

Gen. James C. McConville stands next to Ozzie Fletcher after bestowing the Purple Heart. Photo by Ted General

Then, for the next 14 years, he served as a teacher at Brooklyn’s Boys and Girls High School, and then joined the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office as a community relations specialist in the Crime Prevention Division.

While with the NYPD, he co-founded the black fraternal group, the Guardians Association.  Fletcher was a good friend of the late Myrtle Whitmore, a past president of the Society of Old Brooklynites.  For many years, he supported and attended the anniversary luncheons of the Society, which was founded in 1880.

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