Auto Repair Shop Owner, WWII Hero Tells His Story

Auto Repair Shop Owner, WWII Hero Tells His Story

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    Watch video clips from Friday morning's "FOX 29 Salutes the Military" event outside our Old City studios as we paid tribute to our service men and women for their dedication and sacrifice.
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CAMDEN, N.J. -

John Perozzi is probably more known for running a huge, longtime auto body repair business in South Jersey. It's so respected that even SEPTA uses it across the river.

But not too many know about the work Perozzi did before he started that business 65 years ago.

FOX 29's Steve Keeley has known the man for years, and was honored to finally be able to tell Friday the story of what Perozzi did before and after the auto repair shop.

Perozzi didn't have to go into the Army during World War II.

In 1943, at age 23, he worked his way through night school to become the high-level welder, a certified Navy welder, building warships at the Navy Yard and making 10 times average pay for everybody else working then.

"When a guy was making $18 a week, he was making a ton of money. I was making $140, $150 a week. I bought me one of those six-wheel Buicks," Perozzi said, laughing.

Doing his part as a civilian by building the best warships came with being exempt from the draft, and that just didn't seem right to Perozzi. So, he voluntarily went into battle.

His first mission was to be among the first men to invade Normandy on D-Day, parachuting in behind Nazi enemy lines.

It wasn't long before German snipers shot him near the heart. He was fighting while bleeding until ordered to evacuate after the deadly invasion was over two days later.

That Nazi bullet is still in him today, next to his heart.

"'I am going to leave it in there and see how it is,'" he said the doctor told him. "I guess it's OK."

Nowadays, this 82nd Airborne vet doesn't like to tell his story.

The last medal he got was actually from France on the 68th anniversary of D-Day, when he was given the French Medal of Honor. He was also honored by an entire town for his service.

Perozzi has only done one other interview on video in this country, and it was with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Reagan is the only U.S. president to visit Normandy, and the library wanted Perozzi to tell the story of those battles. His interview permanently runs every 15 minutes in the Reagan Library in California.

These days, Perozzi is doing something special for military men and women wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A portion of this story aired during our "FOX 29 Salutes the Military" special on Friday morning. Now, you can watch an extended version of Keeley's report in the video clip above.

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