WWII vet, Congers firefighter receives service medals at 92

NEW CITY - Alfred Magnatta left to fight in World War II before his senior year of high school. 
That’s where the Rockland native joined the “Lucky Bastard Club.”
The 92-year-old said he and other men in his crew were given a certificate to enter the "club" after flying 25 missions over Europe in the U.S. Army, 8th Air Force during World War II.
More than 70 years later, Magnatta revisited those memories Tuesday when U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey presented him with five service medals, which he earned but never received, while surrounded by his family in her New City office.
“What can I say? I’m overwhelmed,” Magnatta said after being given the medals. “There are a lot of memories. … I guess I’m lucky to be here because of all those bullets and flack and all what's happened.”
Magnatta entered the service in 1943 and trained as an aerial gunner. He was based in England and flew in B-17 airplanes, which his pilots nicknamed Short Snorters. His plane was shot down twice and he reached the rank of staff sergeant.
Magnatta, now living in New City, was awarded the Air Medal with three bronze oak leaf clusters; the Army Good Conduct Medal; the Air Force Recruiter Ribbon; the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign with four bronze service stars; and the World War II Victory Medal.
Jeff Magnatta of New City, one of Alfred’s children, said he reached out to Lowey’s office late last year to inquire about the medals. He said it was important that his father receive the medals because “he earned them.”
Lowey, D-Harrison, said her office researched and tracked down the medals which Magnatta never received.
“Your service has enabled us — and our children and our grandchildren — to live in freedom,” Lowy said as she presented the medals to Magnatta. 
Born in January 1925 in Nyack, Alfred Magnatta later moved to Rockland Lake and then to Congers with his family. 
Alfred Magnatta attended three years at Congers High school before he entered World War II.
After the war, Alfred Magnatta returned to Congers. He and his wife Matilda, who was at Tuesday's ceremony, had four children.
In addition to becoming a licensed electrician, Alfred Magnatta joined the Congers Fire Department and eventually served as its chief for two years. In 1962, he became a Rockland deputy fire coordinator — a position he continues to hold.
At 92, Alfred Magnatta still responds to calls with the Congers Fire Department — “I stay outside now and offer support,” he said.
Jaime Manzella, one of Alfred Magnatta’s grandchildren, attended the ceremony with her children Jason, 10, and Julia, 12.
Manzella described Magnatta as “extremely modest" and said he rarely talked about his time in the war, but the family manages to draw some stories out of him occasionally.
“He just an amazing man,” Manzella said.
Jason Manzella said he looked up to his great-grandfather.
“It’s really cool,” the 10-year-old said when asked what he thought about Alfred Magnatta receiving the medals.
Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, D-New City, who is one of Magnatta’s grandchildren, described his grandfather as the “rock of our family.”
“To us, he’s Papa. He’s at our family events, and he’s the guy who is helping us with construction from all his years as an electrician. … But his service to his country during World War II is something that gives us awe.”
Katie Magnatta of Valley Cottage, another grandchild, said Alfred Magnatta continued to remain extremely active.
“He never sits still; he’s always moving. … He really embodies the Greatest Generation,” she said.
Facebook
District Map