WWII 70th Commemoration

Dear Editor:

On June 6, the world will be commemorating the 70th anniversary of World War II with press coverage of personal stories. It might be of interest to your readers the many brave sacrifices made by our American Armenians as documented in Jimmy Tashjian’s 1952 book Armenian-Americans in WWII.

Lieutenant Varad Varadian
Lieutenant Varad Varadian

One such story in the book is that of First Lieutenant Varad Varadian of Cranston, R.I. Varad was a member of the Providence AYF who led a family tradition of athletes with Mal, Haig, John, and Mary. All four brothers were honored as AYF Olympic Kings. He was a frequent contributor to the Hairenik Daily and Weekly. A 40-year member of the ARF, he also served as chairman of Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Church Board of Trustees, Providence, and was a member of the Prelacy Executive Council.

Brothers Mal and Haig also served in Europe during World War II. Varad worked for the Veteran Administration in Rhode Island and New York. Survived by his wife Louise, daughter Nora and sons John and Charles, he passed away unexpectedly in 1993.

Another highly decorated Rhode Islander was Harry Kizirian, a Marine who fought in the Pacific. The most decorated Marine in Rhode Island, he was appointed the postmaster of Providence by President John F. Kennedy.


Anahid K. Varadian


The following is Lieutenant Varad Varadian’s story as it appeared in Jimmy Tashjian’s 1952 book Armenian-Americans in WWII:

D-Day, Europe, and the Battle for France



This was it. The GI’s knew it. Take that officer over there standing on the dock at a southern British port, watching his men embark. He knew this was it. June 6, 1944. The great invasion of Hitler’s Fortress Europe was on.

Lieutenant Varad Varadian stood and watched. That morning he had awakened early and had begun to think of home. What a time to think of home! But the images of his parents, his brothers and sister, his home, his friends, kept coming back to him. He bade his thoughts to more concrete things—things like the business of war. But the young Lieutenant couldn’t help himself.*

Then, he started trying to find some sort of escape mechanism from the past. And Lt. Varadian started telling himself this, over and over again:

“The job ahead is good because it will bring my return home that much closer. The quicker we lick them, the better for all of us.” And he took comfort and solace in this as he summoned his men to formation, went around his platoon examining the battle gear, and had a last word with his platoon sergeant.

They were in the LST, finally in, jammed together like sardines. The Channel wasn’t acting up so badly this morning. Yesterday, they had had to turn back because of the rough water. But this was it; they knew it. The Lieutenant knew it.

Then came the air cover, and the boys felt a great deal better. Deep within the craft, they felt helpless, sitting there burdened down with their gear. They knew the enemy would soon come out after them. Well, the fly-boys would keep them away.

So, the 29th United States Infantry Division landed at Vierville-sur-Mer, Omaha Beach, Normandy. It was H hour of D Day. The enemy had the sector under intensive artillery fire. The Americans took a foothold on the sands, then took  a stride forward. But it was hard going. Varadian saw men with whom he had trained and lived being cut down by shrapnel. He hated it, but he thought of home—how he was on his way home.

Then it happened. A German shell burst to his right. He was blown off his feet, knocked for a loop-and darkness came. The invasion rolled on around his prone body.

When Varadian came to shortly afterwards, he found an anxious corpsman bending over him. He had been hit, he knew it. His head was in an uproar and his body felt as if it had been put through a compressor. The life seemed to be drained right out of him.

Varadian was not unaware of the tumultuous scene around him. His outfit was pinned down, had to be put into motion or they would be annihilated by incoming shells. He pushed the corpsman away and got to his knees. A burning sensation on the right side of his face prompted him to put his hand to the place. His palm came away blood-red. But he could think, and the energy was coming back to him. He was to go on, he knew it.

And the wounded officer led his men to their initial objective. Once that was done, he allowed himself to be treated for his wounds. They later gave him a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal. Said the citation accompanying the latter:

“On June 6, 1944, during the assault landings near Vierville-sur-Mer, France, Lt. Varadian distinguished himself in combat by the outstanding manner in which he performed his duties as Platoon Leader. Though wounded by shrapnel, Lt. Varadian declined evacuation and braved intense enemy artillery and small arms fire to lead his men in accomplishing their initial objectives. Lt. Varadian’s initiative, courage, and devotion to duty were an invaluable asset to the success of the invasion operations and reflect great credit upon himself and the Military Serve…”

It was still later determined that Second Lieutenant Varad Varadian had been one of the very first American officers to be wounded in the assault in the Vierville-sur-Mer section.

When the Lieutenant returned to his unit, the bitter “battle of the hedgerows” was underway. It was near Couvains, France, that he was wounded again. This time an enemy rifleman hit him on the right temple. Varadian was hospitalized.

And the invasion went on. He received still another Purple Heart.

When separated from service, Varad Varadian bore the rank of First Lieutenant. He entered military service June 26, 1942, and was soon appointed to an infantry Officer’s Candidate School, joining the 29th Division after being commissioned, and going on with that outfit until his second wound incapacitated him for a time.

Varadian was born in Providence, Rhode Island, September 2, 1921, and was graduated from Bryant College in that city. He was active in Armenian organization sports circles, being especially remembered as a star Armenian Youth Federation of America Olympics runner. A brother, Malcolm, served overseas with anti-aircraft unit.


* Varadian’s story based on information supplied by friends.

Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.


  1. Such a great hero. A family of great Armenian Americans. Dear friends of my mom Rose Atanossian Vartabedian and all the Atanossian family.

  2. Harry Kizirian was also an outstanding Marine. Here is the citation for the Navy Cross, which was one of several awards he received as a United States Marine:

    The Navy Cross is presented to Harry Kizirian, Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps (Reserve), for extraordinary heroism while serving as an Automatic Rifleman of Company E, Second Battalion, Twenty-second Marines, Sixth Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands, on 11 June 1945. Returning from an assigned mission of locating elements of a reserve platoon, Private First Class Kizirian observed a stretcher party of Marines pinned down and suffering casualties while attempting to evacuate the wounded of an adjacent unit. Determined to reach a more advantageous position to deliver accurate fire on the enemy, he unhesitatingly moved forward. Immediately exposed to additional hostile fire which wounded him in both legs and abdomen, he continued to drag himself forward by pressure of his elbows, alternately firing and advancing until he had killed all twelve of the Japanese in the emplacement. By his outstanding courage and aggressive fighting spirit, Private First Class Kizirian enabled the stretcher party to advance and evacuate the wounded. His gallant devotion to duty throughout was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

    Harry Kizirian died in 2002 at age 77. I had the honor once of speaking to him when I invited him on behalf of the organizer to attend in 2001 the Medal of Honor Society Convention in Boston.

  3. I read up on these two WWII heros. Amazing stories.

    They are significant because they come from the first generation after the genocide and their stories are about how we Armenians picked ourselves up and not just continued living but also thrived, and contributed to the new countries who took us in as immigrants and survivors.

  4. Richard Demirjian has published 2 books on Armenian American veterans. Each book contains each veteran’s story in his or her own words, because Richard gave each a recorder in which to dictate his story. There are fascinating accounts of men and women in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

    Each account starts like this: My name is _______. My mother’s name was_____________. She came from _____________. My father’s name was ___________. He came from __________________. My parents met while ______________.

    Many of the veterans recount meeting other Armenians while on ship or in far-flung places.

    One of the best stories belongs to George Atashkarian of Moraga, California, born in Fresno. He recounts how while aboard ship, an officer asked him if he wanted to meet a countryman, a fellow Armenian. When George said that he did, the first thing the stranger asked was “Pilaf guz ess?”

    George and the Destroyer crew withstood countless Kamikaze attacks. He was also awarded a Bronze Star for climbing the mast and replacing a vital radar component during a violent storm, saving his ship and crew from certain death.

    Also read about Victor Maghakian, a Marine Legend awarded two Navy Crosses. You can also read about Kiowa pilot Adrineh Goloumian, wounded saving her crew over Baghdad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.