French government honors Vero Beach veteran for WWII heroism


Lots of Vero Beach residents knew 97-year-old Harold Granitur was so successful in business he could afford to embark on a second career, pursuing his passion as a reading teacher championing the cause of literacy.

But it wasn’t until his grandchildren started asking him about his experiences during the Allied Forces invasion of France in 1944 that his true heroism during World War II came to light to his family and friends.

Among his exploits as a Private First Class in the U.S. Army were single-handedly accepting the surrender of more than 180 German soldiers, risking his life to warn commanders about an enemy tank position and getting wounded twice in battle.

“Despite his injury, he continued to fight in Normandy and Northern France (at Avranches, Le Ham, Saint-Jores and St. Hilaire-Petitville),” according to an account provided by the French Consulate in Miami.

Granitur’s unit landed on Utah Beach on June 8, 1944, two days after D-Day, and he spent the next year fighting for the liberation of Europe. “While progressing to the East of France, he participated in combats in Chateau Thiery, Verdun and Fort Driant,” the French account says.

Still fit and standing tall, Granitur humbly accepted the “Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur” (“Knight in the Legion of Honor”) last Thursday from French Consul General Vincent Floreani while being applauded by some 200 well-wishers.

“This is a great honor for me,” Granitur told the crowd in the conference room at Indian River Estates. “I appreciate the fact that all these people who I’ve never met before – but I appreciate that you’re here – have come to pay me this great honor which I hope I justly deserve.”

A humble hero, Granitur said he had just been doing his duty while earning two Purple Hearts, one Silver Service Star with arrowhead, the Combat Infantry Campaign Badge 1st Award, the Sharpshooter Badge with a Rifle Bar, the Bronze Star Medal, the Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII, the Presidential Unit Citation and the World War II Victory Medal.

“My dad has been very quiet about this for years and years and years,” said son Eric Granitur.

“The kids started asking questions about four or five years ago and that’s when he really opened up about it.

“He never really made a big deal about it,” Eric Granitur said. “He really just took it as part of his job. (After) walking those 180 German infantry troops in, the other U.S. troops took over and he just walked away like nothing happened.

“Beside serving in World War II, he’s just a great person. Obviously, a lot of people here, they like him, or there wouldn’t be this crowd here. Obviously, I’m very proud him.”

After the war, Granitur devoted himself to his business career and his family, and eventually a second career as an elementary school teacher in Livingston, N.J., and reading specialist at New York University.

Granitur and his late wife Adele moved to Vero Beach in 2002 and had been married 71 years when she passed away in 2018. He has three grandchildren, Sydney, Caroline and Luc.

It was their questions about his WWII service that led to the French government presenting him with the nation’s highest honor.

Nearly 1,600 medals have been awarded to veterans of the U.S. Armed Services who fought in France, Floreani said.

After the ceremony, Granitur said he was grateful for the recognition.

“I can’t express my gratitude,” Granitur said. “I didn’t expect anything. It’s a wonderful thing they did for me. It’s good to be appreciated. Everyone should be appreciated.”

Despite his heroism during an international conflict of epic proportion, Granitur said he believes in compromising and getting along.

“It’s good when people respect each other,” Granitur said. “It’s the best thing in the world. That’s what I call compromising. You show respect for me, I show respect for you and we help each other.”

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