A 100-year-old World War II veteran who died from Covid-19 lost a twin brother to the 1918 pandemic a century earlier, his grandson said.
Philip Kahn is the oldest veteran in Nassau County, New York, according to his family, and had been fearful of another pandemic happening in his lifetime, his grandson, Warren Zysman, told CNN.
“It was something he brought up quite frequently,” Zysman said. “I would have conversations with him, he would say to me, ‘I told you history repeats itself, 100 years is not that long of a period of time.’”
Kahn and his twin brother, Samuel, were born on December 5, 1919. His brother died weeks later, his grandson said.
The 1918 influenza pandemic, caused by a virus previously known as the “Spanish flu,” killed and estimate of more than 50 million people globally and about 675,000 in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of April 22, there are more than 46,000 Covid-19 deaths in the United States and about 19,000 deaths in New York State, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tally.
Kahn was a sergeant in the US Army Air Force during WWII, Zysman said, and acted as an engineer and co-pilot, keeping war planes fueled. He received two Bronze Battle Stars for his service in WWII, his grandson said. After the war, he worked as an electrical foreman to help build the World Trade Center, Zysman said. In Long Island, Kahn lived on his own and walked one to two miles a day, Zysman said.
He was very aware of what was happening with coronavirus since he watched the news all the time, and in the last days before his death on April 17, Kahn experienced coughing and respiratory symptoms of the virus, his grandson said.
Kahn knew that there was a possibility that he could have contracted the coronavirus.
“He talked about his brother a lot in the last few days,” Zysman said. The 100-year-old veteran received a coronavirus test, but his family did not get the results until after Kahn passed away.
“He had always wanted a large military funeral, but we weren’t able to provide that to him,” Zysman said.
The cemetery arranged for two people in the armed forces to perform a military ceremony, and a man whose father was a Marine during WWII played the bugle at Kahn’s funeral from a distance, Kahn’s grandson said.
“He volunteered because the Air Force protected the Marines by providing cover for them and he felt it was a honor to do this for my grandpa,” Zysman said.
Sampson Lester Friedman, Khan’s friend who served with him during WWII in the Army Air Force, attended the funeral and gave a tribute to Kahn, which Zysman recorded on video and provided to CNN.
“[There was] something about him that was very very special,” Friedman said at the funeral. “On our airplane, he was an engineer, and he was the hardest working guy aboard that airplane.”
Over the century that followed his brother’s death, Kahn kept the memory of his brother alive.
“Pretty much every holiday, every event, he would also bring up his brother Samuel,” Zysman said. “It clearly made a hole in his heart that he never got to meet his twin, and that his twin died a few weeks after birth.”