Decorated WWII veteran and former prisoner of war Sydney Cole has been inducted into the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame. Now 103, Cole served with honor and distinction for both Canadian and American forces.
State Sen. Chris Jacobs (R-Buffalo) bestowed the honor Monday upon 1st Lt. Cole, who flew an artillery observation plane for the 776th Field Artillery Battalion and was actively involved in the Battle of the Bulge.
Cole's bio reads like a movie.
His life dramatically changed after the early morning hours of January 2, 1945, when his plane encountered heavy anti-aircraft fire and was shot down. Before jumping from the damaged plane, he helped his co-pilot evacuate the aircraft and was wounded multiple times by enemy gunfire during his parachute descent, eventually landing behind German lines.
He was captured and sent to a German prisoner of war camp, where he was subjected to life-threatening abuse and malnourishment for over a year, diminishing to just 95 pounds.
Rising to the rank of captain, Cole was discharged from the Army just after Christmas 1945. He returned to Buffalo where he married his wife, Sybil, and had a son, Richard.
At the honor ceremony, Jacobs praised Cole and his heroism.
"Lt. Cole’s heroism at the risk of his own life, his dedication to the principles of freedom and his exemplary devotion to duty and country, distinguish him among our greatest citizens in the State of New York and United State of America."