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Philip Kahn: WW II vet from Westbury lost twin brother to the Spanish flu

Philip Kahn, seen at his 100th birthday party

Philip Kahn, seen at his 100th birthday party in December 2019. He died of COVID-19 at the age of 100.  Credit: Jacqueline Zysman-Weisfeld

Philip Kahn was one of the oldest surviving World War II veterans on Long Island.

He fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima, was part of the deadly fire raids over Japan and helped do aerial surveying of the damage done by the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

His death at the age of 100 from COVID-19 comes a century after his twin brother was lost as an infant to the Spanish flu, a pandemic that killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide in 1918-19.

Kahn had been the chief flight engineer on a four-engine Boeing B-29 Superfortress. He earned two bronze stars, a campaign medal for service in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater, a victory medal, overseas service medals and a medal for sharpshooting, said his family.

Born Dec. 15, 1919, Kahn was the son of a Manhattan baker who ran a shop on West 88th Street. His twin brother, Samuel, succumbed to the Spanish flu not long after birth, said his family.

Enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Corps pilot training program in 1940, Kahn trained in Georgia and later found himself in the Pacific — first at Iwo Jima and then in the fire raids. Kahn had two older brothers who also served, one in the Battle of the Bulge, another in the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

“From April to August,” Kahn recalled in a 2017 Newsday article recounting his participation in the 1945 campaign spirited by Gen. Curtis LeMay, “it was five months of bombing their houses and people. And the people didn’t have a chance to get out. We didn’t know the number who were killed; all we knew was we dropped the bombs.”

While in the Pacific, Kahn said he survived random sniper attacks and a booby trap that hurtled him 15 feet into the air, knocking him unconscious and causing permanent hearing loss. 

In 1946, Kahn returned to New York, got married and he and his wife, Rose, raised two daughters. They first lived in Fresh Meadows, Queens, and later in Great Neck. Kahn and his wife moved to Westbury around 2010. Rose died in August at age 96.

Kahn worked as an electrical foreman and participated in the building of the World Trade Center and the first New York City Blood Bank, said his family. An avid swimmer and ballroom dancer, he was a doting grandfather who taught his grandchildren how to roller skate.

Though daughter Joyce Laulicht predeceased him, Kahn is survived by daughter Lynn Zysman and her husband, Simon, six grandchildren and six great grandchildren, said his family. Burial was Monday at New Montefiore Cemetery in West Babylon.