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New Jersey WWII Veteran Gets War Prize, 67 Years Late

Rep. Bill Pascrell with Seymour "Steve" Atkins (credit: Office of Rep. Bill Pascrell)

Rep. Bill Pascrell with Seymour “Steve” Atkins (credit: Office of Rep. Bill Pascrell)

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LIVINGSTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) - A New Jersey newspaper company has finally paid the award they said they would during World War II in 1944.

WCBS 880’s Levon Putney On The Story

It was back then that the Paterson Evening News promised $500 to the first local soldier to land on German soil.

Why didn’t the paper give the award at the time? They said they couldn’t determine which of two people actually deserved it – Seymour “Steve” Atkins or Sidney Bressler.

1010 WINS’ Al Jones With More On The Story

Well, on Wednesday, the North Jersey Media Group, which publishes The Record and the Herald News (a descendant of the Paterson Evening News), awarded Atkins, now of Livingston, his $500.

“Pleasant surprise,” Atkins told WCBS 880 reporter Levon Putney. “It’s heartwarming, but it brings back many, many memories.”

He was an 18-year-old from Paterson aboard the U.S.S. Susan B. Anthony, a ship which sank off Utah Beach during D-Day.

U.S. troops land on Utah Beach - Jun 6, 1944 (credit: AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. troops land on Utah Beach – Jun 6, 1944 (credit: AFP/Getty Images)

“Got off that luckily eight minutes before it went down,” he said. He was then rescued by another boat.

They had no gear after the sinking though.

“Without helmets, without rifles,” he said. “They told us ‘Pick them up from the guys on the beach.”

EXTRA: Download The Full Interview (mp3)

He was a combat engineer who went in after bombers and before the infantry to clear mines and secure bridges.

“Right on the front line right under fire all the time,” he said. “That’s why when they said I was infantry, I said ‘You gotta be kidding. The infantry can’t get here until we’re done.”

He’s finally been recognized for his contribution to the war.

Last week, he was awarded the Bronze Star and other medals by Rep. Bill Pascrell after one his sons fought to clear up his service record.

“If they had just gotten it right back then,” Putney said to him.

“It would have been nice,” replied Atkins.

That $500 war bond from the paper would’ve been worth a whole lot more back in 1944.