Sam Sachs, a World War II veteran who received thousands of cards after having to cancel his 105th birthday party due to the COVID-19 pandemic, died Monday, according to the city of Lakewood. He died of natural causes, one month before his 107th birthday.
A parade of people helped Sachs celebrate his 105th birthday in April 2020 when they drove down his neighborhood street in cars, motorcycles and Los Angeles County sheriff’s vehicles. Some waved American flags as they passed by.
That day, miniature flags and banners decorated the lawn in front of the assisted living home where Sachs lived. Balloons, red and blue stars, and banners with Sachs’ face adorned the front of the house.
Sachs had planned on celebrating the day with a big party, but when it was canceled he recorded a video asking for birthday cards instead.
“I’m wondering how many birthday cards I will get,” he said in the video. “And I’m also asking our president to send me a card also. What a thrill that would be.”
He received more than 6,000 cards from across the U.S., Lakewood officials said, as well as a letter from President Trump.
Sachs lived in Lakewood in his later years and became an active member of the community. He would speak during city events, such as Memorial Day observances.
Sachs joined the Army in 1931 and served at posts in California, Arkansas, Georgia and Louisiana, according to Lakewood’s Veterans History Project. He was an Army paratrooper who landed behind enemy lines as part of the 1944 Allied D-Day invasion of Europe, the veterans project said.
“I said, ‘I’m Jewish and I’m not going to be taken prisoner,’” Sachs said in a video interview with Lakewood CityTV. “Luckily things worked out fine.”
Sachs, who attained the rank of lieutenant colonel, later led troops in liberating prisoners from a Nazi concentration camp.
“I saw the horrors of the concentration camp, which you cannot believe unless you actually see,” he told Lakewood CityTV. “We’d have the Nazis marching through the streets of Lakewood today if it weren’t for what we did.”
When he returned to civilian life, he became a teacher.
Sachs was injured when he was hit by a car last year while taking his daily walk around the block. He recovered at a long-term care facility in Bell Gardens before settling into a senior facility in Seal Beach, Lakewood officials said.
The Lakewood City Council sent a message offering condolences to Sachs’ family, calling him “a representative of what has aptly been called the Greatest Generation.”
“We thank you for sharing Sam with us for the years that he lived in Lakewood. He honored us with his presence and involvement in our community, and we were honored and privileged to have the opportunity to thank him in return,” the City Council said.
The council said it would adjourn its Tuesday meeting in Sachs’ memory as a final tribute.