The oldest U.S. WWII vets still alive today met for the first time, 71 years after Pearl Harbor. They were supposed to meet during the Pearl Habor anniversary, but inclement weather delayed the intrepid pair until recently.
As previously reported by The Inquisitr, some people feared the recent confrontation in Syria might lead to World War 3, based upon the Bible.
The names of the two oldest US WWII vets are Richard Overton and Elmer Hill. Although the two weren’t present for the Pearl Harbor attack, they did get to see the aftermath of the destruction of the Navy base. Fewer than 3,000 veterans remain of the 84,000 service members who survived the attack by the Japanese.
Interestingly enough, both hail from Texas, and they’re both African Americans. Despite being almost the same age at 107, they’ve never meet each other before.
Nick Mueller, president and chief executive of the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, says these two oldest US WWII vets are fairly unusual because of the circumstances:
“It’s kind of a miracle to have anyone alive at 107. But it’s a real miracle to have two African-American World War II veterans in the same state. With a segregated army, there wasn’t a lot of motivation to serve. But once the country was threatened, African Americans rallied to the flag just like every other American. They wanted to serve their country.”
Hill was drafted into the Navy in 1942 and served aboard the USS Saginaw Bay aircraft carrier. He recalls Japanese kamikazes and manning the anti-aircraft guns. Overton volunteered in 1942 as well, but there’s where one major differences emerges: he joined the Army. As part of the Army’s 188thAviation Engineer Battalion, he was assigned to escort officers and he remembers trying to avoid jungles thick with Japanese snipers.
Unfortunately, Overton has reached the point in his life where he has no friends who used to be WWII vets:
“I kept in touch with a lot of the guys I served with after we came home. But they’re all gone now.”
Carol Gladys, secretary for the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors, says this is not becoming uncommon:
“We send out thank-you cards to the survivors in Ohio every year around this time. A few years ago, we sent out 80. This year, it was only 45. And we’ve already gotten four of them returned.”
The good news is that Overton now has a new friend in Elmer Hill. Their first meeting tended to focus on making jokes about each other’s age, with Hill saying, “He’s 107? Then, I’d better move [my birthday] up a little bit.”
The two oldest U.S. WWII vets tend to focus on life instead of recalling war or battle anniversaries. Hill says, “I was just glad to be back home at the end.” In fact, Overton spent this year’s Memorial Day celebrating with cigars and whiskey at home.
So what advice do the oldest WWII veterans have for today’s generation?
“Be a good citizen, wherever you be, whether it’s in the Navy, Army, or just a patron at the house.”
Seems like good advice to me.