WWII veteran from Omaha celebrates 102nd birthday
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - It’s not often that we get to celebrate centennial birthdays, especially those who have served our country.
Bill Brown says over a century has gone by fast: “Well now that it’s gone I don’t know where it went.”
On Tuesday he celebrated his 102nd birthday.
Brown was born right here in Omaha in 1920. Before the war, he had just graduated from Technical High School.
“For a while, I managed a filling station. Then I got lucky and got a job at the Union Pacific Headquarters,” says Brown.
He enlisted in 1942 into what was then called the Army Air Corps. He was part of the 93rd Bombardment Group as a bomber pilot and successfully completed 35 missions into enemy territory.
“I remember the first one because I was almost hit. It was just over into enemy territory, not very far. When we came back from that mission while I was still parking the aircraft, shutting down engines, and filling out the book to tell them what was wrong and what they had to fix before the next mission. My navigator was the first one out of the plane and he came over on the side that I sat on and he hollered up at me and said, ‘Bill, are you hit?’ I said ‘what are you talking about?’ He said, ‘there’s a hole on the side of the airplane right there by you.’ I said ‘no I’m not.’ Sure enough, there was a hole right beside me on the side of the aircraft,” says Brown. “We were a crew of eight people and not one of us won a purple heart. None of us were injured in all those missions,” says Brown.
He’s still a decorated veteran. Last year he received the Medal of Honor from the French Foreign Legion for food supply missions.
“The time period was right after the allies had taken Paris back from the Germans. They sent us over to the airport in Paris with this flour where these Frenchmen unloaded it. Because when the Germans left they took everything with them. And they were short on all kinds of food over there. So we hauled food to Paris for a couple of weeks. The airfield that we were hauling this stuff to was in our hands, we controlled it. But there were still snipers outside of the airport shooting while we were hauling that stuff in there,” says Brown.
The medal he’s the proudest of is the Distinguished Flying Cross.
He’s been to at least 20 reunions with the 93rd Bomb Group. One reunion stands out from the rest at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It’s a memory that’s emotional for him.
“We went to Washington D.C. for that convention. The three of us, we were given the honor of laying the wreath,” says Brown.
Looking back at his life, his advice to younger generations is this.
“Follow the golden rule: treat other people, the way you want to be treated,” says Brown.
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