Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

On VE Day, America's Oldest Veteran Recalls His Service

Today is an important anniversary in the history of World War II. It's the 70th anniversary of VE Day, when Allies celebrated victory in Europe. Of 16 million Americans who served in the war, just about a million are still alive. 

Austinite Richard Overton is 108, and he's been identified by the White House as the oldest living veteran of World War II. He was in his 30s when he joined forces commanded by General Douglas MacArthur. 

Overton was deployed to the Pacific in the fight against Japan. He served in the all-black 188th Aviation Engineer Battalion, building airfields on various islands.

"I went from island to island in the South Pacific," Overton says.

It was called island-hopping, which U.S. forces did as they moved toward Japan.

Overton today lives in Austin. What stays with him about his war experience, he says, is not the details but the feelings.

"Uncle Sam called me, and I had to do it," he says. "But I got back safe alright, without a scratch on me."

When Overton returned, he went straight back to work at his job at an Austin furniture store. 

"I'm glad I got home...Some of the others, some got their arms off, some got their legs off. Some lost their body, some lost their soul."

A couple years ago, he got to visit the White House and meet President Obama on Veterans' Day. Now he's getting ready to celebrate a birthday — he'll be 109 on Monday.