Oklahoma Honor Flight takes 103 World War II veterans to memorial
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
11/08/12 at 11:04 AM
Learn more about the Oklahoma Honor Flights program.
WASHINGTON - The Japanese pilot meant to crash his airplane into Alvis Holloway's U.S. Navy destroyer, but he missed his target, and the plane crashed into the water.
The sailors thought they were in the clear after the plane sank, but then the bomb the plane was carrying exploded, blowing a hole in the bottom of the ship.
"We stayed afloat for 10 hours," said Holloway, now 90, of Sand Springs.
He lived, as did everyone else on board the USS William D. Porter. But he was wounded and was sent back to the states on leave, where he was when World War II ended.
More than 65 years later, Holloway was one of more than 100 World War II veterans from Oklahoma who toured the monuments and memorials dedicated to their service on Tuesday as part of the Oklahoma Honor Flights program.
"It just gets my heart," Holloway said. "It just gives you goose bumps when they talk about things that happened, and you had seen it."
The 103 veterans left Tulsa early Tuesday on a chartered flight for the whirlwind tour.
This was the 10th Oklahoma Honor Flight, and it brought the number of veterans who have taken the all-expenses paid trip to the nation's capital to 1,006. Each trip costs about $100,000, and Oklahoma veterans' trips are paid for through donations.
Family members and volunteers who pay their own way accompany the veterans and help them navigate around the monuments.
"This is a thank you 67 years in the making," said Eric Proctor, Oklahoma Honor Flights board member. "A lot who were coming home went straight to the factory or the farm. They didn't have 'the big thank you.' "
Most of the veterans on the tour are in their late 80s, with about a third 90 or older.
With World War II veterans dying at a rate of about 1,000 a day, that increases the urgency of each trip, Proctor said.
"This is something you won't see very often in the future: 103 (World War II) veterans at one time," he said.
George Gideon, 90, of Skiatook has been to Washington before, but not since the National World War II Memorial was opened on the National Mall in 2004.
"That's the main thing I want to see," Gideon said. "I want to see everything they've added."
Gideon was a member of the 84th Infantry Division and said his war experience was vastly different from what's typically portrayed in popular culture.
"I was in the Battle of the Bulge. That was a booger there," he said. "It's not like you see on television where one day and it's over. We got up one day and you get up the next and do it again."
Frances Murray of Tulsa was an Army nurse, which led her to a career in health care.
She thought Tuesday of those who were lost in the fighting and said seeing the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery was a great experience.
"That ceremony - that got you right here," she said, pointing to her heart. "It's very emotional."
Upcoming Honor Flights
The next Oklahoma Honor Flight will leave from Oklahoma City on Oct. 24. The next flight out of Tulsa is scheduled for next spring.
Original Print Headline: Homage to service
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310
Tulsans Neal Holden (left) and Phil Gossett look over the National World War II Memorial in Washington on Tuesday. The World War II veterans were among those on Tuesday's Oklahoma Honor Flight. ANN HEISENFELT / for the Tulsa World
Billy Southwick (left) and John Mose, both of Muskogee, walk through the National World War II Memorial on Tuesday. ANN HEISENFELT / for the Tulsa World
Carl Smith, 95, pushes fellow Tulsa veteran Frank Hayhurst as Oklahoma Honor Flights volunteer Donna Wagnon accompanies them at the National World War II Memorial on Tuesday. ANN HEISENFELT / for the Tulsa World
Earl Johnson Jr. (right) of Tulsa and Jack Jones of Ada photograph a Marine Corps honor guard at the World War II Memorial in Washington on Tuesday. ANN HEISENFELT / for the Tulsa World