A century in the making: Local WWII veteran marks 100th birthday

ATASCADERO — Local War World War II veteran John A. Watt celebrated his 100th birthday Saturay with family, a military salute, a flyover by Estrella Warbird Museum pilots and, of course, a little birthday cake at Ingleside Assisted Living retirement home in Atascadero.

“Needless to say it is a very important and happy occasion to celebrate with John today and our family could not be more appreciative to the Ingleside community going to such lengths to put on such a memorable party for John,” John’s’ wife Dena Watt said. “The entire extended family, our friends, and members of our church have come out today and it really just brings tears to my eyes to see everyone. It is a real milestone, living to be 100 years old and definitely a reason to celebrate. We have been married for 42 years in May and it is both our second marriages. Both of us lost our partners in the same year to cancer and the next year we ran away together.”

John Watt, born July 8, 1917 in Scotland, became a United States citizen at the age of five and enlisted in the U.S. Army 20 years later in Buffalo, NY. Assigned to the Army Air Corp. in Bungay, England, he was a navigator and bombardier on a B-24 Liberator. His crew, known as the “Bungay Buckaroos,” successfully completed 28 of their 30 bombing missions over Germany.

“John and his crew were on their 29th mission over Germany in bombers to wash out the oil supply when all 11 were shot down and forced to bail out, landing in their parachutes on German soil,” Dena said. “Only one man was injured in the landing. John and his crew were caught and became prisoners of war. John told me he was lucky to be an officer. Many of the enlisted men were kept in terrible conditions, made to walk in the snow and muck for days without food or water. John, a pilot and co-pilot were held in different officers’ prisons. John was held in Barth, Germany in Stalag Luft 1. He was held for nine months before being liberated by the Russian army. Then he was shipped off to Okinawa for the Korean War but was lucky to get out of it because he had problems with his ears and could not fly anymore.”

The next 26 years eventually led John to Vandenberg Air Force Base where he was trained to operate the Atlas Missile. He was honorably discharged from military service on June 30, 1967 with the rank of Lt. Colonel and has been living life to the fullest with his wife ever since. Now with 100 years to his credit John is not just a hero, but a centenarian.

Check out the video below to see footage of POW Camp Stalag Luft 1 being liberated:

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