American WWII Veteran Who Crewed B-26 Bombers Turns 100 Years Old

George Brienza once took cover in a foxhole on an English airbase, escaping the German rockets flying overhead. He wondered then if he’d ever get home to see his wife and two daughters.

But recently, he celebrated his 100th birthday with family from all over the country.

“I was always scared. They bombed us 24 hours a day,” recalled Brienza. “War is nothing but death and destruction.”

But through the experience of war, Brienza learned to live his life in a better way.

“It taught me to love people, and to keep my nose clean,” said Brienza. Asked how he made it to 100, he says it’s about what you don’t do – don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t run around, and keep family close.

“Love a lot, love your family, love people,” Brienza said.

Brienza has 14 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

He grew up in a small house in Denver. He was the second oldest of six children born to immigrants from Potenza, Italy.

Brienza became a machinist and a welder. These were skills the Army was looking for as they went to war, so Brienza went to work working on B-26 bombers as part of the Eighth Air Force’s 387th Bombardment Group.

Brienza was the crew chief who made sure the Ollie-L stayed in great shape, The Denver Post reported.

“We flew 153 missions with nobody hurt or killed,” he said.

The B-26 Marauder was smaller and had a shorter range than the B-17 bombers. The B-26 softened defenses for the D-Day invasion and relieved the 101st Airborne at Bastogne.

Brienza said a prayer everytime the Ollie-L took off. It always came back.

Ironically, a US pilot did what the Germans couldn’t. The rookie pilot landed short of the runway, destroying the plane.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE