America’s Oldest Veteran Turns 110

Earlier this month, Richard Overton became the oldest war veteran in the USA. He assumed this position after the death of Frank Levingston, who passed away on May 3rd. Eight days later, Overton celebrated his own birthday, reaching the age of 110. As the oldest surviving veteran in America, the centenarian has become something of a celebrity.

Born on May 11, 1906, Richard Arvine Overton has lived through two World Wars, one of which he fought in, and has seen 11 US presidents enter the White House. In fact, he was already 33 years old when he signed up to fight in WWII, in September 1942.

Typically, the army only accepted men in their twenties. He recalled how many people used to ask him why he was not in the Army, to which he would answer that he was just too old. Eventually, however, he did join, and was quickly shipped to WWII’s South Pacific Theater. There he fought bravely throughout the campaign, serving at Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Hawaii, Guam, and Palau, among other locations.

He now credits his longevity to a peaceful life at his home in Austin, Texas. The centenarian hasn’t let the recent attention of the media change his habits, though, and still spends much of his time relaxing on his porch, or meeting with family and friends.

Throughout his long and remarkable life, Overton was present at some of the toughest battles in the Pacific. Taking part in the island-hopping campaign, he fought valiantly during the American offensive to capture a number of strategic geographical positions, risking his life time and time again.

He left the US Army as a sergeant in 1945, a month after the war with Japan ended. He then returned to his old job and his family, living to this day in the state of Texas, where he was born.

On the 11th of May, eight days after he became the oldest veteran in the USA, he celebrated his 110th birthday. When asked how he wanted to mark the milestone occasion, he stated that he would be happy celebrating the special day quietly with his family. He admitted, however, that he hadn’t imagined himself reaching this point.

“I wanted to get old,” he said, “but I didn’t know I was going to get this old.”

He went on to say that he is living a very good life, but was comfortable with whatever the future has in store. As he put it himself – if God calls him home one of these days, he’s ready to go.

Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE