World War II veteran Jack Carl Wood and Honor Flight Board Member and Gold Bus Captain, Jim English join Eyewitness News’ Brad Byrd to talk about WWII and the Honor Flight.
Brad Byrd: Welcome to In-Depth. On May 25th another milestone, another tribute to the men and women who have served. The 10th honor flight will depart Evansville Regional Airport with 86 veterans on board. Since 2014 more than 200 veterans have taken the journey to Washington D.C. I was lucky to cover the fifth honor flight and tell you it is one of the most emotional experiences you will ever have. And joining me tonight are World War II veteran Jack Carl Wood and Jim English, the gold bus captain and honor flight board member. And Jim is a Vietnam Veteran. Mr. Wood, thank you very much for being here tonight. Tell me you were 16 years old and ended up in the US Navy. How did you pull that off?
Jack Carl Wood: I forged my birth certificate.
Brad: So, how old should you have been?
Jack: Well, I should have been 17, but I was 16.
Brad: So, what was the allure of signing up at such a young age? Why did you do it?
Jack: I wanted to get outta dodge.
Brad: Ok, a big adventure?
Jack: A big adventure, which I did do.
Brad: Alrighty, now a reality check – when you got over there – so to speak – you served in the pacific, you were in the Navy, did you have second thoughts?
Brad: You did not?
Brad: Now, you told me earlier in the newsroom that…
Jack: Well, the second thought I got was after I got into boot camp, I’d become ill. And I got Scarlet Fever and it all developed into pneumatic fever. And I wanted to see mama, I wanted to go home.
Brad: What did they tell you?
Jack: They told me you’re 16 and a half son, you’re here.
Brad: And how old were you?
Jack: Well, I was 16 and a half and I was 17 when I was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Brad: Ok, let’s take some shots of Mr. Wood if we can, Grace, of when he was serving in the US Navy and keep in mind, this was a young man – a boy so to speak, who became a young man and who was now in the US Navy. And these are some grainy photographs, but he was there. But basically, you were on an LCT – Landing Craft Tank. Ok, and that is smaller, and there it is, it’s like an LST that was built in Evansville, but this one is smaller – tell me about it.
Jack: Well, the LST told us of landings and invasions and we would put six tanks on the deck of our ship, take the men to the landing, drop them off, go back to the other ships, get a load of maybe some more tanks and maybe some soldiers, and take them into the beach and allow them into fighting.
Brad: And like so many World War II vets – you didn’t ask for a thing in all of this – and what did you come home to? Did you come home to the big celebrations?
Jack: Not exactly, I came home, and everybody was happy the war was over. Everybody went back to work.
Brad: And what did you do?
Jack: Well, I made a vow to myself that when I got out of the service, I would go back to high school and get my diploma, which I did. When school started – and this was over in Illinois – seven days after high school started, I married my wife, which when I quit school when I was a sophomore, she was in my Biology class and I decided I was going to marry her when I got back.
Brad: And that began a 70-year marriage?
Jack: A 70-year marriage. My wife passed away four years ago. And I’m doing very well.
Brad: You said you’ve had a wonderful life
Jack: I’ve had a great life. I have no complaints at all and I’m proud that I served my country.
Brad: And Jim I know that in the honor flight five years ago, the bulk of the veterans on that flight, were WWII veterans. How many approximately are you taking on this flight?
Jim English: On this flight, we have seven WWII vets. Our primary vets are Korean, and I think we have a few Vietnam vets going.
Brad: And Mr. Wood tells me on this ninth honor flight, that he was on, he and two other WWII vets were on that flight.
Jim: Correct – yes. And it was really a pleasure to have him go with us.
Brad: Now, when you were there in DC, you told me you’ve been to DC before, when you walked into that WWII memorial, what was that like for you?
Jack: It’s hard to describe. It was such a feeling of just a wonderful honor. I was able to come back and see all of it.
Brad: I imagine you had a few veterans say “Thank you for your service.”
Jack: Many, many, many, many. And still do. Daily.
Brad: And Jim, you made an interesting point when we were gathering in the newsroom. There’s this mistaking notion about who qualifies, who can go on this Honor Flight. It’s not absolute that it has to be an individual who saw combat.
Jim: That’s correct. That’s a great question. It is something we’re trying to clear up in the community is that anyone, regardless of whether they had served in combat operations, as long as they put on a uniform and rose a right hand to say they would defend out country. They’re eligible to go.
Brad: Alrighty. Well, we could talk all night but we don’t have that opportunity. Our own Eyewitness Amelia Young will be covering this flight.
(This story was originally published on April 23, 2019)