Oldest U.S. World War Two veterans meet for first time at age 107

Fri Dec 13, 2013 6:16pm EST
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By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - When 107-year-old World War Two veteran Elmer Hill looked across the table at Richard Overton, he could hardly believe there was a living veteran older than him - even if only by a few months.

Hill met fellow centenarian Overton, thought to be the oldest living U.S. World War Two veteran, for the first time on Friday over lunch at an Austin senior citizens center, where they swapped war stories and longevity tips.

"He's 107? I better move my (birthday) up a little bit," Hill told reporters at the meeting arranged by the center. "I am not that old. I have just been here a long time."

Overton is about three months older than Hill and even though they had never met before, both had traveled along similar paths.

Both men grew up in the segregated South. Both passed through Hawaii on their way to combat duty in the Pacific, where they served in segregated units. After the war, they both settled down in Texas, about 220 miles apart.

Overton, a volunteer, served in the Army's 188th Aviation Engineer Battalion, an all-black unit that saw some of the fiercest fighting in the Pacific island-hopping campaign.

"Some of the things in the Army stay with you, and you don't want to forget, but you don't want to tell them either," Overton said.

Hill was drafted into the Navy and his ship had to evade Japanese submarines and air attacks. When he returned home, he became principal of a segregated school.   Continued...

107-year old Richard Overton (L), sits with fellow centenarian and World War II veteran Elmer Hill as they met for the first time at the Emeritus at Parmer Woods Senior Living Center in Austin, Texas, on December 13, 2013. REUTERS/Jan Herskovitz