Freedom Fighters: Walter Winn - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Freedom Fighters: Walter Winn

(KLTV) -

Piloting an airplane was the last thing left on Walter Winn's "bucket list." He'd served in the Navy, had a successful career, married and raised a family, and traveled extensively.

"That's the only thing I ever wanted to do that I haven't done, was fly an airplane," he said.

So, for Winn's 99th birthday, the folks at Fountain View Estates in Longview, where Winn now lives, made arrangements for him to fulfill that wish. Winn says piloting that airplane was a thrill of a lifetime and he's ready to go again, but piloting was a far cry from his experiences with airplanes in World War II.

"We got bombed  every day, every night," he said.

Winn had gone into the Navy in 1942. He was assigned to an aircraft unit which was attached to a marine unit in the pacific.

Winn's unit moved so often following the war through the Pacific, that he soon lost count of how many islands he was on.

He said, "We furnished the ammo and the bombs and the gun repair. It  was a maintenance outfit was what it really was."

But, while Winn's outfit was furnishing ammunition to our troops, they were getting it back from the Japanese.

"Christmas Eve, 1943 there were 50 bombs that didn't go off on the island we were on," Winn said.

While hundreds of bombs did go off that Christmas Eve, one of the 500 pound duds landed only 8 feet from where Winn was sleeping. He describes the bombs as personnel bombs outfitted with a rod on the nose that would set the bomb off just before it hit the ground, maximizing damage to everything around it.

Winn said, "I served a year and three months in combat and then I returned to San Diego."

In San Diego, Winn was in charge of new aircraft commissions until the end of the war.

"I was glad to go, I mean I really was and if it happens again, I'll go again," he said.

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