John Luckadoo recently celebrated his 100th birthday, and though he didn’t feel like he deserved a big birthday celebration, those around him wanted to shower the modest man nicknamed “Lucky” for all he’s done since serving in World War II.
“I feel great. Remarkably well. Thank God,” he said.
Luckadoo, who currently lives in North Dallas, Texas, began his military career when he was just 21 years old.
He was assigned to a heavy bomber group and received just a few months of training before being sent overseas to fight in the war.
“Of the 40 men from my flying class that went to the 100th Bomb Group, only four of us managed to complete a tour. That gives you an idea of how inadequately trained we were and how unlikely it was that we were going to survive,” he told the Military Times in 2019.
In total he flew 25 combat missions as a B-17 pilot. His last mission was on February 13, 1944.
“The bottom line is it doesn’t matter how skilled you are or how well you perform your function, but that you’re just extremely, incredibly lucky to survive,” he said.
When he returned home to Tennessee after his tour of duty, he was at Sunday mass with his parents when the pastor called on him and asked him to describe the war.
“Pastor, with all due respect,” he said, “I think the reason we served was to keep you from having to know what it was like.”
And that was the last time Luckadoo spoke about the war. He kept his thoughts and feelings bottled up for 50 years.
“It was a period in my life that was not pleasant and I didn’t want to remember it. I’ve tried to forget it, purposely,” he said.
It wasn’t until recently that he opened up about his experiences.
He speaks with middle and high school students about what he and other soldiers went through during the war, and his book “Damn Lucky,” by war correspondent Kevin Maurer will be released in April.
“I am obliged to talk about it to remind future generations of the sacrifices that were made for the freedom they enjoy today,” the 100-year-old said.
Friends, family members, and dignitaries gathered March 16 to celebrate his milestone birthday.
While he was being honored for his accomplishments, Luckadoo continues his campaign to honor the home front heroes who also helped during the war.
When asked what has kept him going all these years, Luckadoo responded it was something his wife would always say.
“My dear wife whom I lost five years ago would always say something that stuck with me: ‘Live high, love hard, die young and leave a beautiful memory.’”
Happy birthday, Lucky! Thank you for your service and all you continue to do! May you have many more years ahead of you.
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