‘I was extremely lucky’: 100-year-old WWII veteran shares secret to long life
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - A WWII veteran who just celebrated his 100th birthday says moderation and luck is the key to living a long life.
His book of pictures and clippings is big and old and full of stories of dangerous journeys flying over far away countries. He loved to fly, and he thinks he was probably scared.
"But most of the time I was so busy that I didn’t have time to think about much besides navigating," he shared.
Navigating is what made Kenneth Beckman the youngest major in the 8th Air Force in 1943. He was 22 then. Sunday he turned 100. One would think he did something right.
"No, I did everything wrong," Beckman laughed. "I was supposed to get eight hours sleep, I get five. I still only eat one meal a day."
He admits to moderation.
"I’m limited to only one high ball a night," he chuckled.
Kenneth Beckman was the the youngest major in the 8th Air Force in 1943.
To celebrate surviving is nothing new for Beckman. Sadly, many of the boys who flew over Europe never lived to the age of 30. They were shot down.
"We lost more people in the 8th Air Force than the entire Marines did in the Pacific," says Beckman. Twenty-six thousand airmen died over Europe during WWII.
READ: WWII veteran marks 100th birthday with celebration of patriotism, sacrifice
Beckman flew 48 combat missions in B-17’s. His planes were hit by flack and he remembers a close call when his bomber caught fire.
"I had my feet hanging out of the escape hatch and was just about ready to go," he said.
Type of plane Kenneth Beckman flew during his WWII days.
The pilot said count to five and jump.
"I was at four and my co-pilot said, ‘Hold it everybody. The fire’s out!’"
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If you ask him how he survived, he’ll tell you.
"I was extremely lucky," he stated.
Kenneth Beckman looks over old photos with FOX 13's Lloyd Sowers.
But this navigator often had something more. He had the German gun positions.
"I could put them on my chart and then I could fly around them," he explained.
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Using intelligence information to make the best charts, Beckman would lead up to 100 B-17’s around the enemy guns. He could see the success below as the bombs hit their target.
The Air Force made Colonel Kenneth Beckman its chief navigator. He retired after 30 years of service in 1972.
100-year-old Kenneth Beckman next to an image of him from WWII.
No doubt, luck was part of it.
"I never worried about it. I never thought really anything about it. I was just doing what I was born to do," Beckman shared.
Born one hundred years ago, his big book shows the good luck and good navigation that helped win the war.
After retiring from the Air Force, Beckman put in many years of service with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
He lives in St. Petersburg with his wife Connie.