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WWII veteran celebrates 100th birthday in Spokane

SPOKANE, Wash. - The year was 1943.

It was the middle of World War II and just one year after a Helena, MT man named George Peabody got his wings with the U.S Air Force. Peabody had been enlisted for three years already. He'd said said goodbye to his new bride Mildred as he went off to war, assigned to the 34th Bombardment Group. 

He was on a mission near North Africa when things got bad. 

"I heard this great big bang. The airplane started shaking and I couldn't read the instruments," Peabody said. 

Shrapnel had sliced an oil tank on the plane. "Then the prop came off" Peabody said. 

He knew he needed to head back toward the base, but that's when they came under fire from the enemy. He said they had three engines out as he flew across the Mediterranean. 

"And on started throwing oil too, so I shut it down," Peabody said. "The Major lead called in and said go ahead and ditch if you want to. I said, no. As long as it'll fly, I'll fly it," Peabody said. 

It wasn't easy, but Peabody was able to safely land the plane in a grain field. For his heroic action "courage, resourcefulness and unfailing devotion to duty,” Peabody was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

"It was a surprise to me," Peabody said. 

For 20 years and two months, Peabody served the United States with that humble attitude and dedication. At 100 years old, he still laughs about some of the shenanigans he and his buddies would get into. He has the kind of laugh that makes you laugh. Although his wife of more than 70 years and two children have already passed, it's easy to imagine they loved that laugh too. 

Even though you won't find Peabody in the cockpit these days, he's still smiling and he can still recite every plane he flew during his service. 

Basic training was in a BT-13, which was "a nice airplane to fly" according to Peabody. He remembered the B-47 he spent two years flying and the Piper he flew in North Africa. 

You can ask him all about the flights he took and he'd probably tell you about them, but if you ask him what his secret is to living to 100 years old. He'll laugh and say "I don't have one."

You can read more about Peabody's life by checking out the book written by Katrina D. Baxter called Peabody A True Story of a Young Man with a Passion for Flying.