World War II veteran turns 100 in Carson City

CARSON CITY, Nev. (KOLO) Born February 9, 1918, just nine months before World War I ended, Merle Larson has seen his fair share of history. In fact, it was history that inspired him to follow a path into aviation.

"[Charles] Lindbergh flew across the ocean in 1927 and America became aero-minded overnight," Larson said. "All the boys all over the country started building airplanes."

Larson was nine at the time and no exception. The historic Lindbergh flight inspired Larson's love of planes. By the late 1930s, he was building his own and learning how to fly. But it was another historic moment that changed his life completely. When America entered into World War II in 1941, Larson was drafted as a mechanic. He served in that position for about a year before his aviation experience paid off.

"I ended up flying B24s, which is a big airplane," he said.

By age 25, Larson was in combat; a bomber pilot flying in the European Theatre.

"It was dramatic," he said. "It was the kind of things you go to the movies to see...and I lived it. Each mission, you went in with the idea that you might not come back."

Larson was a skilled pilot, something he credits his to his training as a teenager. That training came in handy during several near misses.

"One day we were flying in formation," he said. "On this particular day one throttle surged and we did a snap roll, and actually became inverted. We lost 2,000 feet. That could make plenty of time for a man to become converted to God. We got back in formation and we bombed right along like nothing happened."

Larson served four years in the military, and was overseas on V-E Day. After the war, Larson continued his love of aviation; building planes and flying as a stuntman. His signature stunt was stopping the engine of his prop plane in mid-air, then climbing out of the plane and hand cranking the propeller. The stunt fascinated people, but Larson has a secret.

"There's a pilot that you can't see," he said. "This is a very safe, actually you can't fall. I've got one leg hooked in there."

Larson did many things in his life, and his home in Carson City is filled with memories from the major moments in his life. But at 100 years old, he has he has everything he needs- except one thing.

"It would be nice to have a girlfriend!," he joked.

His is Carson City's newest centenarian. With age comes wisdom, and he has some advice for the younger generations.

"Keep living," he said. "It's a difficult world. Just try to live a good life."