SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — On Veterans Day, it is hard not to reflect on the fact that one particular group of service men and women is disappearing quickly.
Of the 16 million men and women who served in World War II, less than 400,000 are alive today according to the National World War II Museum.
One of them is Warren Upton, who turned 100 last month. He was aboard the USS Utah which was sunk by Japanese torpedoes.
“My only regret is that my old shipmates are gone, so many,” Upton said.
Out of the thousands of veterans who marched or attended in San Jose’s Veteran’s Day parade, Warren was believed to be the only one from World War II.
And with most WWII vets in their late 80s and 90s, they’re passing at the rate of hundreds a day.
“It’s imperative to keep their history alive,” said Susan Filice, of Stoneridge Creek, a Pleasanton retirement community that has compiled hundreds of veterans stories from its residents and is saving them in its community library.
“So the generations to come will know what they did in their service and to honor them and their families,” she said.
The community set up a special display in the clubhouse lobby with resident’s uniforms and photos from their
One resident veteran is Milton Feldman, who is 95 years old.
He was just out of high school when he was in the Battle of the Bulge and became a German prisoner of war.
“There were three Germans with rifles who captured us,” Feldman remembered.
97-year-old Margaret Crystal was in the WAVES (or Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service in the U.S. Naval Reserve) and taught instrument flight procedures to Navy pilots.
“If you don’t trust your instruments, you’re flying upside down,” Crystal said.
Every year there are fewer World War II vets to listen to. But every year, they never fail to inspire on Veterans Day.
When Warren Upton was asked his advice to the younger generation, he replied, “Stay with it! And above all, fight on!” he said.