Marquette Post 305 has two living WWII veterans

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Orville Knapp

Jack Elliott

Marquette American Legion Post #305 has two living World War II veterans, Orville Knapp and John C. “Jack” Elliott.

 

Knapp enlisted in the U.S. Army on Sept. 26, 1942, at Camp Dodge. He got into the Army Air Corps because he wanted to fly.

 

He was the best shot at gunnery school and was assigned to the 100th Bomb Group, which was stationed at Royal Air Force Thorpe Abbotts Base in England. The 100th flew B-17 bombers. Knapp was supposed to be a top turret runner, but the operations officer didn’t think a guy with glasses could shoot, so he talked Knapp into flying as a waist gunner, and Knapp was assigned to the 351st squadron.

 

Knapp flew mostly weather missions, but a few combat missions, including bombing France on D-Day, just ahead of the landings. On March 6, 1944, illness kept Knapp from reporting for a Berlin bombing raid in which his plane was shot down. On that horrible and unforgettable day, Knapp survived and continued to serve until honorably discharged as a sergeant in 1945.

 

Among other distinctions, Knapp was awarded a Purple Heart after his plane sustained damage and crash landed a few miles short of the runway in 1943. He also received the Air Medal, Europe Theater of Operations Medal and World War II Victory Medal.

 

Knapp had four older brothers who served in the Army as well. All five brothers were in Europe at the same time, and each survived the war and returned home. 

 

Knapp now lives in Nogales, Ariz., across the street from his son, Orville Jr. He turned 100 on Oct. 15.

 

Elliott joined the Navy on March 16, 1943 and trained at Farragut, Idaho, before transferring to Shelton Navy Air Station in Washington. He served on the USS California starting in September 1943 and was assigned to the 10th Division. 

 

Elliott took part in getting the ship ready to sail in January 1944, as well as all the action the ship was in for the rest of the war, including a kamikaze hit. Among the battles he participated in were Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Leyte Gulf, Surigao Strait and Lingayen Gulf.

 

Elliott left the ship on Jan. 19, 1946, at Philadelphia, with the rank of S1/c. He currently lives in Marquette with wife Pat. He will turn 100 in June.

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