World War II veteran reflects on his career as a pilot

Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 3:43 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - At 98-years-old, Howard Ziemer is able to recall just about every detail from the day he enlisted on November 13, 1941, just a few weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“They cut our boot training down to about six weeks instead of three months, and then late December I was off to Navy Pier in Chicago, Illinois to aviation machine school for six months,” Ziemer said.

Ziemer was 18 when he enlisted.

“I got my wings as a first class Petty Officer in 1947. I flew for 20 years,” Ziemer said.

His passion for flying has been a lifetime love affair.

“Having the freedom of being in the air and doing what I could do with the aircraft, and I especially enjoyed flying helicopters, that was a lot of fun,” Ziemer said. “I flew everything. I started with biplanes, and I flew, amphibious, PBY Catalina, which was famous in World War II, and I flew four-engine transports.”

Ziemer’s passion for service extends beyond his own 98 years. His great uncle was a Civil War veteran.

“He joined the Civil War when he was 12 years old. He enlisted when he was 12 years old, and he served a little over a year and a half in the army,” Ziemer said.

While serving his country, Ziemer met someone who would make the biggest mark on his life for 63 years: His wife Helen.

Ziemer is incredibly sharp. He credits that to this routine and positive attitude.

“I keep myself busy. I keep myself physically fit. I walk a fair amount around the building, outside or inside,” Ziemer said. “I’ve tried to stay upbeat as much as I possibly can.”

Ziemer says one of the high points of his experience as a pilot was spending a year and a half flying from Midway Island.

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