WWII Vet Who Spent Two Years as Prisoner of War Turns 105

by Michael Freeman

Reaching 100 years of age is already an accomplishment, but a WWII veteran who spent two years as a prisoner of war is celebrating his 105th today.

Las Vegas veteran Lt. Vincent Shank turns 105-years-old today. Speaking to KNTV Las Vegas, Shank says he plans to celebrate with a big parade and some friends. He also said “it’s exciting. It makes me happy to see so many people turn out and make something out of it.”

Shank enlisted in the Army Air Corps, the forerunner to the Air Force, to become a pilot. Unfortunately, he didn’t quite make the cut. “Instead, they made a bombardier out of me,” Shank said. “That was a terrible disappointment in my life.”

The veteran joined the 348th Squadron of the 99th Bombardment Group, conducting flying missions across the Mediterranean Sea. On his 32nd mission on July 5, 1943, his orders were to soften targets in Sicily for an upcoming invasion. However, his B-17 plane encountered enemy fire and Shank had to abandon the craft and parachute to the ground.

Unfortunately, Shank landed in a tray of cookies in the middle of a Sicilian town. As he struggled to remove his parachute, a group of women assaulted him, spitting on him and pulling his hair. Shortly afterward, he was taken in by law enforcement, who stripped and interrogated him. Over the next two years, the rest of the war, he would be transferred across numerous prison camps in Europe.

Despite his hardships, Shank endured. KNTV asked what his secret to living so long was, to which he replied there isn’t one. “Everybody asks what’s your secret and there isn’t any secret! Just keep walking. You have to walk… the more you walk the longer you live.”

WWII Paratrooper Jumps Out of a Plane to Celebrate 100th Birthday

Vincent Shank isn’t the only WWII veteran celebrating a monumental birthday as of late. In fact, another decided to celebrate his 100th birthday by jumping out of a plane last month.

Tom Rice was a WWII paratrooper who decided to take another leap on August 15. Besides acknowledging the huge life milestone, Rice says there was another reason for it. “This jump is in honor of all the fellows who, for the most part, never got to go home. It’s an acknowledgment that they exist vicariously in our minds.”

Being one of the only living members of the 101st Airborne Division who served in WWII isn’t something Rice has forgotten. “I’m carrying the weight of the entire division on my shoulders.”

Furthermore, Rice stated he wanted to jump simply to prove he could. Landing safely on the beach near the Hotel del Coronado in California, he was greeted by his wife and four of his children.