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Senior Lifestyles

Senior profile: World War II vet recalls sharpshooting days


Photo By: Bruce Barton/Town Crier
Photo Bruce Barton/Town Crier Los Altos resident Norm Starks, 93, displays a photo of his military buddies from his World War II days as a flight instructor. His shooting aim was extraordinarily precise.

Norm Starks of Los Altos was such a talented sharpshooter during World War II, he didn’t see any action at all.

“Because I was so good, they kept me (here),” he said recently. “I couldn’t get out.”

Starks was flying P38, P40, P51 and P80 planes for the U.S. Army Air Force at a base in Sarasota, Fla. The Owensborough, Ky., native, drafted out of high school in 1942, said he chose the Air Force for no particular reason.

But his choice couldn’t have been more appropriate. No sooner did Starks learn to fly than he displayed a natural talent for accurate shooting. During one exercise, aiming at 6-foot-by-30-foot targets towed by other airplanes, Starks, flying at approximately 250 mph, hit his targets 186 times out of 200 shots. Given the conditions and the technology at the time, that result was considered extraordinary.

“Others averaged maybe 80 hits,” said Don Brayton, a friend of Starks’ who meets with him weekly for breakfast at Brian’s Restaurant at Rancho Shopping Center.

Before long, he was a full-time flight instructor, teaching pilots who had already seen action how to improve their aim.

After the war, Starks went back to school, graduating with a degree in engineering from Duke University. He worked for General Electric and Lockheed, which brought him to Silicon Valley.

Now 93, Starks just shrugs when recalling his experiences in the Air Force. Still, looking back on his life, he views his military work – training others for battle – as his best life achievement.

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