Los Altos resident Richard Abbott didn’t have much choice when it came to serving in World War II.
“My father was a Navy man,” said Abbott, 92. “It was either getting drafted or joining the Navy, so I joined the Navy.”
Abbott, who served between 1942 and 1945, was part of a contingent of World War II veterans who traveled over the weekend to Washington, D.C., courtesy of the Honor Flight Bay Area Foundation. The nonprofit Honor Flight organization raises money through sponsors for vets to take two-day, all-expenses-paid trips to the nation’s capital. During the trip, vets visit military memorials such as Arlington National Cemetery. Honor Flight’s mission is to honor, reunite and show gratitude to World War II vets for their service more than 70 years ago.
Abbott, who has lived in Los Altos since 1958, is a Long Beach native who worked on airplanes as a machinist mate second class in Natal, Brazil.
“The U.S. had run the Germans out of that area,” he recalled.
The South American port served as a base of operations for both the Army and Navy in the Atlantic Theater.
“There were planes taking off and landing 24/7,” said Abbott, describing the scene. As a mechanic, “you didn’t repair planes – you replaced them, used (the damaged planes) for spare parts.”
Although he stood ready to go, Abbott never saw combat.
“I was never in any danger,” he said. “My (experience) was pretty choice compared to what other guys went through.”
His fondest memory of World War II was meeting his late wife, Ruth.
“I became reacquainted with a family we had corresponded with,” he said of how he met his wife.
The two wed in 1944 and were married 68 years before Ruth’s death in 2013.
Like many World War II vets, Abbott saw his time in the service as simply doing his job.
“After I got out, I was proud (of serving),” he said. “I don’t like to look back. You can’t do anything about looking back.”
Although he trained and worked as a mechanic during the war, Abbott’s careers in his civilian life included banking and selling women’s shoes.
His younger brother Bill submitted Abbott’s application for Honor Flight last year, sending information about his brother’s experiences to the organization’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Abbott said he received word he was going just a few months ago.
Ross Frazee, a firefighter from San Mateo, is sponsoring Abbott’s trip. Frazee is accompanying Abbott and his brother.
“I’m very excited about it,” Abbott said. “They give us these shirts and these hats – they’re treating us first class.”
For more information, visit honorflightbayarea.org.