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100-year-old World War II veteran celebrates with Team Hanscom

  • Published
  • By Mark Wyatt
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Base officials welcomed a local 100-year-old veteran here today to acknowledge his military service as a navigator in the B-17 Flying Fortress during World War II.

Alfred Benjamin, who celebrated his centennial birthday March 31, served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps Eighth Air Force during 1944 and 1945.

“At 19, while navigating a B-17 over Europe, Mr. Benjamin and his young crewmates faced immense responsibility and danger,” said Col. Taona Enriquez, Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, installation commander. “As a navigator, he guided his crew of 10 through bombing missions, targeting crucial sites in Germany and beyond.”

From May 1942 to July 1945, the “Eighth” planned and precisely executed a daylight strategic bombing campaign against Nazi-occupied Europe, and in doing so, compiled an impressive war record.

The group earned a reputation as an accomplished warfighting unit. For this reason, Eighth Air Force, which remains active, is commonly known as the "Mighty Eighth."

Bejamin spoke about his time as the lead navigator and how it helped prepare him after the war.

“[Military] service changed my entire life. It gave me confidence, which translated to success after the war,” said Benjamin, who navigated 31 bombing runs over Western Europe and was once shot down over Belgium.

He earned the French Legion of Honor, five Air Medals, and the Purple Heart for his service during World War II.

Following the war, Benjamin met his future wife and also penned a poem recounting a pre-dawn bombing operation in 1944, titled, "In The Dark Of The Night," that he read to more than 40 Hanscom AFB personnel gathered to recognize him.

“Mr. Benjamin’s visit offers a connection to our history, providing Airmen a unique perspective on the lineage of courage and commitment that defines us all,” said Enriquez. “His stories not only honor our past, but highlight the path for our future, reminding us of the enduring spirit that shapes our Air Force.”

An advocate for community service, Benjamin remains active telling his story. On Memorial Day, he will share his experiences during an event in Canton, Mass. The public event is open to all.