DALLAS — John "Lucky" Luckadoo says he doesn't believe he deserves all the attention he got on Wednesday. But when you're a hero from WWII, the last survivor of your bombing group, and happen to be celebrating your 100th birthday, you decide a little celebration might be in order.
"It's a beautiful day. I thank God for every day. And particularly this one," Luckadoo said from Presbyterian Village North in North Dallas, where he has lived for the past 15 years.
"I feel great. Remarkably well. Thank God," he said, with a smile and his still razor sharp wit.
Luckadoo, aptly nicknamed "Lucky", is the last surviving member of the 100th Bomb Group in World War II, most often referred to as the Bloody 100th -- because so few airmen survived their bombing runs over Germany.
Luckadoo said he "retired" multiple B-17's that only held together long enough to get him back to the ground, once with his frostbitten feet frozen to the airplane pedals after another high-altitude mission.
"The bottom line is it doesn't matter how skilled you are or how well you perform your function, but that you're just extremely, incredibly lucky to survive," he said.
And for 50 years afterward, he said it was a part of his life he compartmentalized and refused to talk about.
"It was a period in my life that was not pleasant and I didn't want to remember it. I've tried to forget it, purposely," he said.
But everyone wanted to talk about Lucky's life on Wednesday. Presbyterian Village North held a birthday celebration attended by former Governor Rick Perry, Congressman Colin Allred and other dignitaries. Members of Luckadoo's family flew in from as far away as Australia.
But even on a celebratory day such as this, an old pilot turned his attention to places like Ukraine. He said it is a conflict he is following very closely, taking him back to wars he thought he'd already helped win.
"Shooting and killing each other does not prove a thing. Wars are futile. They are folly. There are no victors. There are only victims," he said.
On this 100th birthday, he does celebrate the pending release of his biography called "Damn Lucky", co-authored by New York times best-selling author Kevin Maurer. It chronicles his 25 missions during WWII on bombing runs where the average number of missions survived by U.S. air crews was only four.
"I am obliged to talk about it to remind future generations of the sacrifices that were made for the freedom they enjoy today," he said.
Freedom earned with the help of a young kid at the controls of a B-17 bomber, today still sharing the lessons of a life well-lived, 100 years and counting.
"And I thank you for celebrating it with me."
The City of Dallas also declared Wednesday John "Lucky" Luckadoo Day in Dallas.
Luckadoo's other mission continues. He is still campaigning to have May 9 declared "Home Front Heroes Day" in honor of the countless number of civilians, the Rosie Riveters of the world, who helped the U.S. win WWII. More information on that effort can be found here.