Warren Wheeler is a World War 2 veteran living in Idaho Falls. He enlisted in the Navy in 1941 and will turn 101 years old on Monday.
“He was raised in the Ririe-Shelton area, which was totally different,” said his granddaughter, Donna Howard.
“He can tell you a lot about what this town looked like years ago,” said his daughter, Christina Pearce.
There aren’t that many WWII veterans left. 16 million Americans served in the 1939 war. More than 500,000 are still alive today, and warren is one of the less than 4,000 that are in Idaho.
“Well, you know, you go to school and you read about it in history books. But when you actually talk to someone who participated, it becomes a real event,” said Howard.
Wheeler enlisted in the Navy in 1941 when he was 25. He made the decision to enlist because he wanted the chance to choose where he wanted to be stationed.
“Take your pick,” said Wheeler.
“It gives you an attachment to what really happened, because I know that they sent out gunfire from his ship and received gunfire,” said Howard.
“The three ships he was on before that — they all got sunk. Thank goodness he wasn’t on it, but its interesting to hear all the stories,” said Pearce.
As a radio operator on several ships, he trained in San Diego, CA and traveled to Cuba, Haiti, and New Caledonia. At one point saved his ship.
“So then I started watching both sides,” Wheeler described.
Warren served two and a half years in WWII. He told KIFI/KIDK about times of parties and traveling, getting his appendices and tonsils removed, and about the pretty nurses he encountered. His life is full of memories, laughter and proud moments. When Pearce was asked if living long runs in the family, she said Wheeler is just a blessed man.
“Because all of his brothers had Alzheimer’s. He’s the only in the family that doesn’t,” Pearce said.
“He has a hard time remembering and thinking of the words that he is trying to say, but his memories are vivid. He’s just harder to understand now than he was before.”
“Because he’s getting older,” said Pearce. “But he doesn’t have any forgetfulness as far as anything that’s happened to him in the past,” said Howard.
After his service, Wheeler worked on a few farms, became an avid fisherman and worked for the city of Idaho Falls for a number of years. He retired from the city in 1982.