Douglas Scott was known as a card in World War II, which he acknowledged may be why he entered and exited the Army as a private first class.
Now 91, the Spanaway veteran is still a merry jokester. A husband for 66 years, a father of eight children and a man who just finished working his 29th Puyallup Fair, he always seems to have a glint in his eyes.
Absolutely devoted to wife Elizabeth, he tells the story of how they found each other again after the war.
“We were friends when I was 9 and she was 11, but then my family moved and I went to war,” he said. “When I came home in ’46, her aunt asked if I would like a roast dinner. A roast dinner? I was in.
“When I got there, there were two cans of Spam — and Elizabeth.”
He and Elizabeth today live next door to their daughter Christine. Scott calls her “Christina.”
No, his mind and memory are sound. Scott simply likes to tease.
Elizabeth can’t remember her husband ever talking much about the war, even when they twice toured Europe together and visited places he’d been.
“I hit the beaches on D-Day,” he said. “I was in the infantry, then an engineer. I was among the first Americans to meet the Russians.”
The memories have always been there. Scott rarely has chosen to share them. Until recently.
Another of his daughters, Sherry, contacted Honor Flight Network, a group based in Columbus, Ohio, that flies vets and one family member to visit the Washington, D.C., World War II Memorial that opened in 2004.
Scott was chosen to fly to D.C. on Oct. 4. He will take his son Steven.
“When they contacted us, they asked if we’d need a wheelchair,” Scott said. “I told them, ‘No, my son walks just fine.’”
He worked every day the fair was open this year, running a trash compactor.
“It made it easy for all my friends to find me,” Scott said. “I told them all just to look for where the most trash was.”
A former truck driver, Scott is an old-school veteran — the kind who won a Bronze Star, declined the Purple Heart he was qualified to receive, and doesn’t talk about either.
“The heroes are still over there,” he said.
On D-Day, he had three friends — two brothers and their uncle — who were scheduled to go ashore in two landing crafts. At their request, Scott traded with the uncle so all three could be together.
“Their craft didn’t make it,” Scott said, his eyes tearing up.
Scott almost didn’t make it, either.
“We were told the water would be shallow when we hit the beaches, but it wasn’t, and with all the ammo and gear we were carrying, a lot of guys went right to the bottom and drowned,” he said. “I used a knife and cut away my extra gear and got ashore.”
Months later, when Scott was trying to put down a quick bridge at a river crossing, German shelling burst nearby and knocked him and others unconscious.
“I wasn’t out long. When I came to, a lot of the men around me well, I don’t want to talk about that,” he said. “I wasn’t really hurt that badly.”
“The only reason I was willing to talk about all this now is that I hope to reach a lot more GIs in this area, get them in the program and to the memorial in D.C.”
The Honor Flight chairman, James McLaughlin, said Veterans Administration data shows 1.2 million World War II veterans remain alive today.
“We began in 2005 and since then we’ve probably flown between 100,000 and 110,000 heroes to see the memorial,” McLaughlin said. “When we were founded, we discovered many veterans didn’t have the time or resources to travel to see it, and it is their memorial.
“We have a hub in Seattle, and veterans can go online and fill out an application. The wait is usually a year, sometimes two.”
Scott doesn’t know how visiting the memorial will impact him. In Europe, he said, he found himself unable to visit cemeteries.
“I hope it honors those who didn’t come home,” he said. “There were so many who gave all, it’s hard to imagine today.”
Honor Flight Network
What: Flies World War II vets to Washington, D.C.,
When: The travel is usually in October, and flights are arranged on first-come, first-serve basis. Terminally ill vets are moved to the top of the list.
More information: The Puget Sound hub is online at pugetsoundhonor flight.org. It has instructions on how to apply for a trip or donate to the cause.Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638 email@example.com