published : 2023-10-15

World War II Veteran, Former German POW, Turns 100: War 'Should be a Last Resort'

Wally King, Shot Down Over Germany in April 1945, Returns to Germany for 100th Birthday

A vintage photo of a young Wally King as a child, playing with model airplanes, taken with a Polaroid SX-70 camera.

A World War II veteran who was a prisoner of war in Germany during the last few weeks of the war will be celebrating his 100th birthday soon — and will be returning to Germany for the first time since the war.

Born in rural Ohio on Oct. 31, 1923, 1st Lt. Wallace 'Wally' King, 99, attended all 12 years of school in the same building and graduated in May 1941 with just 32 total students in his class.

Since he was a child, King wanted to fly airplanes. He idolized Charles Lindbergh and played with model airplanes. However, the Army Air Corps had strict requirements for pilots at the time, which King did not meet.

An aerial shot of a P-47 Thunderbolt airplane, similar to the one Wally King flew during World War II, taken with a DJI Mavic Air 2 drone.

About a year after high school graduation, the requirements changed and King applied for cadet training. He was accepted and began his journey towards becoming a pilot.

After going through various training programs, King became a second lieutenant and flew missions on the P-47 Thunderbolt airplane. On his 75th mission in April 1945, he was shot down and captured by the Germans.

Despite being a prisoner of war, King witnessed the war in Europe winding down as the Russians closed in on Berlin. He escaped with the help of a German doctor and other soldiers, eventually returning home to Ohio.

A black and white photo of Wally King in his military uniform, standing tall as a second lieutenant, taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV camera.

King continued his career after the war, became a CPA, and even flew civilian planes. Today, at 99 years old, he shares his experiences with younger generations, emphasizing the importance of avoiding war unless absolutely necessary.

Now, as he approaches his 100th birthday, King is preparing for a trip back to Germany with the Best Defense Foundation, an organization that provides unique experiences for veterans. It will be his first visit to Germany since the war, and he looks forward to seeing a different side of the country he once considered his captor.