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World War II vet turns 100 -- a week after Veterans Day

  • Published
  • Air Force Reserve Command Public Affairs

This year’s Veterans Day will hold a special meaning for one World War II vet and former navigator and intelligence officer who also served in the Air Force Reserve.

Jed Woolley will celebrate his 100th birthday on Nov. 18, just a week after the nation honors all of those who have served in the military on Veterans Day. According to the National World War II Museum, fewer than 1% of the 16.1 million Americans who served in World War II are still alive today.

Thankfully, there are still people like this gentleman around to tell the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world forever.

Woolley was born in Ogden, Utah, on Nov. 18, 1923. As the United States was being pulled into the war, he paused his academic career at Weber College and volunteered for the draft in order to join the Aviation Cadet program. 

After basic training at Camp Kearns, Utah, in May of 1943, he went to navigator training in Texas and earned the rank of second lieutenant in the Army Air Forces. In April 1944, he and his crew completed B-24 training at Westover Field, Massachusetts, and flew a new B-24 over to Europe. Jed flew 35 combat missions over Germany.

After the war ended, Woolley returned to Ogden and finished his studies at Weber College on the GI Bill. He continued to serve in the Air Force Reserve during that time while he studied aeronautical engineering. He met his wife-to-be, Betty, and got married before returning to active duty in 1949, serving as a B-29 navigator at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana.

His crew deployed to England as the Korean War broke out.

After his deployment, he was accepted for a program through the Air Force Institute of Technology to earn his Masters in Aeronautical Engineering degree in 1954. He later reported to Holloman AFB, New Mexico, where he was the chief of the Balloon Branch.

Although short-lived, one of Woolley’s more memorable assignments was as an exchange officer with the Royal Canadian Air Force in Ottawa, working in the intelligence career field.

During this assignment, he was hand-selected to go to France on a Department of Defense team to look at various equipment being developed by the French that could be incorporated into NATO.

While working in the intelligence career field at Andrews AFB, Maryland, during the early 1960s, he worked closely with the Air Staff at the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and other intelligence organizations. He briefed daily one-on-one intel updates to Gen. Bernard Schriever, the commander of Air Force Systems Command.

Woolley said one of the busiest times of his military career was during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, when he was analyzing classified information as it was coming in around the clock.

In 1964, he was accepted into the Education with Industry program through the Air Force Institute of Technology, where he joined Lockheed for a one-year assignment learning about how the defense contractor developed its systems and prototypes for the Department of Defense.

In 1965, he returned to the national capital region to work at the Defense Intelligence Agency for the next three years. In 1968, he reported to Norton AFB, California, to work with the Ballistic Missile Reentry Program and then went on to Los Angeles AFB to work in the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Office.

He retired as a lieutenant colonel Jan. 1, 1970, and returned to Utah. He now lives in Colorado.

Editor’s note: Col. Gregory Kuzma, Acting Technical Director, Deputy to the Commanding General - Support (S4) at Headquarters Space Operations Command, assisted with compiling this story.