William E. Massey, center, celebrates his 100th birthday at the Colonel Robert L. Howard State Veteran's Home in Pell City.

In a special ceremony held Monday, the Colonel Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home in Pell City, honored one of its own by celebrating the 100th birthday of WWII veteran, William E. Massey.

At the age of 21, Massey entered military service during WWII by enlisting in the U.S. Army on May 6, 1942. He later received an Army commission and served as a B-17 Bomber pilot at the rank of 1st Lt. with the Eighth Air Force, U.S. Army Air Forces, flying strategic bombing missions over Iraq, Iran and Syria as part of the Allied oil campaign that prevented petroleum supplies from reaching enemy forces.

On D-Day, June 6, 1944, Massey and his crew conducted multiple combat missions over Omaha Beach and Utah Beach that targeted bridges, preventing the Germans from reaching the beaches and combating the invasion.

Thirteen days after D-Day, Massey’s B-17 was shot down forcing him and his crew to bail out of their plane. Jumping free from the B-17, Massey was holding his parachute in his hands with the ground fast approaching. Slipping an arm into a strap of the chute, Massey managed to pull the ripcord and successfully deployed the chute about 3,000 feet from the ground.

Massey said, “a guardian angel pulled the cord.” Massey avoided capture and spent the remainder of the war with the French Underground.

Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Kent Davis presented Massey with a commendation from Gov. Kay Ivey, recognizing him for his bravery and noble service.

The state honor commended Massey on his 100th birthday for “rightfully earning his place on the roll call of America’s Greatest Generation.”

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