The Southern Oregon Honor Flight: Meet Al Axtell

Washington, D.C. —  25 veterans from all over the region went to Washington, DC in September to visit their war memorials. In part 4 of our special series, we’re introducing you to the oldest veteran along for the trip. He turned 100, just a few weeks before leaving.

“Very exciting experience, I’m delighted to be here,” World War II veteran, Al Axtell says.

Even at a hundred, Al Axtell is as sharp as he is spry.

“Feels just like the 99th [birthday],” Axtell laughs, “and the 75th.”

The World War II veteran served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. He trained all over Texas, and then trained other pilots in Louisiana. During the war, he put in for combat.

“I think everyone knows what that was like.”

In April of 1945, he got it.

“I remember the first time that I was flying with my own crew,” Axtell says, “and I looked up ahead of me and the sky was black with anti-aircraft missiles and I thought ‘this is my first mission and I’m never gonna go through with it, I’m gonna be shot down on my first mission’, but somehow or other we got through it.”

Flying out of Italy, Al would participate in missions in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia and Austria, as well as Germany, bombing their oil refineries and transportation facilities to deprive the enemy of gas. He had more than one close call.

“In front of me about 800 feet was an explosion, then 600 feet, then 400 feet, then 200 feet, and the next one would have blown me to hell and it never came.”

Even now, Al is humble about his role in the war. He was doing his part.

“When World War was declared everybody was involved. They trained 60,000 pilots. I was one of them. They had 16,000,000 in the services and I was one of them.”

One of the ones, willing to put their life on the line. So that his son Tom, and so many others, could be here enjoying something like this, 73 years later.

To donate to a future Honor Flight click HERE.

Executive Producer Kristin Hosfelt anchors NBC5 News weeknights at 5 and 6. Originally from the Bay Area, Kristin earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Broadcast Journalism from San Jose State University.

She came to KOBI-TV/NBC5 from Bangor, Maine where she was the evening news anchor. Kristin has won multiple journalism awards including Best Feature Reporting in the State of Maine. In 2017, her investigation on lead pipes in Medford’s water system was named Best News Series by the Oregon Association of Broadcasters.

When Kristin is not sharing the news, she’s traveling, hunting down the best burrito, or buried in a Jodi Picoult novel. She’s also a Green Bay Packers shareholder; if you see her out and about she’d be happy to tell you the story of how a California girl became a cheesehead.

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