ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The world has changed remarkably since John Patton was born in March 1923. But the World War II veteran has a simple formula that’s lasted him 100 years (and counting).
“Just live day to day and do the best you can,” Patton said.
For Patton, that day-to-day life included more than 20 years serving in the United States Navy and another 17 in the U.S. federal civil service.
He was awarded six Bronze Stars during World War II while serving on board the U.S.S. Saratoga and U.S.S. Enterprise and fighting in the Battle of Midway, the Battle of the Eastern Solomons and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands.
Riding in style!— Brianna Andrews (@BriannaDAndrews) April 4, 2023
World War II Vet John L. Patton just arrived to the @StJohnsCounty Administration Building.
He’s celebrating his 100th birthday today!! I’ll have more coverage on his incredible legacy on @wjxt4 pic.twitter.com/A4TzlHixjM
To celebrate his heroism and his century of life, St. Johns County leaders and state representatives held a ceremony Tuesday and Patton arrived in style, riding in a classic WW II Jeep driven by retired Army Col. Alfred Pantano.
“I haven’t rode in a jeep in probably 50 years,” Patton said with a laugh.
He was touched by those who showed up Tuesday to honor his service and his long life.
“I appreciate it. I really do,” he said.
Patton met his wife, Margaret, while stationed with the Navy in Pensacola. They married in 1945 and had two sons.
He started a little league sports association in the Cedar Hills-area of Jacksonville in the early 1960s, and in 1971, he started heading up the pit crew for his sons’ motocross racing team.
According to a biography provided by St. Johns County, Patton used the skills he learned as a Navy airplane mechanic to modify engine parts to be more reliable and improve performance, and Yamaha later incorporated his modifications in future designs.
Patton and his wife have lived on the river in the Orangedale area of St. Johns County for 58 years.
John L. Patton – Timeline of Service
- March 23, 1923: Born on a farm in the village of Valier, Illinois.
- December 1940: Joined CCC Camp in Mount Vernon, Illinois.
- May 21, 1941: Joined the Navy for active duty doing boot camp AMM school in San Diego, California. Assigned to the VT3-Torpedo Squadron aboard the U.S.S. Saratoga leaving for Pearl Harbor.
- Dec. 15, 1941: Arrived in Pearl Harbor. He said Ford Island “looked and felt like hell.”
- Jan. 11, 1942: U.S.S. Saratoga left Pearl Harbor to join the U.S.S. Enterprise where they were torpedoed and returned to Pearl Harbor for repairs.
- June 1942: U.S.S. Saratoga was back in action at the Battle of Midway where they lost all but three of its planes.
- August 1942: U.S.S. Saratoga was torpedoed again and his squadron went aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise.
- Aug. 24, 1942: On the U.S.S. Enterprise, they entered the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, where they took three direct hits that killed 77 fellow crewmen and wounded 91. They returned to Pearl Harbor for repairs.
- October 1942: Back in action at the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, the U.S.S. Enterprise took two hits killing 44 crewmen with more than 70 wounded.
- April 1943: After receiving six Bronze Stars during World War II, John was reassigned to the states. He served as an instructor for the rest of his Navy career in Newfoundland, Kansas, Indiana, Honolulu, Virginia, Tennessee, and Florida.
- July 7, 1961: Retired from the Navy while stationed at NAS Jacksonville.
- Sept. 25, 1961: Hired into U.S. federal civil service as “O&R” (overhaul and repair) planner and estimator.
- April 30, 1978: Retired from U.S. federal civil service.
Total Federal Service Time: 36 years, 8 months, 4 days