Sergeant, 72, Army's oldest man, re-enlists (8-9-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (August 10, 1941)


White-haired, erect, he hopes for chance to 'poke Hitler in nose’

Selfridge Field, Mich. Aug. 9 (UP) –
Gnarled and oaken 72-year-old Sergeant John W. Westervelt, oldest man in the United States Army, today re-enlisted for the seventh time, hoping for a chance to:

…poke Hitler in the nose.

Hoary-haired but erect, Sergeant Westervelt re-enlisted as a supply sergeant at the Selfridge Air Corps Base after 24 hours of civilian life and approximately 20 minutes before he began a 15-day furlough. He was discharged yesterday from the Army which he had served continuously for 25 years.

The soft-spoken officer first entered the armed forces in 1899 at Newburgh, NY, 12 miles from West Point when he joined the National Guard. During his 17 years as a Guardsmen, he assisted as a master electrician at West Point.

Sergeant Westervelt said:

They wouldn’t let me fight in the Spanish-American War because of my lack of teeth. But they were glad to take me in the draft in the World War.

I didn’t get across and I was pretty mad about it. I’ve kinda outgrown the desire to go across mow, but I’d like to get a chance to poke Hitler in the nose.

Sergeant Westervelt refused to comment on the possibility of the United States’ entry into a “shooting” war.

He said:

But we’d be ready for anything. These new draftees are tougher and smarter than the ones in the last war. Men don’t grow beards anymore but they’re tough.


Hah! 72 and still fit for Sargent’s work??! May we all be so lucky.