World War II veteran turns 98

WBIR Anchor John Becker, left, and Dr. Hugh McCampbell, right, chat with World War II veteran Clinton Riddle at his 98th birthday party at Sweetwater City Hall on Friday. City Hall was packed with well wishers there to say happy birthday to one of the most distinguished veterans still living anywhere in the world.

Clinton Riddle of Sweetwater is regarded by many as a national treasure.

He is one of the few surviving D-Day Invasion veterans still living anywhere in the world and on Friday, the City of Sweetwater was joined by many others celebrating his 98th birthday at City Hall. The boardroom was packed as State Rep. Lowell Russell, R-Vonore, and Sweetwater Mayor Doyle Lowe honored Riddle.

When asked how we was able to survive all that he did during the war, Riddle told interviewers on Friday that it was simple.

“Bulldog determination,” he said.

Riddle said he was very thankful for all the people who came out on Friday to wish him well.

Slight in build, but large in heart and courage, Riddle and his story are well-known across the United States and even the world. He served in Company B 325th Glider Infantry of the 82nd Airborne Division during the war.

“We were not supposed to, but I kept a diary,” Riddle said of his time during the war in a Hometown Heroes interview with The Advocate & Democrat in 2017.

His diary and incredible memory provide some of the best information about World War II anywhere. Riddle wrote of his war experiences in an article published in 2008 in The Advocate & Democrat not long after he had returned from a flight to Washington, D.C, to see the World War II Monument many years after the war ended.

“As I sat by the window on the plane watching the countryside slip by, my mind went back to May 10, 1943, when our boat landed in North Africa,” Riddle wrote. “I served in French Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The weather was very hot out on the burning sand. I made the invasion of Sicily, the invasion of Italy, helped set up the first city government in Naples, crash landed in a British Horsa Glider in Normandy and fought for 33 days and nights without relief.”

Riddle served as the radioman when his glider crashed behind enemy lines at Normandy in June of 1944. The glider hit a treetop in a field lined with hedges and trees. The glider hit so hard it broke Riddle’s radio antennae, but he was able to fashion a new antennae and keep his men in contact.

Riddle also crash landed acting as co-pilot in an American CG4A Waco Gilder in Holland and survived the coldest winter in 20 years during the Battle of the Bulge from Dec. 17, 1944, to Feb. 18, 1945.

Riddle returned home from the war to raise a family and became a well-known minister in the community. He remains in demand as a speaker, not only in his own community but around the world as well.

On Friday, Riddle confirmed that he still plans to go to Europe in June for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. A bridge over Interstate 75 in Sweetwater will be officially named after him later this year.

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