Flying hopes dashed but Carson City veteran says he’s had full life
Editor’s note — World War II and Korean War veterans visited Pearl Harbor earlier this year as part of Honor Flight Nevada’s first trip to Hawaii. The end of World War II in both Europe and the Pacific ended 75 years ago this year.
Elmer Larsen missed serving overseas during World War II by months, but as a member of the “Greatest Generation,” the Carson City resident had that gut feeling that he still needed to serve his country.
“I was 18 years old, and I wanted to learn how to fly an airplane,” said the Wisconsin native, who’s lived in Carson City for almost two decades. “So I joined the U.S. Army Air Force. I was asked if I was willing to enlist for the next five years.”
With the war effort winding down and troops returning home, Larsen, who recently celebrated his 92nd birthday, said he couldn’t envision spending the next five years in the military without going to battle. He did, however, transition to the U.S. Air Force when it became its own military branch in 1947.
His dreams of flying, though, came to an end since the need for pilots dwindled.
“I stayed at Lackland Air Force Base (San Antonio) and served in a basic training command,” Larsen said, adding he also spent a tour in California.
During his three years of service, Larsen worked hard, studied diligently and worked his way up the promotion ladder, eventually becoming a staff sergeant. Larsen said he kept busy with record keeping, training and picking up Absent Without Leave service members.
When Larsen’s enlistment ended, he relocated to Sacramento, Calif., where he began work as an apprentice carpenter. He applied and was hired as a building inspector and then advanced to a chief building official before retiring after a 23-year career. With a solid background working with the city, Larsen became a self-employed building consultant who oversaw construction of the Raley’s baseball field and three stages of the Cache Creek Casino Resort construction northwest of Sacramento and near Woodland. The Cache Creek project became one of Larsen’s greatest joys.
“This casino consisted of a 1 million-gallon water tank, a four-story hotel, a three-story parking garage, and the casino was the size of three football fields with seven restaurants,” he added.
Larsen, by his own admission, kept busy as a full-time consultant.
“I solved over 200 cases for the Contractors License Board and was a full-time inspector on four large fire stations,” he said. “I worked for several attorneys as an expert witness.”
In addition to being a building consultant, Larsen used his expertise to teach two classes of contractor license law at Heald College and taught for 10 years a two-year carpentry apprentice program for the union.
Since he has moved to Nevada, Larsen has been active in the community as a member of the Kiwanis Club of Carson City and had a day proclaimed in his honor two years ago. In addition to his career and community involvement, Larsen is the father of six adult children, five of whom are 60 years of age and older.
“You could say I have had a pretty full life,” he said with a grin.
The whirlwind five-day trip to Pearl Harbor and other military-related sites on Oahu may be a distant memory now for Larsen. From the reception and send off at Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport to the tours of the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, the battleship USS Missouri, the USS Arizona Memorial, Larsen had a chance to remember a dark period in the country’s history.
“The movie we saw brought tears to my eyes,” he said of a documentary on the bombing of Pearly Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. “When the war started, I was a young boy. I heard the news on the radio that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. The movie brought everything out.”