Air Force veteran celebrates becoming a centenarian |

Air Force veteran celebrates becoming a centenarian

David C. Henley
LVN Publisher Emeritus
Retired USAF Brig. Gen. James O. Lindberg, who just turned 100 years old, stands on the front porch of his 110-year-old beach house in Southern California.
Photo by Dave T. Henley

James O. Lindberg, a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general whose 30-year military career includes duty tours at three USAF bases in Nevada, has just celebrated an important birthday.

He turned 100 years old.

What does Lindberg, who was born in Pasadena, California, on May 23, 1918, and has lived during the administrations of 18, or 40 percent of the nation’s 45 presidents, attribute to his longevity?

“I guess my long life can partially relate to my good genes. Many in my family lived into their 80s and 90s. And I still exercise every day by taking walks, although I must use a cane or walker because I have trouble with my legs and balance. And I eat wholesome food served in moderate portions and kept working into my mid-90s.

“Oh, yes, I also drink two glasses of vodka with my dinner every day,” added Lindberg, a USAF command pilot who flew nearly a score of military aircraft types ranging from tiny trainers to K-135 aerial refueling tankers and served at approximately 15 bases in the United States, Asia, Europe and South America.

“I flew out of the air bases at Stead in Reno, Tonopah and Nellis in Las Vegas beginning in the 1940s. I loved flying over the deserts in Nevada. Most of my Nevada assignments consisted of pilot training and gunnery practice,” said Lindberg, who became an Army Air Corps cadet pilot while a student at USC.

Following graduation, he won his pilot’s wings, a commission as a second lieutenant and married Jane Berry, his Pasadena High School sweetheart. Jane died at the age of 44 in 1963 after a long illness.

“We had been married for 22 wonderful years when she passed away,” said Lindberg, the father of a daughter, Elizabeth, a retired Hollywood movie and television director, and a son, Jamie, a Marine Corps combat pilot during the Vietnam War who went on to become a captain with American Airlines.

The general also is the grandfather of two and great-grandfather of six.

Lindberg, who under USAF sponsorship received a master’s degree in business management from the University of Pittsburgh, cites tours in Columbia and South Vietnam as particularly challenging.

In 1946, he was assigned duty in Columbia, where he helped train that nation’s military pilots and piloted USAF aircraft over towering peaks to assist the Columbian Air Force map a proposed railroad route between Cartagena and Bogota, the country’s capital. “The Columbian government later scrapped the entire project, stating it was not feasible to build the line through mostly uninhabited jungles and over high mountains,” he stated.

While on an 18-month assignment in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War, he was promoted to chief of procurement and director of logistics responsible for administering all the USAF, Army, Navy and Marine Corps commissaries and post exchanges in that nation.

“My office and living quarters were in Cholon, a suburb of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), which were located at a former movie theater ringed with barbed wire and heavily guarded. We often heard gunfire and explosions coming from nearby combat between the forces of our ally, South Vietnam, and the communist Viet Cong and North Vietnam Army.

“I visited most of the U.S. military stores and exchanges in South Vietnam, and had to reach many of them by Army helicopter, which was dangerous because of enemy ground fire directed at my helos. I also had to face another problem, that of the thievery by many of our local Vietnamese employees who were stealing anything they could get their hands on from our post exchanges across the country and from the supply ships that brought the goods into the South Vietnamese ports. They stole watches, food, clothing, anything they could sell on the black market. I was able to put a stop to much of the stealing, but certainly not all of it,” he said.

Promoted to brigadier general in 1966, Lindberg served as USAF director of procurement policy and deputy chief of staff for Systems and Logistics at Air Force headquarters in Washington, D.C., from 1967 until his military requirement in 1970.

His decorations include the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Joint Services and Air Force commendation medals. Following his retirement, he moved to Orange County, Calif., where he served for many years as vice president for public affairs for Dart Industries, executive vice president of the California Republican Party, foreman of the Grand Jury, chairman of the Fair Board and sold real estate until retiring, “forever, when I was 93,” the general said.

“I’ve worked hard all my life. I didn’t want to become a couch potato when I reached old age. But when I reached 95 or so, I had to quit my daily swims in the Pacific. And my daily walks have become a bit shorter,” said Lindberg, who lives with his daughter, Liz, in a 110-year-old beach house.

“Wow! My house is even older than I am!” he exclaimed with gusto.

David C. Henley is publisher emeritus of the Lahontan Valley News and Fallon Eagle-Standard.