102-year-old veteran looks back on his service in WWII

Updated: May. 22, 2019 at 11:15 PM CDT
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - Robert H. Duckworth has always been good at fixing things. During World War II, he was very busy working to keep the war effort humming at home, and overseas.

Duckworth, now 102 years old, was a mechanic with the U.S. Army who kept the machines that powered the war running.

"I had no idea I would be a mechanic all my life," Duckworth said.

Duckworth grew up in New Madrid County, but moved to Michigan as a young man to find work. He was 27 years old when he was deployed overseas. However, even prior to his being drafted, he was working in support of the war effort.

U.S. Army Mechanic Robert H. Duckworth was deployed to Clark Field, Philippines during WWII.
U.S. Army Mechanic Robert H. Duckworth was deployed to Clark Field, Philippines during WWII.

"I went to Michigan, I was in Pontiac, and that's where a lot of war work was done," said Duckworth. "That's where I worked and got credit for it overseas. I didn't know that was what was holding me out. A lot of soldiers were already over there. I went over the last year of World War II, in January."

Duckworth was sent to the Pacific, but before he left, he made his wife a promise. "I told my wife when I left - I'll be back," said Duckworth.

Duckworth said he had every intention of keeping that promise; even as he headed into a war zone in Manila, Philippines.

"I was at Clark Field, and I was a mechanic," said Duckworth. "I took care of the vehicles and their trucks and small equipment -- kept them operating."

Duckworth said his duties largely kept him on the base, which kept him away from conflict.

"I didn't see no combat," said Duckworth. "There was some pretty rough times there, but I was in a different part of the base from where the combat was at... Not that I wasn't afraid of getting hurt. I was. I went to bed every night wishing I was home."

When Duckworth did return home, he and his wife moved back to the Heartland and built a life together in Sikeston, Missouri. From 1950 until 2014, that’s where Duckworth stayed.

For many of those years, he served his state just as he'd served his country: working as a mechanic for the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Nowadays, Duckworth calls the Missouri Veterans Home in Cape Girardeau his home and looks back on his time in the service with pride.

“Something I’m happy about,” said Duckworth. “I done served my country, come home safe... God just looked over me; let me come home. That’s what I think about that.”

Duckworth earned the World War II Victory Medal, an Asiatic Pacific Theater Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, Philippine Independent Ribbon, and the Army Occupation Medal.

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