Leona Vet Honored for Heroic Actions that Helped End World War II

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It was the deadliest war the world had ever seen. Fighting raged in many parts of the world during World War II. With more than 50 nations involved, it resulted in more than 38 million deaths and the outcome changed the world forever. A Leon County veteran fighter pilot whose involvement played a critical role in the demise of World War II shares his story from the sky.

"I flew 30 some-odd different planes in the navy," said World War II veteran and Leona native, Foster Thompson.

His name is Foster Thompson; but if you ask any of his brothers who served alongside him overseas, they will tell you this 2nd Lt. Fighter pilot is more affectionately called: "Topaz" Thompson.

"We called ourselves the Flying Deuces,” Thompson added. "Topaz was my code name. There were two Thompson's in the squadron; and in the Solomon Islands, they hung Topaz down on me and I was known as "Topaz" the rest of my life. "

“Topaz” Thompson is 90-years-old. He says he's one of two in his squadron who are still alive today.

“The rest have passed on,” added Thompson.

The many extraordinary encounters that took place in the sky during World War II, he says, are fresh in his mind.

"I remember it like it was yesterday,” he said. “I started out in the Solomon islands in the South Pacific. We flew our own airplanes up to the Philippines. Fought the battle of the Philippines, and then went and fought the battle in Okinawa.”

It was 1942 and his second year in college when Thompson decided to follow in his big brother's footsteps and become a pilot. One year and one week later; Thompson officially earned his wings.

"I went to Jacksonville, Florida to the naval air station and jumped out of that airplane and it was the biggest jump of my life," said Thompson. "Boy, was that something! {laughs} "

Two years later Thompson received orders in the Pacific.

"I was lucky enough to be airborne at the time the last armada of zeros came down carrying thousand pound bombs,” said Thompson.

During his seven year career in the United States Marine Corps, Thompson was honored with a number of medals, including two DSC's, which happen to be the nation's most distinguished military honors. Although incredibly modest, the honor he's most proud of took place during World War II, on June 22, 1945.

"I shot down the last zero that ended the war,” said Thompson.

His heroic actions inside his fighter plane changed the world.

"I was just doing my job,” he said.

After World War II, Thompson was recalled to action for the Korean War.

And when asked if he would do it all over again, Thompson says: "In a cotton picken' minute! (laughs), you bet I’d do it all over again."

Thompson eventually took over his family ranch and cotton farm after serving seven years overseas.