Jet-setting WWII, Korean War veteran still traveling the world age 98
By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STIRPES Published: May 10, 2018
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Seventy-five years after Anthony Grant set off on his first overseas trip — to fight in Europe during World War II — he’s still traveling the world courtesy of Uncle Sam.
“As long as I have the strength and vitality I will have the desire to travel,” said Grant, 98, of Hampton, Va., while waiting for a military flight out of Yokota in western Tokyo last month.
The former soldier can hitch a free ride almost anywhere U.S. military planes fly. As a retired veteran he is entitled to the same “space available” travel on military flights as active-duty servicemembers.
Grant — who said he served in the Quartermaster Corps in Europe, fought in the Korean War and retired as a major in 1962 — got the travel bug in 2000 and has been a Space-A frequent flyer ever since.
“People say, ‘Join the military and see the world.’ I considered it a privilege of serving,” he said.
Britain, Germany, Japan and Korea are familiar to Grant from his time in uniform, but he’s seen plenty of other places on his Space-A jaunts.
“I’ve been to Ayers Rock, Australia, and Christchurch, New Zealand,” he said. “I’ve seen great cathedrals and monuments all over Europe and Asia.”
Last year, Grant went to Ramstein, Germany; Naples and Sigonella, Italy; and Malta, but he said his favorite European city is London.
In 1944, his quartermaster battalion supported the Eighth Air Force in Britain before heading across the English Channel to Normandy a month after the D-Day landings. The battalion followed Gen. George Patton’s Third Army all the way to Czechoslovakia before heading to Belgium and supporting the 82nd Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge.
Stars and Stripes interviewed Grant during one of his trips back to Belgium in 2016, when he rode along in a World War II-era jeep with marchers in the Ardennes Forest to mark the 71st anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. At a social hall after the march, he was treated like a star, with people lining up for his autograph.
After the war, Grant stayed on in Germany with occupying forces until 1947 working in Frankfurt, Nurnberg and Giessen before returning to the States. Five years later he deployed to Korea where he spent a year helping fight off communist invaders.
“I was at Busan when the armistice was signed,” he said, adding that he was stationed at Yokohama North Dock in Japan after the war.
On his latest trip, Grant boarded a flight out of McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., in early April and flew to Tokyo via Travis Air Force Base, Calif., and Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. From there, he hopped a military flight to Singapore and was planning to stop in Cambodia and Malaysia before coming home via Yokota.
Kurt Lang, 53, a former Marine Corps officer from Stevens Point, Wis., now working a civilian job at Yokota, struck up a conversation with Grant last month over coffee and was impressed by his service record and traveling skills.
“You see [Space-A travelers] with Vietnam veteran hats, but World War II and Korea is rare,” Lang said. “My wife is Korean so I wanted to thank him for his service there.”
The Air Mobility Command website has information for Space-A travelers along with a warning that they aren’t guaranteed seats and should have enough money to pay for transport, lodging and other expenses if there’s no room for them to fly. (Go to www.amc.af.mil and search for “space available.”)
Grant, whose wife of 70 years died in 2015, said part of the appeal of traveling on military flights is the camaraderie of meeting other veterans and today’s servicemembers.
“On all the military installations as a veteran I have received the utmost support and respect when I’m Space-A traveling,” he said.
Grant has flown in all kinds of military cargo planes and he said he’s always had a seat.
Today’s young servicemembers aren’t much different from the troops who fought in World War II.
“Soldiers haven’t changed,” he said. “The dedications and devotion to duty is definitely comparable through the all the wars and conflicts.”