Alaska Life

‘A life of service’: This 102-year-old veteran and former Anchorage resident served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — At the far northern edge of Sacramento, there is a community of some of the nation’s oldest veterans. Their experience in war spans nearly 50 years, from the islands of the Pacific to the tense years leading up to the fall of the Soviet Union.

Their neighborhood, Heritage Park in North Natomas, is home to at least two World War II veterans, a few Korean War veterans and dozens of Vietnam and Cold War veterans.

One of the residents is Nathan Allen Jr., 102, one of the oldest World War II veterans still living in the United States and among only a few who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. As the nation commemorates Veterans Day, he is part of a shrinking generation: There are just 25,000 World War II veterans left in California and 240,000 nationwide.

A quiet man, Allen was drafted into the Army in 1944. He trained as a fireman and was initially sent to Germany, his daughter Nathalia Chevalier said.

“By the time we got our trucks unloaded, the war was over,” he said when asked about his service in 2016.

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Allen was then transferred to the Pacific, where we served until the end of the war. When he was discharged in 1945, he returned to his job as a bakery delivery driver, but after three days he walked back to the recruiting office and reenlisted, his son-in-law, Paul Chevalier said.

He served as a staff sergeant during the Korean War and became one of the first Black officers to lead White soldiers, serving three tours in Korea. He continued his service after the war ended, moving up the ranks to become a master sergeant and fire chief.

He later served in Vietnam along with his son-in-law.

“When an aircraft went down, he had to go in,” Paul Chevalier said.

Allen retired from the military after 27 years, finishing his military and fire service career in Anchorage. He moved to Sacramento to be near his family.

“He had a life of service,” Nathalia Chevalier said of her father.