More than 70 years ago, World War II veteran Nick Heurta fought in the South Pacific. On his 91st birthday, Huerta was honored at the Palm Springs Air Museum where he was brought face to face with the same model airplane he used to serve his country.
Navy Seaman First Class Huerta was a tail gunner, also known as a “tail-end Charlie.” During the second World War, Huerta flew on the back of an Avenger Torpedo Bomber.
“Oh yeah. Lot of memories,” Huerta said as he looked over the bomber.
Two of the last three Avenger Torpedo Bombers in existence can be found at the Palm Springs Air Museum Huerta has not seen one in person since his time at war.
“Unbelievable…Unbelievable.,” Huerta said.
Tail gunners would typically fly between 25 and 30 missions while deployed in the South Pacific. Sadly, the majority would not make it past five missions before they were killed. Huerta completed every mission he flew. He was 18 years old.
“He talked about how the carrier got hit by the kamikazes and he would be up in the plan, the pilot in front of him, him in the back, and he’d be shooting and he said it lit up the sky and bullets flying everywhere,” said Huerta’s daughter Joni Huerta.
For his service, Huerta was honored at the Palm Springs Air Museum.
“We respect him an honor him. But to see other people do it is kind of emotional. Makes me feel really good and proud to say that he’s my grandfather,” said Huerta’s grandson Cesar Garcia.
While he remembers the war, Huerta does not speak often about his time in the service.
“It was just sort of I guess a job. And they just had to go do it,” said Joni.
“He doesn’t brag about it. He doesn’t talk about it. Even when you ask him questions he doesn’t really say to much,” said Garcia.
Perhaps because many of his fellow serviceman never made it home.
“There’s not much you can say,” said Huerta.