World War II Aviator.

Veteran’s Day was a special day at the San Diego Air & Space Museum because of a visit from World War II aviator Milton Blackstone.

Blackstone, now 91, saw action in the war with the 7th Ferrying Group of the Air Transport Command (ATC) as an aerial mechanic, delivering B-17s, B-24s and C-47s to every theater of war. He came to the Museum to have his picture taken in the World War II Gallery for an article scheduled to appear in an upcoming Smithsonian Institution publication.

Blackstone’s visit came at an important time. He recently learned he was the last surviving member of the men who served in the 7th Ferrying Group. “It is hard to think of 1,200 men, that it is just little old me now,” Blackstone told Giving Back Magazine.

Blackstone originally wanted to enlist at the age of 17, but his mother wouldn’t sign the forms. So on his 18th birthday, he enlisted in New York City and because his enlistment aptitude test scores on the were so high, the Army wanted to send him to Officer Candidate School. But he declined. “I wanted to be where the action was,” said Blackstone.

In December 1942, he joined the Army Air Forces and was stationed at Camp Upton in New York. Between the State Guard, the National Guard and four and a half years in the Army Air Force, he served a total of seven years.

During the war, Blackstone met Gene Roddenberry, who later created the immensely popular Star Trek TV series in the 1960. On one of his flights during the war, Blackstone sat next to Theo Bikel. Bikel later became a famous actor with several prominent roles in theaters, on television and in motion pictures, including My Fair Lady and The African Queen.

Blackstone also appears, albeit partially, in one of history’s most iconic photographs. He is in the background of the original full-sized image of the famous “Unconditional Surrender” photo taken outside the USO on 46th Street in New York. He and some fellow aviators where enjoying furlough in the USO, and when they stepped outside, they saw the announcement about the war being over. Just then, the sailor bent the nurse over and gave her the famous kiss immortalized in the photo. Blackstone was standing a few feet away.

The photograph would not be his last brush with history. Over the years, Blackstone has enjoyed the honor of meeting five American Presidents, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Herbert Hoover, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy. In fact, it was Roosevelt who presented Blackstone with his Good Conduct Medal. After the war, Blackstone enjoyed a successful career in television and he produced a number of different shows.

Blackstone, who has lived in the same home in La Jolla for 48 years, greatly enjoys visiting the San Diego Air & Space Museum. “It is so overwhelming. I can’t drink it all in,” he said. “It’s too much to take in one visit. My head is swimming. I’m happy to see so many kids here,” said Milton. “It’s important for us to pass this on to them.”