By David King
Meet Papa Jake Larson of Martinez. I met him at Richmond’s Rosie the Riveter Museum in December as he and two original Rosies shared their experiences during World War II. Papa Jake claims to be “The Luckiest Man in the World” in his just released autobiography of that title.
Jake received national attention in 2019 when he returned to Normandy for the 75th anniversary of D-Day at Omaha Beach. During WWII, Larson spent 2.5 years planning the assault as a top-secret BIGOT (British Invasion of Germany Occupied Territory) officer before actually engaging in the D-Day attacks.
Regarded as a living National Treasure, he has interviewed and been reported on by virtually every major news network and press in the free world.
His book is a remarkable series of tales of turn of events that propelled him, a small Minnesota farm boy during the Depression era, into planning, fighting and surviving some of America’s deadliest battles of WWII, including Omaha Beach and the Battle of the Bulge.
At 99, he is the last remaining soldier alive of all the servicemen he fought alongside during his years in the 34th infantry division.
In 1938, he was 15 and penniless, so he lied about his age to join the National Guard to earn $12 per month. Because of the threat of Hitler’s Germany, the National Guard became the US Army. By 18, he was transferred to 135th infantry regiment and promoted to Corporal since he was the only one who could type.
His book walks you through his entire life up to 2021 including how he ended up in Martinez. But certainly the most intriguing chapters are those during his years in the 34th infantry as a rifleman, for which he has gained national attention, that offer death-defying details of the battles he engaged.
Jake describes the moment he jumped off the Omaha Beach landing boats into icy waters, dodging machine gun fire as he stormed the beach, hiding behind rocks and ducking into bomb craters, avoiding land mines with each step. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge when Americans suffered over 90,000 casualties including 19,000 Americans killed, then on to the Battle of St. Lo, and the battle to liberate Paris. Miraculously, he was never seriously injured.
Online you can search Jake Larson or Papa Jake Larson and quickly find a plethora of photos, videos, podcasts, articles and social media references to get a sense of the media sensation Papa Jake has become. Aided by his granddaughter, he has his own Tik Tok account where he tells his stories to nearly 475,000 followers from all over the world, many who send him mail, and messages offering their support and appreciation for his service.
Larson is regularly seen at Bagel Street Café in Martinez enjoying coffee and sharing tales. I encourage all to stop by and meet this delightful, witty, and energetic man .
“I’m no hero, I’m a here-to… I’m here to tell my story, “ he humbly will tell you. “The ones that didn’t make it back from the war, those are the real heroes.”