World War II Navy veteran John Lippert tours Washington D.C.

It’s been 68 years since John Lippert stopped chasing enemy submarines in World War II – an experience he’ll never forget.

Another experience that will stick with him is his whirlwind, 64-hour Honor Flight trip of Washington D.C.

Honor Flight Network takes members of the Greatest Generation to the Capitol to visit the WWII monument and other attractions, including Arlington National Cemetery. Launched in 2005, the program has expanded to include vets of the Korean and Vietnam wars.

The flight Lippert took out of Bakersfield had 75 veterans aboard – 25 from World War II, including two women who were nurses serving overseas, and 50 Korean War vets.

“It was wonderful,” said the Third Class Motor Machinist Mate who served on a wooden-hulled submarine chaser that was the smallest ship in the Navy to see duty during World War II.

“I enjoyed everything,” he said of the Honor Flight experience. “We managed to do a lot in the short time we had there.”

At 95 Lippert was one of the oldest among the World War II vets.

Accompanied by his son-in-law, Mike McCormick, the group toured war memorials, saw the changing of the guard at Arlington, and got to see the Air and Space Museum even though that was not on their itinerary.

“It rained and they wanted to take us to see something where we could be indoors,” Lippert said.

Arlington was especially memorable and moving.

“I was amazed at how big it is and how well kept it is,” he said. “The changing of the guard was amazing.”

“There were two funerals going on while we were there,” McCormick said.

The second most memorable part of the journey for Lippert was “mail call” shortly after the plane left Bakersfield.

A part of every Honor Flight is mail call, where the vets receive cards and letters sent by family and friends.
“I got 41 of them,” he said. “That really surprised me.”

Lippert was born in an oil lease house near Fellows in 1918. He will be 96 on July 14. He graduated from Taft High in 1937 and Taft College in 1939 and recalls playing football against the famous Jackie Robinson when the legendary baseball player was at Pasadena City College.

After the war he returned to Taft and became a machinist for ARCO and has lived here ever since.

McCormick said while most of the WWII vets on Honor Flight needed wheelchairs or walking aids, Lippert did his own walking.

In addition to being Lippert’s guardian, McCormick also served as the medic for the group because of his extensive training in first aid.

“My job was actually pretty easy,” he said. “They were all in pretty good shape.”

He didn’t have anything to do until the flight home when a veteran became a bit woozy.

“He just hadn’t eaten in a while.”

Other vets contributed snacks and McCormick gave him half a glucose tablet because of a history of blood clots.

“Other than that they all survived the trip very well.”

So did his father-in-law, who had the trip of a lifetime.