RICHMOND, Va. -- He hasn’t flown professionally in more than 75 years. But Domenick D’Adamo still admires the wild blue yonder.
“I was always interested in airplanes and I thought I could be a pilot,” said Dom. “The job was so important to me, I wanted to make sure I did it right.”
The 100-year-old Richmonder, who grew up on Hanover Avenue, earned his wings the most white knuckle way possible.
“My job was to drop the bombs,” said Dom.
As a bombardier, D’Adamo had a front row seat in a B-24 Liberator.
“We had German planes coming at us,” Dom recalled. “You could see the tracer bullets from them.”
Plexiglass is all that separated the 22-year-old from the enemy.
“I never saw so much flak in all of my life,” said Dom. “It knocked out two or three panels where I was.”
Close calls were routine in the 389th Bomber Group over Europe. So was watching other bombers fall out of the sky.
“I saw my first plane go down in flames there you know. That upset me on my first mission,” said D’Adamo. “I just couldn’t believe it. We did see a few parachutes come out but that was all.”
Captain D’Adamo flew 22 missions during the war. None more harrowing than the infamous Ploesti Raid.
“The chimneys were 212 feet tall,” said Dom. “They wanted us to go in at 250 feet. So we wouldn’t hit those.”
177 B-24’s roared over Romania on August 1, 1943. The target was massive oil refineries.
“That was Hitler’s main source of oil,” Dom recalled.
Every pilot was ordered to fly at dangerous altitudes.
“We could feel the trees scraping the bottom because we got so low,” said Dom. “We were so close to the ground we could see people’s expression on their faces.”
When the bombing run was over more than 50 B-24s and about 500 of D’Adamo’s fellow airmen were lost.
"It hit us hard. Anytime you lost a crew it hit you hard,” said Dom. “But that is the way it went. You left and you didn’t know if you were coming back or not. Finally it didn’t bother you. It didn’t make any difference.”
He lived through one of WWII’s most daring missions. Now this bombardier is one of the last living survivors.
“It made the news pretty good,” said Dom. “And some people still talk about it.”
Domenick D’Adamo is an airman still soaring high at 100.
“I don’t consider it luck. I think I was blessed for some reason. I was blessed. I’ve been blessed all of my life really,” said Dom. “I’ve had a wonderful life.”
D’Adamo celebrated his 100th birthday with family and friends at his home in the West End last month.
The Virginia Senate passed a resolution last February thanking D’Adamo for his service to the Commonwealth and the Nation during WWII.
Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find unique, award-winning stories every day on CBS 6 News: