SHREVEPORT, La. -- Not long after high school in Summerfield, Louisiana, and not long after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Claude Gulley made his choice. He was headed for the Army in World War II -- and fierce fighting in the Pacific.
"Everybody else was joining and I just needed to go and help the country." Claude says of his enlistment.
"I was in those three campaigns and didn't get killed," Claude says of his battles at Guadalcanal, New Georgia and the Philippines.
He was overseas for three years, firing a rifle on the front lines.
"I was facing them," Claude says of the Japanese enemy. "Right across the line from me. They were over there at night. We had a big line to shoot them as they tried to come across."
The Japanese were literally dug in.
"It was bad. It was just like rats finding them in a hole. We finally started using flamethrowers on 'em. And that worked pretty good. They wouldn't surrender. We had to kill 'em.
"I am lucky," Claude reflected. "I lost a lot of friends in those three battles. I don't know why I was so fortunate. I didn't get a scratch."
After Claude helped the U.S. take the Philippines, replacements were coming in for the final showdown. But then came our drop of two atomic bombs on the Japanese mainland instead -- and finally -- their surrender.
"I was real happy. Because we knew that if we had to go to Japan we were going to lose lots of men," Claude says.
With a Bronze Star and a row of other medals from those battles, John looks back with satisfaction at that decision he made 79 years ago.
"I'm glad I did it. And still alive at 99!" Claude said with a hearty laugh.
When Claude made it back to Louisiana and Shreveport a few years after the war, he opened a trucking company. And to this day, tends to cattle on his ranch in east Texas.