The highest-ranking survivor of the D-Day invasion during World War II has died.
Retired Gen. Seth McKee was 100. He died Dec. 26 in Scottsdale, Arizona, according to The Arizona Republic, citing McKee’s wife, Sally.
Just two months ago, McKee was awarded the National Order of the Legion of Honor in the rank of Chevalier 5, according to the Air Force. That’s the highest honor France bestows on its citizens and foreign nationals.
McKee, who began his military career in 1935, logged more than 190 hours in 69 combat missions in the P-38 Lightning, and is credited with downing two enemy aircraft. He flew cover for the D-Day invasion and was involved in bombing missions at Saint-Lo, the Falaise Gap and the Battle of the Bulge.
After World War II, McKee held positions of increasing responsibility both at home and overseas.
He retired in 1973 as commander of the North American Air Defense Command.
Retired Gen. Seth McKee, then a lieutenant colonel, stands next to his P-38 Lightning, named for his wife, during World War II. The two swastikas represent German planes he shot down before D-Day. McKee died Dec. 26, 2016. He was 100. Photo Credit: Courtesy photo by Pat Shannahan via the Air Force
In a 2014 interview with The Arizona Republic, McKee described his service during the war.
"If you were afraid to die, you can’t be a fighter pilot in the war," he said, the paper reported. "Chances were you were not going to make it."
McKee told the paper he didn’t think about the danger at the time.
"It didn’t get to me at the time," he said. "I knew I was the best fighter pilot in the war, and I was pretty lucky."
McKee also joked about being a leader in the Air Force.
"I always liked to be in command," he told the paper. "I always liked to be in charge. I was able to do it in every place except my marriage."
Retired Gen. Seth McKee, the highest-ranking D-Day invasion survivor, died Dec. 26, 2016. He was 100. Photo Credit: Air Force
McKee was born in 1916 in McGehee, Arkansas, according to his official Air Force bio.
He began his military career in 1935 as a member of the Missouri National Guard, and his career as an aviator in 1938. McKee graduated from flight training in February 1939.
After the war, McKee served in Florida, California, Alabama, Italy, Georgia, Nebraska, South Dakota and the Pentagon. He also served as commander of U.S. Forces Japan and Fifth Air Force before being appointed assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force in 1968.
McKee’s career culminated at NORAD, where he served from 1969 to 1973.
His military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with 10 oak leaf clusters, as well as awards from countries such as France, Belgium, Thailand, Japan and South Korea.