CHESTERFIELD, VA – February 29th only comes around once every
four years, so retired Col. Arthur Haake has technically only ever
had 25 birthdays, but the Marine Raider veteran celebrated his 100th
on February 29, 2016.
Haake was born February 29, 1916, in
New York, and he's lived quite the adventure over the last century.
Retired U.S. Marine Corps Col. Arthur Haake, center, poses with Staff Sgt. Justin Billingsley, left, and Sgt. Aaron Diamant at his 100th birthday celebration, February 29, 2016. Billingsley, a Chesterfield native, was inspired to join the Marine Corps while working at the same retirement community that Haake resides in. (U.S. Marine Corps courtesy photo)
A graduate of Harvard Law School, Haake worked as an
attorney for one year before joining the Marine Corps. He
graduated from Officer Candidates School in 1940 and served
as an infantry platoon leader. From there, he became part of
the original Marine Raiders.
“We drove around the
Caribbean, you know, us Raider Battalion commando-types,”
said Haake. “But before
long, we were sent to serve in the Pacific. The Japanese had
taken over the Solomon Islands and we fought for the air
As part of the initial wave of the
offensive, Haake and his Marines made an amphibious landing,
departing from a Navy destroyer in rubber boats under the
cover of darkness. The Raiders faced “a lot of opposition”
in their mission to retake the Solomon Islands from the
determined, and firmly entrenched Japanese defenders.
Haake spent nearly two years island hopping through the
Pacific before returning stateside to attend the Marine
Corps Command and Staff College.
his training, Haake returned to the Pacific and found
himself on the island of Peleliu, a battle referred to as
the bitterest of the war for Marines. Haake was wounded by
an explosion during the fierce battle.
“I was hit in
the back of the neck, face, and lost an ear drum,” said
Haake. “A little bit more and there would have been no more
Wounded, but determined, Haake also
saw action on Okinawa before war's end, and even served a
post-war duty in China. He finally returned home in 1945.
Haake continued his Marine Corps career serving in a
variety of special assignments, including being the last
equitation officer in the corps where he taught young
Marines to pack horses. He then served as a judge on the
Marine Court of Appellate Review, before retiring in 1967 –
a 27-year career.
In his civilian life, Haake worked
as the assistant to the city manager for Fredericksburg,
Virginia, and had a 40-acre horse farm in Caroline County.
Haake says he loves to sing and play the guitar.
asked about the secret to living such a long life, Haake
says, “You have to have a sense of humor. I've never looked
back, and I've always been able to live well in the
situation I was in. But really, there's nothing else I'd
have rather done with my life.”
“He's a real national
treasure,” said Haake's nephew, Billy Haake, who also served
as a Marine. “He was born on leap day in 1916, and his life
has been extra special ever since. He's lead a truly
“It's an honor to wear the same
uniform as Col. Haake,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Billingsley,
a Chesterfield, Virginia, native who used to work at the
retirement community where Haake resides. “The men and women
who live here, the veterans of America's Greatest
Generation, are the reason I do what I do today.”
By U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Aaron Diamant
The U.S. Marines
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