Jake “Papa Jake” Larson, a World War II veteran who served on Omaha Beach on D-Day, turned 100 on Tuesday, December 20th.
In his 100-year life, he published a book, had a family, and was even celebrated on stage by the Zac Brown Band.
Born Dec. 20, 1922, in Owatonna, Minnesota, Larson said in an email interview that his enlistment was somewhat unusual. He enlisted in the Minnesota Army National Guard in 1938, only to be drafted because he “lied about my age by three years.”
On February 10, 1941, Larson reported being drafted into federal service and sent to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana.
There he participated in maneuvers in Louisiana.
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Larson’s rise through the military ranks was, and still is, quite extraordinary. In a July 2020 video he posted on YouTube, Larson explained that he suffered a ruptured appendix while stationed in Louisiana as an infantryman.
When he was on sick leave, someone noticed that he could type. As a result, he was transferred to the headquarters of the 135th Infantry Regiment as a company secretary.
“Then I became a corporal,” he said in the video.
While serving as company secretary, Larson realized that technically a company secretary should be a sergeant—”with a physical assistant.”
So “I was a corporal without any assistants,” he said.
Larson’s rise through the military ranks was, and still is, quite extraordinary
When he brought this to the attention of his commanding officer, he was told that he would receive the rank of adjutant rather than sergeant.
That assistant, Larson said, “couldn’t write.
“Then December 7 came and the Japanese hit Pearl Harbor,” he said. “I didn’t know where Pearl Harbor was at the time until they said it was in Hawaii.”
“It changed everything,” he said in the video.
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Last year, everyone in his regiment who was not on furlough was given 15 days of furlough to Minnesota, which the commanding officer later changed to seven days of furlough.
Except for Larson, of course.
“I found out [that] About 55 guys did not have a vacation last year, and Cpl. Jake Larson was one of them,” he said.
“It’s a funny thing about the typewriter: when I wrote my vacation papers … the typewriter, I didn’t understand – it put 15 there!”
“Our forces paid more. You didn’t have to tempt them much.”
“I went home for 15 days of leave,” Larson said.
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When he returned to Camp Claiborne, Larson’s commanding officer demoted him to private and threatened to court-martial him, but that quickly changed when the group was sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey.
“I sailed on the British ship RMS Aquitania,” he said before being stationed in Armagh, Northern Ireland.
While in Northern Ireland, then-Private Jake Larson helped repatriate Americans who had joined the Canadian or British military before the United States entered the war.
“I wasn’t in V Corps until five or six months before I became a sergeant.”
“Our forces paid more. You didn’t have to tempt them as much,” Larson said.
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“It dried after about 35 days,” Larson explained in the video.
I thought, “Look, I’m going to climb the poles and pull the wire.”
It wouldn’t happen.
Larson was transferred to Group G3 of V Corps just three days later.
“I didn’t know what G3 was – they tested me,” he said.
The test involved typing, which Larson said “went through like a cyclone,” surprising Sgt.
Two months later, he was again promoted to a corporate position with increased responsibilities. A few months later, he became a sergeant.
“I don’t think I was in V Corps five or six months before I became a sergeant,” he said in a YouTube video.
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After bouncing around Northern Ireland and eventually ending up in England, he trained in firing .50 caliber machine guns before moving on to Portsmouth to prepare for what would eventually become D-Day. took
“Then we moved to Portsmouth to work on the invasion plans,” he said.
His company participated in the D-Day exercises at Slapton Sands, England. This operation did not go as planned, he said.
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The Allies “lost two LSTs [landing ship tanks] from the German e-boats next to us, killing 795 people,” explained Larson.
A month after Exercise Tiger, Larson “landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day” and was “in charge of planning at Omaha Beach” that night.
Andy Larson is known as “Papa Jake” to his nine grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and nearly 500,000 followers on his TikTok account.
After D-Day, Larson moved to St. Lo, Falaise, Paris, Luxembourg, Eupen. [Belgium].”
“After the Battle of the Bulge, I was given a 45-day leave to return home,” he said.
Larson was discharged on 13 April 1945 after attaining the rank of staff sergeant in G-3 V Corps.
He was awarded the “Bronze Star” and “Legion of Honor” orders of France.
In 2021, Larson published the book The Luckiest Man in the World: Stories from the Life of Jake Pope.
The book is so named because despite seven years of military service and many close calls in some of the deadliest battles of the war, he returned home physically unscathed.
“On the 76th anniversary of D-Day, he made a TikTok about me and it went viral.”
After the war, Larson married his wife Lola on November 23, 1945.
They moved to California in 1957 where they had three children, Kurt, Linda and Karlan.
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He is now known as “Papa Jake” to his nine grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and nearly 500,000 followers on his TikTok account.
Larson posts videos about his time in the military on Story Time With Papa Jake, an account started by his grandson.
“I told him he was opening a can of worms.”
“In 2020, my granddaughter Makkaela had recently been laid off. [of] Working on cruise ships during the COVID pandemic,” Larson said.
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“He spent his break home from work with me. On the 76th anniversary of D-Day, he made a TikTok about me and it went viral.”
After her first brush with viral TikTok, people told Larson she should create her own account.
Story time with Papa Jake soon began.
“I told him he was opening a can of worms,” he said.
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Within a week, Larson’s TikTok account gained over 10,000 followers.
Larson said she couldn’t believe the success of her account.
Larson says she’s thankful for TikTok because it’s a way for her to “share my stories with future generations” as the number of World War II veterans in this country continues to dwindle.
“I have almost half a million followers now and I still can’t believe it. It’s crazy,” he said.
On her TikTok account, Larson recounted her return to Normandy on the 78th anniversary of D-Day, as well as sharing some of her personal stories about what happened during the war.
To celebrate Jake the Pope’s 100th birthday this week, his family is asking people to send him birthday cards.
Cards can be mailed to 3559 Mt Diablo Blvd #200 Lafayette CA 94549 with thanks.