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First Lt. Micala Bruce, 349th Air Refueling Squadron pilot, and Lt Col. Kristen Smith, 349th ARS director of operations, walk with WWII veteran Katie Conkling at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., Jan. 18, 2024. Conkling celebrated her 103rd birthday with a tour of the base and the inside of KC-46A Pegasus. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Gavin Hameed)

McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. (February 11, 2024): In this photo by Airman 1st Class Gavin Hameed, First Lieutenant Micala Bruce, a 349th Air Refueling Squadron pilot, and Lieutenant Colonel Kristen Smith, the 349th ARS director of operations, give WWII veteran Katie Conkling a tour of the base to celebrate her 103rd birthday.

This remarkable person is a living witness to world events, including the Pearl Harbor attacks, that have shaped our society today. Conkling served as an Army Air Corps Staff Sergeant in the South Pacific during the war and the Air Force wanted to acknowledge her service and her incredible personal milestone.

Born Katherine V. “Katie” (Lawrence) Conkling in Coffeyville, Kansas on Jan. 18, 1921, she was the daughter of a first-generation German American carpenter from Wisconsin and a Texas landowner’s daughter. Her father died when she was a baby and her mother couldn’t care for her and her three brothers so they were placed in a Wichita Children’s Home. After graduating high school in 1939,  Katie held a variety of posts until the Japanese attack on Pear Harbor spurred her to join the armed forces.

She became one of the 350,000 American women who joined the Women's Army Air Corps  (WACs), the Marines and Coast Guard Women’s Reserves, and the Women Air Force Pilots (WASPS).

 When the Japanese surrendered, Katie was at Pearl Harbor for the celebration.

After the war, Katie married John Conkling, a B-26 co-pilot who flew over sixty-six missions with the Army Air Corps over Europe, including the D-Day invasion. They married in 1945 and had two children.

Support Our Troops joins a grateful nation in wishing Katie a happy birthday.