Tuesday, October 3rd, 2023 Church Directory
World War II Veteran Bill Friberg enjoyed a piece of cake as he celebrated his recent 100th birthday with friends and his wife, JoAnn. (Patriot Photo by Carol Hanson).
Bill Friberg blew out the candles on his birthday cake as his wife, JoAnn (right) and looked on. (Patriot Photo by Carol Hanson).
Celebrating 100. World War 2 Veteran Bill Friberg was joined by his wife, JoAnn and some of their friends as they celebrated Bill’s 100th birthday last week at Rebecca’s Cafe. Pictured, from left: Don Davis, Marv Koenig, Bill Bott, Dennis Kunkel, Bruce Peterson, Roger and Lola Nelson, Bill and JoAnn Friberg. (Patriot Photo by Carol Hanson).

WWII Veteran Bill Friberg celebrates 100th birthday

Carefree Country Club residents had a special reason to celebrate last week, as World War II Veteran Bill Friberg celebrated his 100th birthday party.  Bill, along with his wife, JoAnn, and several friends celebrated the day at Rebecca’s Cafe with a delicious lunch and special birthday cake.

Friberg spent over four years in the Marine Corps, joining up just before the start of World War II.

Enlisting just days before he graduated from high school, Friberg earned his diploma and then quickly found himself on a troop transport train headed for boot camp in San Diego, California.

In another half a year, Friberg was headed to Hawaii and then deployed to the Pacific theater.

Once there, he helped build an airfield that was used by pilots to participate in the Battle of Guadalcanal.

Not long after, their commanding officer was shot down and Friberg starting working on airplanes, fixing hydraulic leaks and doing general maintenance.

Friberg vividly remembers servicing Hellcat airplanes, as the unique aircraft had a special process for starting the engines.

“We would have to turn the prop and then the pilot would start the engine by igniting a shotgun shell,” Friberg recalls.  “Sometimes they started and sometimes they didn’t.”

Friberg was then sent stateside before ending up on an aircraft carrier, the USS Block Island, where he continued aircraft maintenance, eventually working on the famed Corsairs.

Family Affair

One positive moment in the war came when he was stationed at Manila Bay and he had quite the surprise when his brother, Roland, came on board and had lunch on the ship.  Roland was an underwater demolitions expert who saw action in places such as Iwo Jima.

The meeting proved to be a profound moment, as Roland would go on to have a heart attack the age 32 and died at age 35.

“And here I am, 100 (years old),” Friberg says.

Friberg also recalls the time that a B-17 Bomber had landed on a runway that he helped build.

“I thought that was pretty neat that a B-17 could actually land on the airstrip,” Friberg says of the famed aircraft whose crew was doing reconnaissance work in the area.

Island duty also meant tasks such as burying 50 gallon drums of fuel at different places on the island in order to prevent the enemy from bombing or sabotaging a single fuel depot.

“I’m not sure how we lifted those things off the trucks, but we found a way,” Friberg says.

He also remembers eating plenty of coconuts and drinking the juice.

“Once I was back stateside, I didn’t eat any more coconut,” Friberg asserts.

“He still won’t eat coconut!” adds his wife, JoAnn.

Duty and Honor

After the war was over, he was part of a crew that was sent to the areas around Japan to pick up Americans who had become prisoners of war.  It was dangerous duty, but he can still remember how frail the prisoners looked. 

“We had to be very careful because of the mines in the water,” Friberg recalls.  “Those guys we picked up were just skin and bones.”

With all of the memories of his service in World War 2, Friberg counts himself as one of the lucky ones.

“I don’t think I did much compared to some of those guys,” Friberg says.  “I guess I was one of the lucky ones.”

On November 7, 1945, Bill was honorably discharged from military service.


Once Bill settled into civilian life, he worked for the VA before settling in for a 35 year career with Northern States Power.

He also became an avid golfer, something he did until he was 95 years old.  How good was his swing?  Four holes-in-one.  What else would one expect from Bill Friberg, a member of the Greatest Generation — 100 years on Earth and going strong.