Maj. William “Bill” White, 106-year-old WWII vet who received more than 300,000 Valentine’s Day cards, is dead

Retired Marine Maj. William “Bill” White, a World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient who was believed to be the oldest living U.S. Marine, died Friday at age 106.

 

White became a national sensation in 2020 when he received more than 300,000 Valentine’s Day cards from around the world as part of “Operation Valentine.”

 

A resident at The Oaks at Inglewood, Stockton, where White lived, requested on social media for people to send White Valentines for his collection of memorabilia.

 

The goal was to receive 10,000 cards. White received about 14,000 deliveries in a single day.

 

“I wasn’t expecting anything like this,” he told USA Today. “It hit me like a ton of bricks. I still can’t get over it.”

Maj. William "Bill" White, 106-year-old WWII vet who received more than 300,000 Valentine's Day cards has died
Retired USMC Major Bill White waves to well-wishers in their cars as they parade by for his 106th birthday at the Oaks at Inglewood retirement community in Stockton. White, a WWII veteran, thanked and waved to drivers and passengers as they wished him a Happy Birthday. In 2020 White started Operation Valentines by asking people to send him cards on Valentine’s Day. He received hundreds of thousands of cards from all around the world.

“He was just the most humble person I’ve ever met in my entire life,” Nita Iv, life enrichment director at The Oaks, said. “So kind, so easygoing.”

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White was born in Long Beach in 1915 and grew up in Southern California. He was rejected upon his first attempt to enlist in the Marines due to a skin condition, but went on to get a job helping to construct the Hoover Dam.

 

White successfully joined the Marines in 1934 and later became a paratrooper. He received the Purple Heart for injuries sustained during the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945, when he was thrown by a grenade blast while leading troops toward the Japanese front line.

 

“The force just picked me up and slammed me back against a wall,” White told USA Today.

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White later served during the Korean War. Throughout his career he was also sent to Pearl Harbor; Shanghai; Camp Pendleton, California; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; and El Toro Marine Air Station, California. White retired from active duty in 1964.



White worked for the Huntington Beach Police Department as a reserve officer then as a full-fledged officer and eventually became a jailer. He volunteered 30 years with the Boys Scouts Explorer Post 563 that became Huntington Beach Search and Rescue.

Maj. William "Bill" White, 106-year-old WWII vet who received more than 300,000 Valentine's Day cards has died
Maj. William “Bill” White

He moved to Stockton for health reasons about 17 years ago and had been a resident at The Oaks, for about six years.

 

He was a pillar of Stockton’s Memorial Day and Veterans Day celebrations, and drew crowds of well-wishers for his 106th birthday parade at The Oaks in July 2021.

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