With only an eighth grade education, Abe Caylor had few professional prospects. But the Indiana native loved being around horses and was eager for action so he lied about his age and enlisted in the Army when he was only 17. During World War I, Caylor was assigned to Troop D, 12th Horse Cavalry. He was given a saber, a rifle and a horse named “Old Dusty,” and ordered to guard the Panama Canal.
After the war ended, Caylor was stationed in St Louis, where he faced a new challenge: the global disaster known as the great influenza pandemic. Between 1918 and 1919, approximately 40 million people died of the contagious viral infection. Caylor also caught the flu, but he medicated himself with whiskey and managed to survive.
Caylor left the service and worked as a truck driver and dispatcher, then attended business school. Just before World War II started, he moved to Washington and landed a job as a machinist with Boeing. He spent 38 years working on the B-17 bomber, KC-135 military refueling planes and the first commercial 707s before retiring from the company in 1968.
Described by family as a “straight shooter,” Caylor eventually became one the nation’s oldest military veterans. On his 100th birthday, he received a congratulatory telephone call from the White House. The following spring, he was honored at a concert on the Capitol lawn in Washington, D.C.
Caylor died on May 5. Cause of death was not released. He was 104.