Oldest living naval aviator celebrates 100th birthday

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ENCINITAS – Retired Admiral Doniphan ‘Don’ Brown Shelton celebrated his 100th birthday along with family and friends at the American Legion Post 416 in Encinitas on Saturday. 

Admiral Don Shelton says his secret to living a long and healthy life was his mother.  

“My secret was my mother was smarter than I was,” said Admiral Shelton. “I think I was smart enough to get my smarts from her.” 

Admiral Shelton is the oldest living Navy aviator and is part of the Greatest Generation serving in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.  

“He is humble kind of to a fault while you read his resume and go ‘oh my god’ – the man has done so many things, he has command all the way to the two stars, he was responsible for the evacuating of Vietnam when the civilians had to leave,” said Ed Riley, American Legion Post 416 member.  

Admiral Shelton received recognitions and birthday wishes from all over the world, including from Pope Francis, President Joe Biden, and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels . 

“Dear Admiral Shelton we wish you a 100th birthday and thank you for your 40 years of your most distinguished service in the United States Navy…sincerely Joe Biden,” read Shelton.  

Admiral Shelton recalling one of his proudest moments in the military when he rescued 43,000 Vietnamese refugees through Subic Bay in the Philippines between April and August of 1975.  

 “It was a great experience and I always record it as probably the best experience I had while I was in the navy,” said Shelton. 

Another day Shelton says he will never forget, is the day he joined the United States Navy.  

“I went to Del Mar on the train in 1939 and I looked up here and I said ‘boy this is one nice little town’,” said Shelton. 

Now retired Admiral Shelton says he appreciates all the friends that have stuck with him over the years.  

“It shows that if you have friends that will stick by you and I appreciate it that – all these people are my friends some are family,” said Shelton.  

Shelton’s advice to the younger generation: “Play it straight, think about what you want to do and do it right and do it often, and let everything take care of you.”  

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