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Lansing Navy veteran, who survived a kamikaze attack during WWII, turns 100

 Navy veteran George Milekovich survived a Japanese kamikaze attack on his battleship during World War II that killed four of his fellow sailors. Milekovich would go on to a 26-year career at Michigan State University and raise a family that includes four sons, 15 grandchildren and 21 great grandchildren.

On April 8, Milekovich turned 100 -- and was honored with a proclamation from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, a Congressional Record from Rep. Elissa Slotkin, and a personal letter from Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael M. Gilday.

George is one of only about 6,000 WWII veterans in Michigan.

“He’s got a lot of grit,” said Anton Milekovich, George’s son. “Not many children get to see their parents turn 100 years old. It’s great to have family and friends from all over the world here to celebrate with us.”

George was born on April 8, 1923, in Campbell, Ohio. As World War II raged on, George decided to join the Navy in 1943, attending boot camp at Great Lakes Naval Training Center. He’d report to the USS West Virginia just three months later. George was a Shipfitter 2nd Class in the R Division aboard the USS West Virginia, which was nicknamed “The Mighty Wee Vee.” On April 1, 1945, while off the coat of Okinawa, Japan, the USS West Virginia was hit by a Japanese kamikaze plane, killing four men and wounding seven more. George says it’s a night forever in his memories.

Milekovich was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1946 and continued his service in the Navy Reserve. He settled in Lansing with his late wife Lureta and went on to work as an operating engineer for the Michigan State University Power Plant for 26 years before retiring in 1985. Milekovich has four sons, 15 grandchildren and 21 great grandchildren.

Anton recalls growing up hearing stories about his father’s time in the Navy. His favorite is the story about when his father’s ship crossed the equator for the first time in the Navy’s famous “Crossing the Line” ceremony where he transformed from a “Pollywog” to a “Shellback.”

“He was really proud of that,” said Anton.

Allen Dow, partnership coordinator for the MVAA and Lieutenant Commander in the Navy Reserve, and Navy veteran Russ Mckenzie presented Milekovich with his recognitions along with a special Michigan veteran pin on Saturday. Other veterans in attendance, along with their spouses, received pins as well.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates there are approximately 167,000 WWII veterans alive today in the United States, and fewer than 6,000 in Michigan.

The MVAA is available to attend veteran events throughout the state. To request our participation at your next event, fill out the event request form on our website.