About Jack Holder

Have a slice. That is basically our mission with this bio. It’s just a slice of the extraordinary life of Jack Holder. If he could not tell the entire story of his amazing journey in a book…we certainly cannot in a brief biography on a website. But like tasting any delicious slice, what we have posted here should leave you wanting more.

Born on December 13, 1921, Jack was raised on a rural Gunter, Texas farm outside of Dallas. He worked long days and long nights with his parents, Maggie and John Holder. As an only child, he was truly the “Apple of their Eyes.” In fact, as undeniable proof of that claim, one Christmas Santa Claus brought Jack an apple, (along with an orange, and a banana, too).

There you have it. An inside look at real-life in America during the Great Depression. Christmas and every day wasn’t very peachy for most, including Jack.

Yes indeed. You might want to re-think the Great Toilet Paper Crisis of 2020. #perspective

You see…before, during, and after The Great Depression, the Holder family farmed to survive. For rest, meals, and shelter, they had a small, 4-room house. Built by his father, a World War I Army Veteran, it had no electricity, heat, air conditioning, or running water. There was an outhouse. For cleaning duty and personal hygiene, they used pages torn from the Sears & Roebuck catalog.

Life was hard for the Holders. Hoping to rise above it, Jack Holder set his sights on flying. The inspiration came from his mother’s brother who piloted a crop dusting plane. In April 1940, Jack was 18-years old when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. (* The U.S. Air Force did not exist until 1947).

The train ride from Dallas to attend Boot Camp in San Diego was Jack’s first time outside of Texas. But even that ride was hard. He had to hold on with severe pain as his appendix burst on the train. You can’t make up this stuff boys and girls.

Yes, the first emergency action of Jack Holder’s illustrious U.S. Navy career was his own surgery.   

After recovering, Jack went through Boot Camp and Aviation Machinist School. In December 1940, he was transferred to Pearl Harbor Hawaii as a member of PBY Squadron VP-26. Roughly one year to the day later for him, that Hawaiian paradise turned into pandemonium for all.

Jack Holder saw that and more with this own eyes. He was on duty at Ford Island that Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, when 353 Imperial Japanese aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor. Jack can still clearly see the face of the Japanese pilot whose machine gun fire barely missed killing him and his mates as they hid in plain sight in a sewer ditch. Sadly, he also still sees images of the 2,403 Americans who were killed, and the 19 U.S. Navy ships destroyed or damaged that day.

(Official U.S. Navy Photo). Battleship Row on December 7, 1941, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The USS Arizona (BB-39) is in the middle. On her left are the USS Tennessee (BB-43) and the sunken USS West Virginia (BB-48).

Jack Holder flew missions in a PBY Aircraft bravely and routinely searching for the enemy submarines, ships, and aircraft during World War II.

Following the Pearl Harbor Attack, Jack flew in well over 100 important U.S. Navy missions in World War II including:

  • The infamous 1942 Battle of Midway.
  • Guadalcanal and all the Solomon Islands.
  • The English Channel and Bay of Biscay on the west coast of France.

Understand this. Over 400,000 American Patriots died in World War II. Jack Holder and his Navy flight crew mates bravely flew every one of those dangerous missions wondering for good reason…if each would be their last.

When he received an honorable discharge in 1948, U.S. Navy Flight Engineer, Jack Holder also took with him the following recognition:

  • 2 Distinguished Flying Cross Medals  (* a rarity)
  • Combat Action Medal
  • 9 Air Medals
  • World War II Victory Medal
  • World War II Victory Commemoration Medal
  • Sea Service Medal
  • Overseas Medal
  • Airborne Medal
  • Air Assault Medal
  • 1 Presidential Citation
  • 7 Commendation Medals by Commanding Officers and Secretary of Navy
  • Helped form VB-103, the new B-24 Squadron.

Oh how Jack loved flying for Union Oil.

In civilian life, Jack Holder spent much of his post-war career flying corporate and commercial aircraft. Most notably, he flew for and became friends with the legendary Kirk Kerkorian, the billionaire Las Vegas real estate tycoon and Hollywood movie studio mogul. (Fact: Jack is old enough to remember when there was no “Vegas Baby!”
All that time required “holding on.” There was no “PTSD” until 1980. For Jack and others of “The Greatest Generation,” they held on for dear life in total silence. Jack Holder hardly told anyone he was a Pearl Harbor Survivor and World War II Veteran until his companion Ruth Calabro, encouraged him to talk about it. By then, he was already in his 90s.

Jack Holder was a Consultant on the Hollywood movie, “Midway.” On the right, he proudly holds a copy of his book.

Jack Holder is the author of the book, FEAR ADRENALINE AND EXCITEMEMENT. He remains a compelling in-person storyteller and event speaker because for better or worse…he still sees, feels, and remembers it all in vivid detail.

So many want to hear his stories. So many more need to hear them.

Jack is a longtime resident of Chandler, Arizona. He is humble, grateful, appreciative, eager to laugh, and let’s just say, “persuasive.” At 98 years young, his legs today can’t prove he was a Texas State Champion in the 100 Yard Dash in high school. But he can sure tell you about it over a margarita.

Speaking of speed, Jack still drives his car some. (Safely and quite well actually). And when it’s not too hot in the Valley of the Sun, he still drives golf balls with his buddies. (Not as well as he used to. But he’s working on it) And at the 19th hole, Jack Holder can tell you the true story of buying golf clubs from the legendary Ben Hogan himself.

How about all that in just one slice?