Stuart Newman, 96-year-old World War II veteran, takes ‘Honor Flight’

World War II veteran Stuart Newman, 96, made it through 35 missions as a bombardier and navigator with the U.S. Air Force, fending off Nazi anti-aircraft gunners and surviving a crash that took one of his comrades’ legs.

“Without a scratch,” he said. And then, seven decades later, he lost a battle with his deck and injured his neck in a recent fall. His son Andy Newman argues it wasn’t the deck’s fault; it was his father’s refusal to use a walker.

“At 96, I have the right to be stubborn,” Stuart Newman said.

It’s that kind of spirit, that sense of invincibility, that guided a college-aged Newman through the war. The veteran and longtime South Florida business owner, with a gift for gab and a rat-a-tat speaking clip, still considers himself one of the lucky ones. He didn’t die overseas, and made it home to open up a public relations business that’s still running 70 years later.

On Saturday, he met other World War II veterans during an Honor Flight from Fort Lauderdale to Washington, D.C., that took him through the sky once again and perhaps reminded him of his B-17G Bomber days. He visited the war memorials there, conversed with his compatriots and spent time with his family.

He returned to a hero’s welcome in Florida. The daylong event was organized by Honor Flight South Florida, which accepts nominations from family members of military veterans and puts on the event for free.

“I’m overwhelmed by it,” Stuart Newman said ahead of the trip on Friday. “It will bring a lot of great memories.”

Newman joined the Air Force in 1943 when he was still a student at the University of Florda. As a young man, he had been fascinated by aviation.

“At least I wouldn’t have to walk too much,” he joked.

He was a first lieutenant and navigator in the Air Force’s 381st Bomber Group that flew out of England. He flew almost three dozen missions in 1944 and 1945, attacking Nazis over the English Channel and flying over the French Alps and the Belgium foothills.

During one of those missions, while flying over Cologne, Germany, his plane lost two of its four engines and was forced to land in a field in Belgium, he said. The plane was totaled. Just minutes before a German group of soldiers approached their location, a British troop saved Newman and his fellow soldiers. One of his friends lost a leg on that mission.

Newman is the owner of NewmanPR, a family-run public relations firm formerly known as Stuart Newman & Associates. He founded the company in 1946, and his agency managed PR for the Fontainbleau and the Eden Roc when those hotels opened in the mid-1950s. The idea for the Florida Keys’ joke secession name, the Conch Republic, started with NewmanPR. Carnival Cruise Line was a client for 27 years.

His son Andy, who serves as vice president of NewmanPR, said that his dad will be surprised by the hero’s welcome and that during the flight, the staff will announce a “mail call” similiar to the ones the military used to have. Newman’s family and friends wrote notes to him for the flight that he will open up when it’s time.

And when they return to Fort Lauderdale, a group of hundreds of firefighters, police officers, boy and girlscouts will line up to welcome the troops home.

“That’s probably going to be really emotional,” Andy said.