At age 17, Holt Thornton was a senior in Durham High School. Two years later, having dropped out of school, he was 19 and a veteran of the US Army Air Force, having flown 52 bombing missions over Europe. Alexander recounts Thornton's training and some of mission, including three on the Ploesti oil fields in Romania. He was discharged from Fort Bragg in September 1945 and started his senior year at Durham High School. His air group received a Presidential Unit Citation and he personally received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart, and the Air Medal. Today, at age 78, he and his wife live in Zebulon.