Henry T. “Jeep” Woodliff was in the U.S. Army, stationed on the island of Oahu Dec. 7, 1941, when he heard the noise above. He looked up to see hundreds of Japanese fighter planes headed straight for Pearl Harbor.
He and fellow troops had just been given brand-new weapons, but had no ammunition they could fire.
They took cover as bombs exploded, damaging eight U.S. Navy battleships and sinking four.
Woodliff survived the attack, and to this day his family feels fortunate for that. Many of his kin gathered Friday morning at Chick-fil-A on Dawsonville Highway to celebrate the man’s life and commemorate his 100th birthday — on Sept. 11.
Daughter Sheryl Creek said family came from all over the country to visit the newly designated centenarian.
Grandson Davis Fite flew all the way from San Diego, Calif., to be with his grandfather Friday.
“He’s taught us so much,” Fite said. “He has a wealth of knowledge he’s passed on to family members. People could learn a lot from him. He’s got life dialed in and understands the way the world works. We’re very proud of him.”
Son-in-law Jim Creek said Woodliff’s military service is also a point of pride.
He said once the bombs hit Pearl Harbor, Woodliff was ordered to “go move the officers’ cars.”
“He did this as the bombs were actually exploding,” Creek said.
Woodliff later left the Army as sergeant 1st class and came back home to Gainesville to work for Southern Bell.
He is married to Betty Woodliff, 92.
Relative Jane Fite said Henry and Betty “keep each other going. They are good for each other.”
Sheryl Creek said her father is involved with several local veterans groups and is a member of First Baptist Church in Gainesville. She added that, up until last year, he was an avid pool player.
Added Sheryl Creek: “He has had an impressive life.”