- Associated Press - Saturday, October 31, 2015

PROVO, Utah (AP) - Some say it was a remarkable coincidence, but two World War II veterans who took part in a Sept. 10 Utah Honor Flight believe it was more than that.

Alan Sperry, of Provo, and Dean Solt, of Salt Lake City, hadn’t seen each other for seven decades. Yet both men ended up seated next to each other during an Honor Flight event.

“I did not recognize him at all,” said Sperry. “Even when I was sitting and talking to him.”

The men, who are both 88, struck up a conversation after being seated next to each other on Sept. 11 at the Air Force Memorial.

“He mentioned to me that he had been in the Philippines,” said Solt. “And I said, ‘Well, I’ve been in the Philippines.’ He says, ‘Well I got there December the 21st of 1944.’ I says, ‘That’s when I got there.’ Then Solt looked at Sperry’s name tag. “And I said, ‘You can’t be the same Dean Solt.’

That’s when Solt reached for his wallet, wondering if he still had the photo of the two that he’d been carrying since the end of the war.

“Every time I’d look through my wallet and that picture would be there, and I wouldn’t throw it away,” Solt said. But he didn’t know why he had kept it.

“I started looking through my wallet, and there it popped.” Solt said.

“It was clear out of the blue,” Sperry added. “We had no idea of anything like this happening. Didn’t even dream of it.”

During the war, they had served in different units, but had met at their base in the Philippines, and discovered both were in Utah. They were also both members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, among only a handful on the island. “I was a priest,” said Sperry, “He (Solt) was a teacher.” Solt said they had become the best of friends.

Although Solt had one photo, Sperry, who had managed to carry a box camera with him to the Philippines, had many more. Upon their return to Utah, the pair met to exchange photos and memories. Of their chance meeting on the Honor Flight, they say it was better than winning the lottery.

“We’ll take this,” said Sperry.

“Yes, because we’re too old to spend the lottery,” Solt quipped.

“Yeah, we don’t eat that much anyway,” Sperry replied.

After the war, Solt said he tried once to find Sperry. But Sperry had begun traveling around the country working for the LDS Church Education System. Solt was a private businessman, selling a mount for trolling motors, which he invented.

Solt thought his old friend, like so many other WWII veterans, had probably died. He didn’t know why he had kept the photo in his wallet. But both men believe their meeting - seven decades after the end of the war - was not by mere chance.

“The chances of us meeting like we did are practically impossible,” Solt said. “We’ve both survived till almost the end.”


Information from: Deseret News, https://www.deseretnews.com

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