Jim Kunkle’s military service during World War II turned him into a celebrity.

Kunkle was a P-38 fighter pilot who fought German Luftwaffe over Nazi-occupied Europe and was shot down during a dogfight. But not before downing some enemy aircraft in the process, which later earned him a Distinguished Service Cross (that’s one step below the Medal of Honor).

Kunkle’s clout only seemed to grow as he got older. He recalls receiving an invitation from Paul Allen (the late billionaire who co-founded Microsoft and owned several professional sports teams) to inspect a restored P-51 that Kunkle once flew to Sweden.

Retelling his WWII stories became somewhat routine, he said. But the question that gets him the most at parties is the one asked by pilots several generations younger: what do you do in battle when all hope is lost?