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Former Army paratrooper, car collector led colorful life

  • COURTESY SKYDIVE HAWAII / 2018
                                Former Army paratrooper Polito “Paul” Olivas, who did a tandem (with Richard Doppelmayer) free-fall parachute jump at Skydive Hawaii at Dillingham Airfield to celebrate his birthday, died Sept. 28 at his Mililani home at age 99.

    COURTESY SKYDIVE HAWAII / 2018

    Former Army paratrooper Polito “Paul” Olivas, who did a tandem (with Richard Doppelmayer) free-fall parachute jump at Skydive Hawaii at Dillingham Airfield to celebrate his birthday, died Sept. 28 at his Mililani home at age 99.

A well-known Mililani man, Army paratrooper and vintage car collector died at the age of 99 on Sept. 28, friends say.

Polito “Paul” Olivas, who led a colorful life from the days of his youth growing up in a cabin with a dirt floor in Sapello, N.M., grabbed headlines in August 2018 when he made a tandem skydive at Dillingham Airfield, jumping out of a plane at 14,000 feet.

At the time, Olivas figured his most recent jump before that had been in 1964.

During World War II he was a member of the 101st Airborne Division. He later served in South Korea and during the Vietnam War.

In 1952 Olivas became an original member of the Special Forces “Green Berets” in what was called the 1st Psychological Warfare Unit before it was rebranded as the 10th Special Forces Group, according to Special Operations Command Pacific.

Olivas also was widely known in Hawaii for restoring classic Mustangs and was a founder of the Aloha Mustang and Shelby Club of Hawaii.

“I think the world of him. This guy — he would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it,” said Roy Ogasawara, who also was an Army Special Forces soldier.

Olivas “comes from a very humble beginning — because he said he never finished the seventh grade,” Ogasawara said.

At the time of the 2018 parachute jump, Olivas said he was 100 years old.

“Excellent,” the retired Army master sergeant said after his one-minute free fall and 6-minute canopy ride. “Let’s do it again.”

Olivas later confessed to his church that he had enlisted at age 16 — and not 18 like he told the Army — and that the added age from his military records officially stuck with him the rest of his life.

While he did serve during three wars, Olivas also told his church he wanted to get off his chest past false claims that he had jumped into Normandy, France, on D-Day in 1944.

Olivas, who was Spanish and one-third Navajo, was born Aug. 22, 1920, in Sapello, N.M., according to friends.

“Nothing much there except rattlesnakes and prairie dogs,” Olivas recalled in 2018. “It was cowboy country in New Mexico — way out in the sticks.”

Growing up, Olivas lived with his two brothers, parents and grandparents in a small cabin with no running water or electricity. His family moved to Colorado, and he eventually joined the National Guard. Olivas later decided to become a paratrooper with the 101st — because the hazardous duty paid $55 more a month.

James R. Bolan, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who lives near Pearl Harbor, said both he and Olivas were recruited for Special Forces in 1952. Olivas was a sergeant in one regiment, and Bolan was a 2nd lieutenant in another regiment.

“A good friend of mine recruited him,” Bolan said.

Much later in Hawaii, Olivas “was known as Mr. Mustang, because he’s the one who organized the Mustang club,” Bolan said. “He had plenty of Mustangs along the way. He was a car collector.”

Olivas recently went to the hospital after experiencing stomach pain, Ogasa­wara said. Tests revealed cancer.

“He was in the hospital at Tripler for about a week, but his wish was to go home to Mililani and see his dog and watch University of Hawaii football games,” Ogasawara said.

After setting up hospice care, Olivas arrived home “and shortly thereafter, within a half hour or so he stopped breathing and he died,” he said.

Ogasawara said he will give a eulogy for his friend at a 10 a.m. service on Oct. 19 at Mililani Baptist Church, where Olivas was a deacon.

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