Times Leader Staff Writer
This generation of Americans, dubbed by Tom Brokaw as "the Greatest Generation," was born early in the 20th century and was shaped by their experiences in the Great Depression and WWII.
In their "tumultuous journey through adversity and achievement," Mr. Brokaw wrote, there were those who failed to measure up, but as a whole, this generation was motivated by duty and patriotism."
Local World War II Veterans were honored with a free dinner hosted by the Barnesville Kiwanis Club.
The veterans from Belmont county and surrounding areas were jpined by guests and interested residents. A program on the World War II museum in New Orleans was presented following the meal.
Marcia Parkinson introduced Chris Chaplin, Director of Development of National World War II Museum to the 74 people in attendance.
The National World War II Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world – why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today – so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.
Chaplin told the crowd that this part of our history is rapidly disapperaign as approximately 1,500 World War II veterans die every year. panels and original artifacts that allow visitors to see a piece of D-Day firsthand.
“The National World War II Museum strives to preserve the legacy and lessons of World War II through the personal accounts of those who experienced the war,” said Chaplin,
he said over 3,000 histories have already been recorded through the Center for the Study of the American Spirit. These stories include interesting accounts from the soldiers persepctive of the war. Soldiers such as Francis Plumley, 106th Infantry Division, 422nd Regiment, who was taken as a POW.
His greatly outnumbered unit was hit by the full force of this massive German counter-offensive that would later be known as the Battle of the Bulge. Battle hardened German troops were thrown against the new, untried 106th Infantry Division which had gone into the front lines for the first time only five days previous. Two regiments, the 422nd and 423rd, with the 589th and 590th FA Bns., were cut off and surrounded by the German Army in the town of St. Vith.
Hopelessly outnumbered and facing superior forces with tanks and artillery, they dug in for a last ditch defense of the key road center. Ammunition and food ran low. Appeals were radioed to HQ to have supplies flown in, but the soupy fog which covered the frozen countryside made air transport impossible.
The valiant stand of the two fighting regiments inside the German lines lasted through hree days and nights of ceaseless in-fighting. Low on ammunition, food gone, ranks depleted, the 422nd and 423rd were finally overtaken by the onslaught and Plumley became a prisoner of war. Myles Friel was also a member of the valiant 106th Infantry.
Richard Betts, 35th Infantry Division, served in a unit that was the spearhead of Patton's 3rd Army on the sweep across France and helped save Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge. .
Harry Hinkle 104 Battallion Timberwolves is also a Bulge veteran. The 104th Infantry Division —nicknamed the Timberwolf Division— is a division of the United States Army that fought for 195 consecutive days during World War II. Some 34,000 men served with the division under the leadership of General "Terrible Terry" Allen
Another Battle of the Bulge veteran who attended was Bill Aakrom with the 2nd Infantry. The division landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day + 1 (June 7, 1944) in Normandy, France. The 2ID was part of General Omar Bradley's First Army.
Meredith Samples with the 12th Field Artillery Battalion. he 12th joined the armies staging in England for the invasion of France. On D-Day plus three, the 12th landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy and participated in the breakout from the beachhead. Later, the 12th was in the thick of the fighting of the Battle of the Bulge and it joined in the race across Germany.
Serving with the 8th Air Force in England were Richard Steele and Bon Harris with the 398th Bomb Group. These were the B-17 squadrons. According to the bomber group's web site a total of 350,000 airmen served with the Eighth Air Force in England, and to this number, 26,000 were killed, or 7.42 percent. Compared to the percentages of other military branches – U.S. Marines 3.29%, U.S. Army 2.25%, and U.S. Navy 0.41%. - the Air Corps sustained the heaviest losses. More airman with the Eighth Air Force lost their lives than the entire Marine Corps, whose enrollment included 250,000 more people. Strictly measuring the mortality rate for the 210,000 air crewmen the casualty figure soars to 12.38% and in addition, 21,000 from the Eighth Air Force wound up in prison of war camps. Of those who flew the original twenty-five mission bomber tour in 1942-1943, just 35% survived, the twenty-five to thirty mission requirements of 1944 saw 66% completed, and by 1945, 81% of the combatants flew the full thirty-five engagements.
Gene Miller US Marines 1st Division was an under water demolition swimmer in the island invasions of the South Pacific. This unit was the predecessor of the Navy SEALS program. Underwater Demolition Teams were the answer found during World War II to the problem which led to heavy Marine Corps losses in the invasion of Tarawa in the Pacific in 1943.
The waves of landing craft carrying troops of the famous Marine Second Division onto the beaches of Tarawa, went aground on a submerged coral reef which had not been revealed by aerial reconnaissance photos about a mile and a half from the beach, thus forcing the troops to wade the long stretch in hip deep water under withering Japanese fire. Losses were thus tragically high before the landing force was even afoot on the Island. It was painfully apparent to staff planners of all services that the success of future amphibious invasion of Japanese held territory would be in jeopardy if there was to be no way of knowing what obstacles, both natural and man-made, lay to seaward of the beach, and if there were no way of clearing such obstacles.
From this breif accounting of the actions this small sampling of local veterans experienced during the war, it is easy to grasp the importance of the museum’s mission to record the stories from the remaining veterans of this important chapter in American history.
Other veterans in attendance were:
Henry Gallagher USN ATF-73 Menominee ,
Louis Deitrich US Navy CL-47 USS Boise Brooklyn class Light Cruiser
Francis Brock USN Submarine Chaser 1349 North Pacific and China
Keith Zellers USN Amphibious Forces
Bill Lyon 5th Air Force South Pacific
Charles Wilson 97th Infantry Division
Lawrence Morrison Infantry Signal Corps
Bill Davies USN Mine Sweeper DMS-1 USS Dorsey
“It is vital to preserve their oral histories for posterity.” said Chaplin, who encouraged family memebers of WWII veterans to submit stories and photosfrom WWII veterans through the Web site -- www.National WW2Museum.org.
Chaplin will return to Barnesville in early May to Barnesville and will meet with the area veterans in an effort to record their personal accounts of WWII?experiences. If you are a veteran of WWII and are interested in sharing your stories or photos from WWII please contact Chaplin at 614-270-3197.
Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as the country's official World War II Museum, this remarkable attraction illuminates the American experience during the WWII era with moving personal stories, historic artifacts and powerful interactive displays. From the Normandy invasion to the sands of Pacific Islands and the Home Front, the Museum brings to life the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifice of the men and women who won the war and changed the world.
Palmer can be reached at:firstname.lastname@example.org
T-L Photo Mike Palmer
Chris Chaplin, Director of Development of the National World War II Museum spoke to the WWII veterans and guests in attendance at the luncheon then traveled to Barnesville high school to give a presentation to the students on the museum and it’s mission legacy and lessons of World War II through the personal accounts of those who experienced the war.