COLUMBUS - The Ohio Departments of Aging and Veterans Services have released the first contributions to the departments' joint War Era Story Project. From late May through August, 2012, the departments asked Ohioans to submit their memories from the start of World War II through the 1940s. Forty-six stories are included in this first release, with more stories planned to be released once per month until all submissions have been shared with the public. Read, download and print individual stories at www.aging.ohio.gov/news/storyprojects.
"World War II was, without a doubt, one of the most challenging and influential periods in our nation's history," said Bonnie Kantor-Burman, director of the Department of Aging. "Our elders not only lived through this time, they learned how to live, how to survive and, ultimately, how to thrive. We owe them a debt of gratitude, and this project is but a small token to say 'thank you' for all you did to make our state and nation safe and strong."
"Everyone who lived through the Second World War, whether on the battlefront or the homefront, certainly has very vivid memories of those days," said Tom Moe, director of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services. "It's important to capture these before this generation passes. There's much that we can learn from them today about persevering through tough times and often tragedy, yet still maintaining their resiliency and going on to live important and productive lives."
The War Era Story Project was a follow-up to the Department of Aging's award-winning 2009 Great Depression Story Project. Since this project was intended to explore Ohio's war-time experience, the Department teamed with the Ohio Department of Veterans Services to collect stories from veterans of World War II as well as the men, women and children who held steady on the home front. The project garnered submissions from 283 individuals, including 21 who currently reside out of state or who did not provide location information. Ohio residents represent 50 different counties. Of the authors who provided an age, the oldest was 100 and the youngest was 25. The average age of authors was 83.
In recognition of Veterans Day, the first stories to be released were primarily written by or about Ohioans directly involved in the war effort as a member of our nation's armed forces. Some of the stories include:
Roger Adam, age 90, Mansfield - Mr. Adam worked in a TNT plant mixing chemicals before he was commissioned as a pilot and flew missions in Japan.
Ellen Alexander, age 89, no location given - Mrs. Alexander joined the Marines to escape a restrictive father. She was an M.P. and arrived in Pearl Harbor the day after the attack.
Rob Allen, Grove City - Mr. Allen writes about his father, Robert, who was drafted in high school but was ineligible due to failing French class. As a result, he was saved from fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.
Gina Arens, Sharonville - Ms. Arens tells the story of Albert Wesley Halloway, who served on a ship that was attacked by Kamikazes twice.
Frank Bodnar, age 93, Youngstown - Mr. Bodnar outlines the course of his service from 1941 to 1945. He tells of his experience crossing the Himalayas. He includes photos of him then and now.
Robert Bohyer, Lima - Mr. Bohyer remembers hearing about the attack on Pearl Harbor on the radio as a teen. He joined the fighting in 1942 and served aboard the popular bomber, "5-Grand."
Norman Cohen, Hilliard - Mr. Cohen fought in the Battle of the Bulge and recounts how he and his group evaded German capture (or worse) by hiding in a Belgian attic.
Larry De Maria, Mayfield Heights - Mr. De Maria was one of a few first-generation Italian-Americans recruited to complete special missions behind enemy lines.
Leonard J. Dentinger, age 86, Bloomville - Mr. Dentinger was drafted in 1944 and assigned to a tank in the Battle of the Bulge. He describes in detail the battle and his near-death experiences.
Connie Dow, age and location not given - Ms. Dow submitted an excerpt from a book written by her father, Frank Bergstein, in which he details his role in the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach.
Billie Hall Komen Engel, age 90, Cincinnati - Ms. Engle left her teaching job to be a mechanic instructor for the Air Corps. She describes how she met her first husband and moved to Ohio while he served overseas.
Val Farnham, age 89, Columbus - Mr. Farnham describes how he was selected for a special assignment to capture Russian soldiers who had defected to Germany.
Martin Kahl, age 94, Miamisburg - Mr. Kahl joined the National Guard in Dayton then was drafted. He chronicles how one missed assignment to K.P. led to a career as a Mess Sgt.
Thomas W. McLaughlin, Norwalk - Mr. McLaughlin shares the story of his father, Clinton, the highest decorated WWII veteran from Huron County. He includes articles about his father's missions.
Jerry Mogan, Grove City - Mr. Mogan briefly describes his family's military service. He includes a letter written by his brother John to his new bride about his travel and service in Europe.
Edgar Moorman, age 93, Dayton - Mr. Moorman was drafted in 1941, before Pearl Harbor, despite having a crippled hand. He served five years in the South Pacific and participated in the liberation of Manila.
Frederick Murrish, age 87, Galloway - Mr. Murrish was in high school during the war. He graduated and wanted to become a pilot, but became an aerial gunner instead.
Milt Okum, age 86, Cincinnati - Mr. Okum describes how he was rushed through basic training due to a need for replacement troops in 1944.
Oida Mae Peacock, age 88, Greenville - Mrs. Peacock was homeless from the Great Depression when a call to become a Navy nurse changed her life.
Millie Poff, age 86, Lebanon - Mrs. Poff lied about her age to join the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), where she was a teletype operator until she was found out.
Thomas Rosmarin, Columbus - Mr. Rosmarin was a radio-gunner in B-25s during the War. He tells how he almost mistakenly bailed out during a mission in Germany to destroy enemy supply cars.
Elizabeth Seurkamp, Cincinnati - Ms. Seurkamp tells the story of her brother, John Bolton, who enlisted at age 13, was found out and discharged. Undeterred, he faked a draft card and finally saw combat.
John M. Williams, age 88, Howard - Mr. Williams enlisted in 1942 and was a Morse code instructor. He recalls how he went to France and ended up driving Jack Benny in Goering's car.
About ODA - The Ohio Department of Aging works to ensure that our elders are respected as vital members of society who continue to grow, thrive and contribute. We work with state agencies and community partners, including area agencies on aging, to help integrate aging needs into local plans and ensure that aging Ohioans have access to a wide array of high-quality services and supports that are person-centered in policy and practice. Our programs include the PASSPORT Medicaid waiver, caregiver support, the long-term care ombudsman program, the Golden Buckeye Card and more. Visit www.aging.ohio.gov.
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