Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ted Cummings Tells the Story of Jack Berquist

The interview that was my first and only solo as well as my last interview of the project was Ted Cummings. His brother-in-law was a paratrooper that dropped in during the night before D-Day. He told me that during the drop into Normandy that his brother-in-law was struck by a single anti-aircraft round but continued with his mission and did not seek medical attention until later on.  He also went on to tell me that later on after coming to a French château he was being treated for his wound when a snipers bullet killed the corpsman that was treating him and ended up hitting him as well. Mr. Cummings told me his brother in law continued to fight in France and participated in the semi-failure operation Market garden, the offensive to circumvent the Siegfried line through the Netherlands. His brother-in-law finished the war as one of General Dwight D Eisenhower’s honor Guard at his headquarters in Germany.

--JR Bauer

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Krotee Family Stories

Wednesday, June 18th

For today, Rachel Brown, Mr. Buckley and I interviewed Richard R. Krotee about his father, Walter R. Krotee, whose branch was the Army Corps of Engineers. He at first told us that he did not remember too much about his father in those years and what he did during World War II, but soon enough; the more he told us the more interesting we found the story of his father’s war-time jobs.  A part of this project is to interview World War II veterans, but this year, another big part of this project has involved the sons and daughters of those who served in the war and getting interviews from them. 

Richard Krotee began by telling us that in the late 1930’s the world was in economic turmoil and World War II was looming near. In 1937 Richard’s father, Walter, graduated from the University of Alabama and earned a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the US Army Reserves through the college’s ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Program). His first job after graduation was as a mechanical engineer in a sugar refinery in Philadelphia. By 1940 Walter and his US Army Reserve colleagues were aware that a fighting War had already broken out in Europe, North Africa, and Asia. They knew that it was only a matter of time before the US became directly involved in the conflicts and combat. In 1940, a year before Pearl Harbor and the US Declaration of War with the Axis powers, Walter and his military colleagues volunteered for Active Duty and became full time soldiers. Second Lieutenant W.R.Krotee’s first Army assignment was to Ft. Belvoir Virginia where he worked in various Engineering Development Programs.

We asked Richard what that meant…and he explained it basically like this: The Ft. Belvoir Engineers were the Army’s Special Development Unit similar to the “Q” branch in the James Bond stories. For those of you that haven’t heard of James Bond or the “Q” branch, “Q” was a research and development branch for the British Secret Service that made crazy and unthinkable gadgets such as a Bowler hat with a built in metal ring weapon, self-destructing suitcases, and exploding pen guns. His father did not make lethal pens; however, they did work on night-vision goggles, and mobile bridges that folded up and were carried by truck and trailer (to be erected to span small rivers then re-folded and transported to be used again).

In 1940, a year before Pearl Harbor, Walter Krotee became a specialist in airport defense including camouflage. One of his father’s jobs there was to develop mesh nets that would vary to match a certain environment and were used to throw over parked airplanes or cars to camouflage them. The camouflage allowed the airplanes as well as vehicles to be hidden and thereby protected while on land. As another example he explained that his father was part of a team making nets decorated in rubber leaves and other artificial plants that would be thrown over Jeeps or tanks to match the environment surrounding them whether it would be the jungle, forest, or even the desert.

One item in particular that he talked about was very peculiar: inflatable planes and tanks. Yes, inflatable….similar to the giant snow men and pumpkins you might see on your neighbor’s front lawn during holidays, as Richard Krotee described them. In Northern England in 1944 the Allies used these “dummy” blowup tanks and planes to set up a decoy camp in order to fake the enemy into believing that was where the Army’s actual invasion force was being staged, and it actually worked! This was a technique that helped make the Axis troops believe that the Allies were most likely going to attack Calais, when they really were planning on attacking Normandy….. It was a truly amazing thing to hear that his father had been part of that.

Because of his father’s frequent changes in duty assignments by the time Richard Krotee was 5 years old he had already lived in 5 different states. Richard Krotee said that he rarely got to see his father during the war years. In 1945 Walter, then a Captain, was shipped to the Pacific theater of operations where he took part in the invasions of the Philippines and Okinawa. Perhaps if I had not spoken to Richard Krotee, I would have never even known about those things that happened during World War II.

Not only had Richard Krotee’s father had experience in WWII, but Richard also had some “war” stories of his own to tell. Richard told of enlisting into the Navy as a volunteer in a Submarine Reserve Unit in Philadelphia in 1961. The “War” at this time was called the “Cold War”

After a year of training and then completing the Navy’s Submarine School in Groton CT Richard Krotee went on 2 years active duty with the submarine fleet. His Submarine was the USS Thomas Jefferson, a nuclear powered Polaris Ballistic Missile carrying sub. The underwater limits of this sub, as Mr. Krotee described it, were due only to the human factors of the crew. His sub was 425 feet long, and about the same displacement as a Cruiser (large Navy surface ship). The Polaris subs could exceed 20 miles an hour submerged…indefinitely! While deployed (60 out of 90 days) they were not allowed contact with the outside world because of security. He went on to explain that they carried 16 missiles, each one containing  the combined explosive power of all the bombs used in World War II…including the atomic bomb.

There were 41 other of these Polaris Subs spread out around the world, and their job was to counter “Cold War” threats. The mission was:  “deterrent patrol”… which meant: “If you shoot us, we are going to blow the hell out of you”. And this strategy seemed to work out pretty well for them during the “Cold War years that lasted into the 1980s and ended when the USSR was dissolved. To operate these subs, all 130 men had to have special training and be “Qualified on Submarines”. This meant that all of them had to be able to perform a wide range of jobs on the sub. For example: how to shoot a missile, shoot a torpedo, start a diesel engine, or be a cook’s assistant…all of which Richard Krotee learned how to do on top of working as a Quartermaster in the sub’s navigation department.

Something interesting that I never would have imagined, is that if you weren’t on watch many books were available for reading, the sub had 1500 linear feet of library space. Reading was one way to spend your off-watch time while being away at sea for so long. Then the best part of the duty…apparently submarines are famous for having really tasty food. I would have never expected that a submarine that’s usually submerged in seas over 100 fathoms deep, would be serving steaks, lobster tails, frog legs, fresh baked bread and homemade ice cream. Although the food was nice, his sum up of prolonged submerged patrols was: “It was like being in jail…with 130 of your friends”. I could see how he could feel that way. 

Once his Navy days were over, Richard Krotee  worked in the drafting and engineering fields. He became an amateur SCUBA diver and enjoyed that type of undersea adventure for many years.  He used his diving experiences and (with his father) co-authored a book on “Shipwrecks off the New Jersey Coast” in 1965.

And the stories of his family’s Military service have continued. A tradition of service carried on by Richard’s twin sons Mark and Rich who are veterans of the US Marine Corp.

I am so grateful that we were able to revive the WWII story of Walter Krotee through the telling of his son Richard. Also, that we were able to transition the interview to the more modern “Cold War” times that Richard was involved in and could make an audio record of his experiences.

 I am grateful for all of their family’s service and for Richard’s cheerful willingness to add to our Veterans History Project.

-Nancy Louck with Richard Krotee

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ron Fithian: A Story of Okinawa

Commissioner Fithian shared the story of his brother, Albert Smith Fithian.
The last group interview I was part of before our own individual interview’s was with Rock Hall Town Manager and President of the Kent County Commissioners, Ron Fithian. His brother severed in the last year of the war as a Marine at the Battle of Okinawa. Where he was killed during the fighting around Sugar Loaf Hill during the American push down the Southern part of the island.  Fithian explained to us that he never knew his brother having been born several years after his brother’s death and was never told about his brothers service. He told us it was only after the cleaning out of the apartment in Chesapeake City where his brother resided and later his sister owned that his brother’s wartime service came to light. This information came in a shoebox that was given to him by the new owners of the apartment, which included letters, photographs and his official military papers. After receiving the shoebox Mr. Fithian told us he studied the battle and even took a trip to Okinawa to find his brothers grave in the cemetery on the island. He told us his trip to the island was somewhat disappointing as he was told that the cemetery was moved to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in the Punch Bowl Crater on Honolulu, Hawaii.

Even though this was not a direct interview with a veteran, it was most interesting and informative.

JR Bauer

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Time With Sy Ellenhorn

JR, Sy Ellenhorn, Nicolle, and Nancy
One of our latest interviews has been by far one of the most exciting for me out of all of the interviews I have done so far.  Sy Ellenhorn, a waist gunner on a B-24 based out of Italy from 1943-45. During his service in the Second World War he flew 40 missions over Germany, Austria, Italy, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. During one of his missions between 1943 and 1944, he and the rest of the crew were forced to bail out of their plane over the Adriatic due to battle damage. He was picked by a British convoy and given temporary rest before going back to fly again. It was shortly after his return to flying that he was informed that he was now a member of the Caterpillar Club, which was joined by having successfully bailed out of an inoperable plane using a parachute. He was given a pin and certificate that he showed us during the interview.  Along with the pin and certificate he showed us many of the photos that were taken during his service as well as his service medals and his leather flight jacket.  After the interview he posed for photographs in his Army Air Corps jacket and even gave us the tour of his 1850’s home. I have to say that Sy is one of the funniest and most hospitable people I have ever met in my life.
After our interview with Sy our group managed to get him in contact with William Landis, who was our first interviewee and also a B-24 crewman.

--JR Bauer 

James Ireland: The Story of an MP

Going into the interview with Mr. James Ireland, I was both excited and nervous. I had learned a great deal from watching Mr. Buckley interview William Landis the day before. But this was the first interview that JR and I were going to be participating in. Mr. Buckley would be there to guide us, but we had to prepare and ask questions.

The morning before the interview, Mr. Buckley briefed us on the information he had gotten from Mr. Ireland over the phone. JR and I then started to research and prepare some questions about Mr. Ireland’s service. We knew he was Military Police (MP), and that he served in both North Africa and Italy during the War.
Mr. Ireland with Brady and J.R.
When we got to the interview, Mr. Ireland was very reserved, and said that he was not sure how helpful he would be because he believed his service to be uneventful, and his job not of importance.

James Ireland is a native of Kent County who enlisted in the Army. He was excused from the draft do to a childhood injury that left him blinded in his left eye. Mr. Ireland remembers telling the recruiter that he would not leave without enlisting. The recruiter told Mr. Ireland that he would spend the War state side, and he agreed. Six months later, Mr. Ireland was deployed to Casablanca and later Italy.

During the War, Mr. Ireland's duties included watching German and Italian soldiers who had been captured. Mr. Ireland said he was never concerned about prisoners trying to escape, and he believed this was because none of them wanted to return to the front lines.

His other duty was patrolling the towns watching out for the off duty soldiers who were blowing off steam before heading back to the front lines. Mr. Ireland recalled that most of the solders were very unappreciative of his duty giving all the MP’s nicknames like “Military P****”.

Ireland's discharge paper
During his time overseas, Mr. Ireland remarked on the different cultures he was able to experience. He remembered vividly the time he was able witness a volcano exploding, and how extraordinary those experiences were.

At the end of the War, James Ireland was sent on a plane filled with German prisoners back to the states where he continued to guide them until he was honorably discharged from the Army in 1946 after around three years of service.

I want to thank Mr. Ireland for his openness and for taking the time to share his story with us.

--Brady Townsend 

An Afternoon At Levindale

Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital was a day long endeavor for interviewing veterans, and meeting some unexpected new resources. With the help of two employees of the hospital, John Otten and Helene King, we set out to go room to room with a list of names of possible veterans to talk to. At the end of the day, we had two men with strong stories, and I had met someone along the way with stories of World War II from a concentration camp.

Frank Lebow, a doctor now residing in the nursing home, was on the USS Missouri when the Japanese was signing their treaty of surrender. As a teenager, Lebow enlisted in the Navy, and was put onto the ship after training. Lebow also saw Pearl Harbor, meaning he had the experience of being with the war from the beginning to the end, something not many can claim. On the topic of being a Jewish soldier, he said he was not treated any differently, everyone had one goal, and that was to get home at the end of the day. Frank Lebow also had family in World War I and spoke highly of his parents keep him on track during this time, encouraging reading and educating himself during this time.
Mr. William Mazer

Walking into William Mazer’s room, we found that the room was empty, and a man hunt ensued for this man to share his story. Going to a community activity to see if he was there, as we rounded a corner, he came out of nowhere saying that he knew he was running late to find us and he had a lunch in forty minutes that he had to be to, then starting laughing. Mazer told us of how his family comes from Russia and he was moved to the United States when he was around one year old. He joined the Army as a teenager and moved from base to base during training. Eventually after 3 years in the states at bases, Mazer was informed that he would be sent overseas, but when he reported, they told him he couldn’t go. They had lost his records, he did not exist to the Army, and was soon offered discharge, which he greatly took and reunited with his wife.

After two interviews so full of information, I was mentally exhausted and talking to my mother who was visiting my grandmother in the same building, when a man approached us. His name is David Friedman, and I was immediately taken back by the first thing he said to me, “out of everything bad comes something good.” He knew who I was because of my mother talking about me to fellow residents about what I was doing in the building that day, and told me I needed to hear a story from the World War II era.

My mother eating lunch with my grandmother in the garden

Friedman knew of a man named George, who was born on Pesach (Passover), and on his 8th birthday the Germans came and brought him to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. After spending years in this camp, George knew that something big was happening, because the Germans had started shooting just about everyone in the camp, but had run out of bullets with many still alive in the camp. They soon combined the prisoners of war in the camp and the Jewish people together, and were giving them bread. For the Germans to be giving these men bread was something incredibly unexpected, but George was so hungry that he was not going to question the motives of his captors. Before he could eat the bread, two Russians who were prisoners of war beat him and took his bread; George went to sleep hungry that night. The next morning, George was the only one alive in his hut. The Germans had poisoned that hut’s bread and the Germans in charge of that hut soon left after, knowing that the liberation was near. Bergen-Belsen was liberated that Passover. George said that it was מלאכים, the angels, and the Americans, saving this day for him to be liberated.

I know Levindale still has so many stories to tell and I plan on going back soon to try to help this stories get preserved in the way these will be soon.

--Molli Cole

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Looking the Enemy in the Eyes - A Story from Bill Campbell

Tuesday, June 17th 2014

Today was my first day working on the Oral History project for Washington College, and it was definitely not what I expected. The rest of the group has been here for a couple of weeks, (besides Rachel Brown who just joined also, but has been doing this since 2013 so she’s already basically a pro) and have already had experiences with interviewing. So, for today I acted as a shadow while Molli Cole and Brady Townsend had their first group interview with Bill Campbell. 

To be honest, I was very timid about interviewing a World War II veteran. I had never done an actual interview before, so I was afraid I was going to be awkward and therefore make the interviewee feel uncomfortable. Also, I had the expectation that veterans would be reluctant to share their stories and that it was going to be all up to me to prompt them to be motivated to want to talk. But Bill Campbell, aka “Soup” by his shipmates, changed my perspective completely. He was very warm and welcoming, showing us his “pad” and the back porch he uses for bird watching. He brought us into his office, which was like walking into a room of his history being involved in World War II and the extra 10 years he stayed in the military, filled with pictures of his destroyer, pictures at award banquets, medals, uniforms, awards, and files that held information pertaining to what he did while in the war.

When we first sat down with Campbell, he gave us the rundown of what happened during his time out at sea on the destroyer USS Melvin. As the interview went on, we asked him more questions that gave us more detail of his experience. 

When Campbell was assigned to the USS Melvin he was the assistant gunnery officer. So, when the gunnery officer left for his downtime or rest, it was Campbell’s job to take his place. He told us that his first experience however, was a lot more extreme than expected. It was his first week on USS Melvin, and while watching over the gunnery office they were attacked by the suicide bomber kamikaze planes. These planes must have been terrifying, because not only are they bombing and attacking you…but even with two of their wings blown off, they will keep coming at you. 

One of the kamikaze actually dived down so close towards the destroyer that it was impossible for USS Melvin to shoot it down because the bomb attached to it and the debris could destroy their ship. As the kamikaze was getting closer, all the gunners could do was waiting to see what would happen next. As Campbell watched from the gunnery office, his and the Japanese eyes met...something that would most likely be the last thing that a soldier sees, but to their astonishment the kamikaze  lifted up and flew just barely over the destroyer. After that, they shot the kamikaze down. This was particularly interesting to me, because you rarely hear stories of how two opposing sides share an intimate moment such as making eye contact and then live on to tell others about it.

As this is only one of Bill Campbell’s stories, he had many that he shared with us. He and the rest of his crew were successful with their other battles and missions, and they also helped with the occupation in Japan after the war. They did this from July all the way to December, and after hitting a typhoon, the USS Melvin finally made it back to San Francisco to return to their wives after a long period of their life out at sea. He graduated from the Navy in class 1944, and is currently involved in the committee for setting up reunions for his graduating class. 

I will always appreciate how open Campbell was with us and how fun he made me first interview for me. I’m very excited about what else I will get to hear from our veterans in their moments of bravery serving our country. 

-Nancy Louck

The Life of a B-24 Pilot: Wilson A. Landis III

Going into our first group interview this summer; it was very exciting to finally get started. When we first arrived for the interview I noticed Mr. and Mrs. Landis had laid out various items of memorabilia including Mr. Landis’s flight jacket and a shadow box containing some of his service medals. Wilson A. Landis III was a B-24 bomber pilot who completed approximately 35 combat missions during World War II. He was shot down, had to evacuate his plane in the middle of a foreign country, lost close friends and saved the life of his navigator by carrying him wounded through the forest in Yugoslavia. 
What stands out the most to me is the humbleness he displayed when sharing his story even though he was incredibly courageous and faced great dangers during the war. Also, it was evident that Mrs. Landis is very proud of her husband’s service. Mrs. Landis shared a few stories and also showed us a piece of his parachute she received by mail when he was overseas. She told us while all the other ladies were receiving jewelry in the mail she received a piece of cloth. It wasn’t until Mr. Landis came home that she fully understood the significance of the gift and now she cherishes it as the parachute is what saved his life when he bailed out of his plane. I have often wondered what it must have been like living through a war such as this. When asked what advice he would pass on to this generation Mr. Landis stated “We have to be ready to defend our country, we weren’t expecting a war nor did we want to go to war, we were just enjoying our lives, attending college when the war happened”. It must have been surreal to one day be a college student and the next day you are at war. I want to thank Mr. and Mrs. Landis for telling their stories; it was a true pleasure meeting them!

-Nicolle Gamez

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Under and Up Again: Our Time with Edith Noordewier Foley

When we first arrived at the Foley household, we had expected to obtain an interview about a young girl who lived in Nazi Germany, and later wrote a book about her time in the country. Little did we know, we were actually walking into a soon friendship with Edith Noordewier Foley. As we were sitting down for the interview, Edith told us she was not sure she had anything to contribute to our Oral History project. In fact, she handed us her book “Under and Up Again” and told us to read the back and see what she could further contribute. We were more than ready to ask questions after reading the summary of her book, and wanted to immediately jump into growing up in Nazi Germany.

Edith started her story and grabbed our attention for the entire hour long interview. There was not a moment where we were not intertwined in what this woman had to say, from having different food stamps and being ostracized, to watching her father smuggle Jews away from Germany which she later learned was just one of his jobs during the war. Throughout the entire interview, one segment was stuck in my head and I do not think I will forget it, “war does not happen fast, you see it slowly take away everything you know.” This rang true in Edith’s story, she lost her father, her mother became ill, and eventually Edith was taken from Berlin to the Netherlands where she could continue schooling and try to achieve normalcy in a time of war.

While Edith was not German, she felt the repercussions of having a German accent when she went to attend a boarding school that was specific to war torn girls, many from Japanese concentration camps. She was talking in the school one day, when a Jewish girl came up to her and slapped her across the face when the girl heard Edith’s accent. There was no way to react, Edith just stood there, and she knew why the girl had hit her, just because she SOUNDED like a German.

After hearing about Edith’s long journey that eventually led her to America, we looked down at the tape and realized that we had over an hour of audio, and decided it was a good time to stop recording. The second we turned off the machine, Edith offered us a drink and told us about her family history, the inspiration for her book “Never Gone.” After around another hour of conversation just as people, not as the interviewer and the interviewee, it was actually sad to have to leave the Foley residence. I felt bonded to this woman, not because I knew her story, but because she took the time to learn ours, and let us into why she chose to write down all of her memories. Eventually, we had to say goodbye and Edith had told us that she was glad to have met us, but I think Brady and I were more honored to have the chance to meet Edith.

--Molli Cole and Brady Townsend

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Rachel's Quick and Dirty Oral History Tips

A lot of the posts on this blog have covered our reactions to individual interviews, but we haven't really talked much about the process itself. In light of that, here's a brief how-to guide for the aspiring oral historian:

  1.  Come prepared! Do your research and make sure you know what you're talking about. I usually aim for having some knowledge of the historical context--the public history--as well as a little bit about the person themself--the private history. But also be careful to avoid thinking that your research makes you the expert. Remember, you're here to learn from people who speak from experience, so let them talk! Also make sure to have any legal documents or release forms prepared, and be able to explain them. And, of course, being prepared means having your equipment (and backups!) and making sure everything works.
  2. Have a plan... Write out a list of questions you want to cover, and try to build the structure of the conversation in your mind. That way, you'll be able to get the information you need even if the conversation takes an unexpected detour. 
  3. ...But go with the flow. Remember, it's a conversation, not an interrogation. This person is sharing his or her knowledge willingly, so reciprocate! Be calm, friendly, and polite; don't be afraid to crack a joke or two to set your interviewee at ease. Make sure they see it as an equal, friendly exchange rather than a brusque business transaction.
  4. Keep an ear out. The whole purpose of doing oral history interviews is to record people's voices in a way that can be preserved and shared, so make sure it's worth it! Not a lot of research can be done from an audio file that's so full of background noise you can't hear the person speaking. It's easier to ask your interviewee to pause for a minute while the background noise dies down than to try to edit it out without losing the person's voice. 
  5. Keep in touch! Let the person know you appreciate their time and their willingness to share. Keep them in the loop regarding what happens to their interview. If you can, burn the edited audio to a CD and send them a copy. If you write a paper or stage an exhibit, tell them! They'd probably love to hear about it or attend any events--people like hearing where their voices end up.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Oral History in Real Life

I'd never been aware of or had a real interest in oral history before being assigned to this project, but within the first couple weeks I came to realize that the Oral History Project is one of the most important projects we could be doing at the Starr Center. History is empty without the individual human perspective, and the Oral History project is the best way I can think of to really capture that perspective in a medium that can be archived and shared. To me, oral history isn't just a job. Aside from the value of preserving these stories, the skills that I've learned in interviews have made me a better conversationalist in my daily life. If you're used to beginning and guiding conversations with strangers twice a week, it's easy to start chatting with somebody waiting in front of you in line!

My experiences collecting oral histories  have also influenced my work as a short story writer. A recent piece, about the vanishing islands of the Chesapeake Bay, was told from the point of view of an elderly woman being interviewed by an oral history team (fictional, but in some ways quite familiar to some oral historians I know...). Having done about 15 interviews by the time I wrote this story, I was able to make the characters act like real interviewers: one character waited for a natural pause in the conversation to move his grip on the microphone so the grating noise could later be edited out without losing any of the interviewee's speech, a lesson we had to learn the hard way!

I'll also be able to use my oral history background this summer when I travel to the American Southwest as part of Washington College's Southwest Seminar program. As part of an independent research project based off of this program, I'll be interviewing members of the Navajo nation about how their use of the Navajo language relates to their sense of cultural identity, especially in the context of creative expression like poetry or literature. Honestly, these interviews will probably be pretty challenging for me! Not only am I trying to squeeze them into the program's already jam-packed itinerary, but I'll be working by myself for the first time, without my co-workers there to jump in with questions I might have missed, or an interjection to break the silence and keep things moving. I'll also be interviewing mostly college students--people my age, who generally behave very differently from the demographic I'm used to interviewing! 

So all this is as much to say, oral history isn't dead or dry or boring; far from it! It's a way to preserve knowledge and bring people together--and you never know when it might be useful!


Erasmus Kloman: Stories from a Former OSS Agent and World Traveler

Listen to his interview!

In learning about the life of Erasmus, better known as "Raz" Kloman, one is left pondering just when he had the time to sleep. Interwoven in service with the Officer's Candidate School, the OSS, the State Department, and other public bureaus, Raz managed to study at Princeton, Harvard, and Penn. Traveling around the world, Raz has written extensively about his experiences all throughout Europe. His life is one of unmatched service to one's country as well as a sincere appreciation for intellectual growth and worldly exploration.

In preparation for the Second World War, Raz began his training at the Officers Candidate School. Recruited by the Office of Strategic Services, Raz traveled to work in France, Italy, and many places around the Mediterranean. Working at the Russian desk during the Cold War, Raz was sent to study Russian at Harvard, and rose within the ranks of the agency during the conflict. Eventually, Raz would resign from the OSS and come to work for the State Department from 1949 to 1953. Focusing on recovery of the European allies after WWII, Raz was involved in substantial policy work with the Department, through which he handled important classified information. 

Moving through various public affairs agencies during the Korean War and the era of McCarthyism, Raz eventually moved to the private sector, working for the Philadelphia Ad Agency, as well as the Foreign Policy Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. In receiving his PhD. from UPenn in African Studies (in part due to his work with the FPRI), Raz would come to work with AMAX Global, a large metals corporation which highly valued Mr. Kloman's wealth of knowledge in global affairs and African studies. 

Rounding out his spectacularly long and diverse resume, Raz finally came to work for the National Academy of Public Administration, through which he worked extensively with NASA management. With NASA, he contributed to substantive work with the Lunar Orbiter Project as well as the Surveyor Program. 

In his interview, Raz recounts his amazing work with the OSS, recalling fascinating tales about working with resistance fighters in the European theater of the Second World War. His perspective on the courage and bravery of these forces puts into perspective the true reality behind the struggles of Axis control. In addition, Mr. Kloman highlights amazing stories regarding information gathering missions with the OSS, including one particular instance where he had to develop--on the spot--a plan to save himself just in case the mission went south. Clearly, his story is one of amazing risk and dedication to service for his country. If I could accomplish half of what Mr. Kloman has, I would consider my life a success. 

Raz currently resides in Maryland with his wife, Sue Kloman. In their worldly travels, Raz has written highly informative pieces  about his endeavors. To view and purchase his work, click here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Startling Reality: Stories Left Untold Forever

We at the C.V. Starr Center have been incredibly fortunate to have interviewed many of our nation’s greatest heroes, all thanks to the amazing work of our liaison at the Heron Point Retirement Community in Chestertown, Maryland. Their stories, now preserved, will be serving as a wealth of information for generations to come. While we will—one day—pass on to the next world, the first-hand accounts of one of our country’s most trying times will be forever available to scholars decades into the future.

Just a few weeks ago, Rachel, Alex, and I were informed of some startling news: since the beginning of our interview process, six of the potential WWII candidates lined up to be interviewed had sadly passed away. 
We were stunned. In a span of five to seven months, we had lost half a dozen stories to the ages.

While some of our departed heroes may have shared of their struggles, triumphs, and experiences with family or friends, many may have decided to do as those of their generation have done for many years: they could have refrained from telling with those who did not share in the conflict. This should not seem as though such veterans were holding back from the world, many heroes decided to keep the burdens of their service to themselves, so as not to upset those they loved.  In a way, they didn’t want to put their struggles off on anyone else; they saw it as part of their service to preserve the strength and safety of their family and friends, and not to worry them. In many other aspects, some may not have seen their own stories as all too important. Clearly, this represents a sincere humility on their part.

That being said, the reality remains the same. For about six or so individuals, we will never be able to share their stories with the world. We will never be able to preserve their experiences of WWII with future generations to come. In losing those six accounts, we have lost forever six different and completely unique experiences of American history. Who knows what could have been uncovered, revealed to all those who revere American history for what it has to teach us.

There will soon come a time when not a single person will be left from some of America’s most defining points in history. As a student of history, and with a sincere appreciation for American values, I believe that for any American citizen, it is our obligation to preserve as much as we can about the roads which have come before us. Without knowing where we have been, we will never truly know where we are going.
In moving forward with our Veterans History Project, I truly believe that each of us will continue our work knowing full well that time is fleeting. These golden opportunities to record the history of American Heroes are not to be taken for granted.

My final thoughts on this matter are for you. If you have anyone close to you who has a story to share about their service, or any other type of story for that matter, I would strongly suggest sitting down one day to hear it. That opportunity may not be around much longer.  

Saturday, February 15, 2014

James H. Watson: Former Lieutenant Commander of the US Navy

Listen to his interview!

James H. Watson was born and raised in Burlingame California, right outside of San Francisco. Attending San Mateo College in hopes of making it to Berkeley, Watson put his education on hold to serve our nation during the Second World War. His story is one of dedication, good will, and honored success.

Joining the V7 program, Watson intended seek the fast-track of becoming an officer of the US Navy. With such a unique program, this endeavor only lasted 90 days! Commissioned in May of 1941, Watson would later begin working as part of a team of destroyer escorts, which protected American ships against the threat of enemy submarines or battleships.

In 1945, Watson shifted gears, working for Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT's) by January of 1945, which  took him from Maui to many islands and waters across the pacific. Even after the Atomic Bomb was dropped over Japan, Watson and his team's work continued to protect American forces still stationed throughout the many territories. Without his work, the paths of American ships would have been perilous, for the underwater threats of the Japanese would have posed  great risks for American forces going ashore.

Throughout his time as a UDT officer, Watson recounts several fascinating stories, some of which are chilling, while others are absolutely heart-warming. In traveling through the islands of the Tinian and Saipan, Watson recalls helplessly watching as civilians throw themselves to their deaths, fearing that the Japanese propaganda about American "conquerors" to be true. But when he was able to, Watson stepped beyond his call of duty to assist those in need. In rescuing a little Japanese girl who was stranded in the ocean, victimized from the destruction of war, Watson exceeded his obligations for the protection of innocent life. This truly goes to show that while the horrors of war may be unbearable at times, it can certainly bring out the greatest of character in our servicemen and women.

After leaving the Navy, Watson went on to finish his education at Berkeley, start a family, and build a successful sales career with several Fortune 500 companies. Having lived a life of service to his nation, and commitment to his family, Mr. James H. Watson has truly exemplified the American ideal.

 We sincerely thank Mr. Watson for his service.

Bobbie Anselmi Talks About Her War

Listen to her interview!

On a chilly Friday afternoon, Mrs. Anselmi greeted us cheerfully in the dining room of the house her daughter, Mrs. Elisabeth Reiss, shares with President Mitchell Reiss on Cannon Street. As we set up our equipment and told her a little bit about how the interview process would go, she chuckled and mentioned that her voice was often recorded reading newspapers for the blind, so she was an old hand at speaking into a microphone. She did indeed prove to be an excellent speaker, introducing herself with a memorable opening--"My name is Bobbie Anselmi, I'm British, and I'm here to tell you about my War"--and heading right into a funny, touching, and detailed account of her years growing up during the Blitz and her service as a wireless operator during the Berlin Airlift.

Mrs. Anselmi, who was 10 and a half years old when the war started for Britain in 1939, grew up in a small village in Staffordshire, about two and a half hours northwest of London. Living in the countryside, she and her family were eligible to receive child evacuees from the areas of England most at risk of bombing. Even though they were at a much lesser risk than those living in these danger zones, her family still had a bomb shelter (6 feet square, 4 feet deep) dug in the garden, lined with sheet metal, where they would pass the nights in "siren suits" (footed pajamas meant to be quickly and easily put on in the middle of the night) as they listened to the bombers droning overhead. Mrs. Anselmi also recalled the rationing that limited families to a few ounces per week of goods like tea, meat, and sugar, and how she learned to make new dresses out of three old ones so that she didn't have to spend the clothes coupons. In fact, one of her sisters got married in a dress made out of silk from the parachute of a German pilot who was shot down near their village!

Mrs. Anselmi later joined Britain's Women's Royal Air Force as a wireless operator, where she met her husband, fellow service-member Peter Anselmi. When in November of 1948 Russia closed the roads around Berlin, blocking Allied supply transports from reaching the troops and civilians trapped in the city, the decision was made that the supplies would be airlifted in. At the beginning of the airlift, Mrs. Anselmi, as a wireless operator, actually received a Top Secret message that put the Air Force on Red Alert; she also contacted air transport stations to notify them to be at the ready. The airlift was ultimately a success, although Mrs. Anselmi also discussed the beginning of the Cold War that came hard on the heels after the end of WWII, and with it the threat of nuclear war.

Aside from the hardships caused during the War--the constant danger of attack, the scarcity of necessary supplies, the shifting political landscape--Mrs. Anselmi also recalls some of the lighter times: meeting the Allied soldiers stationed nearby, dancing and singing in clubs, the entire village enjoying a fresh ration of bacon when a farmer slaughtered a pig and "forgot" to report it. Looking back, Mrs. Anselmi says this is what she chooses to remember about the war: not the fear or the sadness, but the friends she made among evacuees and soldiers, many of whom she remained friends with throughout her life, and whom she would have otherwise never met. "I don't look back on it," she says near the end of the interview. "I look forward if I can...I'm nearly 85 now, I suppose I have to look forward to what years I have left! What happened in the past happened, I can't change it; I just hope my children don't have to go through it."

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Life of Davy McCall:"Don't be afraid to take chances."

Born and raised outside of Cleveland Ohio, Mr. McCall's life and legacy now stretches around the world. After completing his undergraduate studies at Kenyon College, and during the completion of his PhD at Harvard, Davy's service during the Second World War took him from the Philippines to Japan as part of the Allied Translator Interrupter Service. Working for the US Economic Aid Program and the World Bank after his service ended, he also traveled to (and lived in) places like Morocco, Spain, Yugoslavia, Cambodia, and Syria.  Fluent in both French and Chinese, Mr. McCall found work in several government sectors, international business as well as higher education. In recounting his life, Mr. McCall provides a vivid and fascinating account of crucial world events during the past century. His story is one that cannot be forgotten!

Almost as if it happened yesterday, McCall remembers the infamous day Pearl Harbor was attacked, sending him into service with the Army. Having learned French at a very young age, he was tracked to work with the Allied Translator Interpreter Service, and was sent from his original position as a medic in training to the islands of the Philippines. Having been taught Chinese through studies at Harvard, the Army intended to use his language skills as part of the impending invasion of Japan. Yet with the surrender of Japan, McCall was tasked with a great many other obligations which allowed him to travel the country and experience the devastation which had befallen our former enemies. In one specific account, McCall recalls trading a Japanese civilian layers of clothing for Japanese treasures which he would later bring back to the US. 

His expertise in economics and language brought him to work with the US Economic Aid Program, where he traveled the world as an Economist. This eventually brought him to living and working in Morocco, assisting closely in several economic development endeavors. After tension and instability irrupted, McCall safely left the country for work in Spain and what was then Yugoslavia, working as a loan officer. Once this work was finished, McCall found himself working on loan programs in Syria, living in Damascus for over four years. 

After retiring from work in the government, McCall came to teach economics at Washington College, where he eventually became the first curator of the Cater Society for Junior Fellows. The Society, much like McCall's own life, allows students to travel the world, interact with highly influential and important public figures, and to grow and develop themselves through expansion of their intellectual horizons. 

In providing some parting words to us, Mr. McCall told us to "not be afraid to gamble on something, but assess it carefully." After hearing Mr. McCall's life story, I am certain to take those words to heart. If Davy decided not to seize all the amazing opportunities that presented themselves, it could have been quite possible that Ohio would have been the extent of his travels. Instead, Davy McCall built a successful career which took him around the world, involved him in crucial service to his country, and allowed him to accomplish substantive and beneficial projects in several nations. In the end, after hearing Mr. McCall's story, it would be a tragedy not to heed to his advice.

Listen to his interview here!