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!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Joseph C. Doherty: Stories from a WWII Veteran

Listen to his interview!

Joseph C. Doherty was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1924. By age 18, he enlisted himself in the Army Reserves. Placed in a controversial and little-known program called the Army Specialized Training Program, Mr. Doherty speaks heavily on a unique program which planned for the possibilities of a long, heavy, and devastating war. After being placed in the 99th Infantry Division, he recalls being trained to "shed the academic fur," so as to become the fighting man America desperately needed. From there, Mr. Doherty recounts a service which took him to some of Europe's most devastating theaters of war.

In his long service as part of the mortar squad of the division, Mr. Doherty brings us from his service during the Battle of the Bulge, up through his encounters of the Bridge at Remagen, telling us of his tasks not only as a mortar man but also as a radio and communications operator. Throughout it all, Mr. Doherty remembers the struggles, the sacrifices, and the triumphs of his fellow men on the front lines as well as those serving miles away from combat. Once the war concludes, Mr. Doherty enlightens us to the pure and utter devastation that beheld the people of Europe, recounting what little was left of the towns and cities he explored.

In providing his perspective, Mr. Doherty paints such an elaborate picture of his service, that upon listening to his story, one would feel as though thrown right beside him, in the Rhineland, close to 80 years ago.

In listening to his story, you will hear all that he will endure throughout the Second World War. Anyone would maintain that his story is a hero's story, yet Mr. Doherty would not necessarily agree. Periodically throughout the interview, he would remind us that his service couldn't be compared to the "riflemen up front." By the end of his story, he even says himself that he "doesn't want to portray himself as any hero, compared to the guys up front."

After experiencing his service, I would most humbly and with the greatest respect, disagree with the notion that his story is not a hero's story. Mr. Doherty, from the moment he enlisted, was willing to give up his life for the sake of ours. As a mortar man, Mr. Doherty's duties not only helped save the lives of his fellow men up front, but of his fellow citizens back home. The humility which he expressed throughout his recounting shows that he is nothing less than a gift to the American experience.

We most humbly thank Mr. Doherty for his service to us and to his country.

Be sure to read his book: The Shock of War: Unknown Battles that Ruined Hitler's Plan for a Second Blitzkrieg in the West.