WWII: In their own words
The stories of World War II told by the veterans who lived it.
Winner of 2016 USA Today Network journalism awards 4th quarter, div. III – Finalist digital storytelling
Winner of 2015 Associated Press Managing Editors awards, Div. I, Best video “Charles Holcomb, WWII POW”
Winner of 2015 Media Network of Central Ohio, Nov. Picasso MVP Awards.
World War II veterans living in Sandusky and Ottawa counties tell their war stories, in their own words, in a series by photojournalist Molly Corfman and writer Daniel Carson. Stories include surviving the D-Day invasion, B-24 crew shot down to become prisoners of war, a soldier witnessing the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp, and a Navy nurse treating soldiers severely burned by oil in the salty sea.
Mervin Rose, 95, of Port Clinton survived the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. He and 156,000 Allied troops landed on the beach at Normandy, France, in what was considered a turning point of World War II in Europe. Rose served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, maintaining radios, transmitting and receiving code.
Richard Willer, 91, of Lindsey served in the U.S. Marine Corps 6th Division during World War II. Willer fired a 105 howitzer, his gun section the first in a battery of four guns trained to move together.
Drafted, service dates: Jun. 7, 1943 – Feb 11, 1946
Carl Cooley, 91, of Fremont served in the U.S. Army 26th Infantry Division during World War II. He got a deferment to finish high school, and less than a week after receiving his diploma, he was in the army. During the day, Cooley hid in foxholes from constant enemy fire. He served as a rifleman and carried an M1 gun, following General George Patton’s 4th Armored Division.
Alice Miller, 95, of Old Fort tells her experience serving in the Navy Nurse Corps during World War II on the USS Solace. Miller made seven trips on the Navy hospital ship from Okinawa to Guam on a ship transported over 400 patients. “These were just kids,” Miller says to describe her patients aged mostly 18-20 years old. Miller treated patients in the burn unit. Men were injured after kamikaze planes dove into ships that exploded, tossing them into the sea and burning oil.
Enlisted, Army National Guard, service dates: 1936 – 1940
Drafted, WWII, service dates: Feb. 25, 1942 – Nov. 27, 1945
Jim McGrady, 97, of Fremont tells his experience in the World War II Air Force, having near-death experiences and meeting famous people. He trained hundreds of aerial gunners and earned his Silver Wings as an armament specialist and nose gunner on a Liberator B-24 bomber crew. He saved lives on two separate training flights, and met a famous athlete and a famous actress.
Charles Holcomb, 92, of Helena spent 11-and-a-half months as a POW in German prison camp during WWII, after his B-24 bomber was shot down. As a prisoner of WWII, he was taken in the forced “Death March Across Germany” which many did not make it through. He barely survived starvation and frostbite through the harsh conditions of winter in Germany. He slept in the snow, enduring dysentery and illness, at times so sick he couldn’t walk, losing 50 pounds and weighing just over 100, barely alive at the end.
Walter Auxter, 95, of Clyde tells his experience in the U.S. Army during World War II, driving ammunition to troops at night and rations during the day, serving as an infantryman in the Army’s 324th Infantry Regiment, 44th Division.
Harold H. Brown, 91, of Catawba Island shares his experience in the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American military pilots fighting in World War II. After his plane was shot down, he nearly escaped death when taken as a prisoner of war and threatened by a group of angry villagers.
James Reardon, 90, of Fremont shares his experience as a store keeper first class on a U.S. Navy troop transport ship serving in the Pacific Ocean during World War II. He served as a Navy storekeeper aboard the USS Mellette, a 450-foot-long troop attack transport ship. He witnessed the aftermath in Nagasaki, where the U.S. dropped a second atomic bomb and hastened the end of the war, and he watched from his ship as the Japanese formally surrendered in Tokyo Bay.