Wanted: ‘Greatest Generation’ stories
Feb 12, 2013 | 609 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Part of my duties at the Trib include formatting and paginating obituaries. One in the Feb. 5 edition stands out in my mind. The deceased was in the U.S. Army. His unit was the first to land on mainland Japan after the atomic bomb was dropped and Japan capitulated.

His story amazed me. I wondered what horrible things he saw, and what amazing things he witnessed as Japan begun to rebuild. I wondered if he was treated as an invader or an enemy, or if the Japanese people, tired of war, were grateful for any compassion shown by American servicemen.

I realized with him passed on, I missed an opportunity to tell his story with his firsthand account. I see in many obituaries the letters WWII, and realize I am missing several opportunities to tell stories.

And then I realized people need not be veterans of any conflict to have fascinating stories. My great-grandfather never wore the uniform of any service, but worked at the Oak Ridge Enrichment Plant. He helped build the atomic bomb! His job, I learned later from my grandfather, was to manage the power going to the centrifuges. I was young when he died, but if I had a better understanding of what he did, and how he had a small role in history,

Sports editor David Green and I talked about the role of women in World War II just a few days ago. Never before had they done so much for a war effort. “Rosie the Riveter” helped build the machines used to win the war, but women did even more.

My wife and I watched a film about the Tuskegee Airmen. There were new planes being delivered to the pilots. It was not shown in the film, but I told Holly that the planes, flown across the Atlantic from U.S. factories, were likely flown by women. She was shocked.

Women’s Airforce Service Pilots – WASPs – flew across the Atlantic ferrying aircraft for combat. Flying the Atlantic with minimal navigational tools could be as harrowing as combat.

Women also served in programs such as the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC, later shortened to Women’s Army Corps – WAC) and U.S. Naval Reserve (Women’s Reserve) performing clerical duties and other support functions. And of course there were the nurse corps, which for some time were restricted to women only.

I’m curious about regular people on the home front. How did farmers get crops to market when fuel was rationed? What was it like to teach school when students’ fathers were off to war? How were sweets baked when sugar was rationed? How did wives and siblings cope if they learned their loved one died in battle?

We’re losing members of the Greatest Generation every day. These people participated in history, and their stories should be told.

We want to launch an ongoing series about these Marshall County residents. If you know someone who participated in any historical event, or if you personally participated, call me at (270) 527-3162. Subjects may be military or civilian, man or woman. Combat is not required, as many historic events occurred in times of peace or away from the front.

The WWII generation did amazing things. Their stories inspire, and deserve remembrance. Please help us with this project and give these people and their stories the place in history they deserve.
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