Those who live through pivotal world events rarely have the opportunity to share their firsthand experiences. Therefore, the history that’s passed down is sometimes limited.
But in today’s audio program, you’ll hear the voices of eight veterans who each contributed to the chapter on World War II in our country’s history.
Their stories are representative of the 16 million Americans who came of age during the Great Depression. As a generation, they unselfishly answered the call to serve their country following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
Yet few of them told their stories and some didn’t want to – or couldn’t – reexamine those painful wartime memories.
Doing Their Duty and Then Some
Like so many World War II veterans, my friends, Otto, Pete, Doc, Charlie, James, Dennis, James and Elton, flatly refused to be described as heroes. These elderly gentlemen with ties to Fayette County, Texas, humbly maintained that they were only doing their patriotic duty to ensure their country’s freedom.
They said the only war heroes they knew were their comrades who never made it home.
If you loved and respected a World War II veteran, hearing these candid stories and listening to the era’s great music may evoke meaningful memories. I hope so.
They were young once.
The eight veterans who tell excerpts of their personal stories are pictured below. Their black and white photos date back to World War II; I shot the color pictures when I visited them 70-plus years later.
Sit back and enjoy the soundwaves
Click here to listen to the 33-minute program.
If you wish to listen to part of the radio show later, note the time code where your session ends. When you return to the post, move your cursor along the time code bar of the audio program and click to begin listening where you left off.
Their interviews are inspiring.
Sitting across the kitchen table from these veterans and listening to their memories was fascinating, haunting and educational. I visited with them, along with other local veterans, in order to compile their stories in a special newspaper insert. It was published by The Fayette County Record in La Grange, Texas, on Aug. 14, 2015. That date marked the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Click to visit the paper’s website: The Record.
That fall, I was grateful to work with Dan Mueller of KVLG/KBUK radio in La Grange, Texas, to create this audio program, a memorial to all World War II veterans.
At the urging of community members, the veterans and their families, I took the next step. I compiled a book that includes the original 40 stories that were in the newspaper. It gave me the chance to add to their stories and include more photos.
I also was fortunate to add the stories of many local veterans, as well as some of the women who waited for their sweethearts, brothers and cousins on the home front.
World War II in Their Own Words
Veterans’ Voices and Home Front Memories features 63 first-person accounts of World War II, plus several hundred photos that have never before been published.
This 303-page compilation won a Will Rogers Medallion Book Award for excellence in 2019.
Praise from Non-fiction Author Annette McGivney
“In this age of short attention spans, news evaporates and history is too often forgotten. Thanks to the careful reporting and heart-felt writing of Elaine Thomas, the stories and sacrifices of 63 World War II veterans in Fayette County, Texas, will live on forever. Have a tissue handy when you read Veterans’ Voices because this tribute to the Greatest Generation will bring tears as well as a much-needed reminder that we have a lot to learn from the wisdom of our elders.” Annette McGivney
The light of the Greatest Generation grows dim.
The ranks of the Greatest Generation are dwindling rapidly. It is estimated that less than 167,284 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II were alive in 2022, according to the National World War II Museum. Sadly, of the eight men who shared their stories on this program, only Otto Fuchs is still living.
Gone but Never Forgotten
In honor of those who shared their stories in Veterans’ Voices and Home Front Memories, I am donating proceeds from book sales to fund student scholarships at Blinn College. Blinn
U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words still resonate.
“We have faith that future generations will know that here, in the middle of the 20th century, there came a time when men of goodwill found a way to unite, and produce, and fight to destroy the forces of ignorance, and intolerance, and slavery, and war.”
We, as a nation, always will be grateful to our World War II veterans for their contributions. On Veterans Day, please remember to remember. To all veterans, thank you for your service.
Who will you be thinking of on Veterans Day?
Read more stories about heroes
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Elaine, your words never fail to touch a heartstrings and leave it vibrating for the rest of the day. What amazes me is how Charlie Ripper never seems to change. He must have the best genetics one could ever imagine. Thanks for keeping us in touch.
What a nice thing to say, Elva! Thank you. I’m so glad you enjoyed this post because the veterans and the ladies of the 1940s whom I interviewed have made an indelible impression on my heart.
Such interesting stories! An interesting approach, My Friend!
Thank you, Brenda. Everyone has a story and it’s wonderful when they get a chance to share as little or as much about their experiences as they would like!
OMG…I had tears during this. I know most all of these men having grown up in Fay Co. Coupled with my dad being in the war, I thoroughly enjoyed the stories , altho some are very sad. Thank you and Dan for some memories to recall and honor. And THANKS to all vets!
Your feedback makes my day, Glynis. Thank you for your heartfelt words. I know the veterans would sincerely appreciate your kind and understanding response. I share the great respect you feel.
Thank you, Elaine! You and Dan have crafted a wonderful WWII oral history. I believe that your work provides an important thread to be woven into the fabric that is America. As these WWII veterans pass on, there is no substitute for a story told “in their own words.”
Thank you so much, Carol. The voices of the veterans are indeed threads in the fabric of our country. I’m so grateful that so many Fayette County veterans broke their silence at your dad’s urging to share their stories. I still feel bad for those who wanted to do so but could not face the memories of what they witnessed.