tv AHTV - World War II Veterans Stories CSPAN May 7, 2020 9:53pm-11:25pm EDT
>> u.s. military and combat experiences ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us for this panel discussion this morning as we get ready to speak to some of our most treasured american heroes, our veterans of world war ii, and we thank them for joining us. my name is mike hydeck. i am proud to be here. our goal is to hopefully share some of their most personal stories from our greatest generation, the thought reading their emotional first-person
accounts can help galvanize the stories of world war ii for you as teachers and students head back to the classroom and you can enhance your lessons hopefully and have a more personal understanding of what these gentlemen and their compatriots have gone through. we know the gentleman gentleman sitting here before us, and the other infants, we have a short -- the other infants, we have a short time. it is amazing they are sitting here with us today. we also want to make sure everyone in the audience has a chance to participate and ask questions of their own that you will find valuable in your classrooms and for your students. when you ask them, i will probably step forward to make sure i can hear you properly, repeat the question so the audience can hear and the c-span audience can hear and
our honorees in here as well. let's introduce our panel. first to my left in a handsome red blazer -- [laughter] charles mcgee, one of the tuskegee airmen and a career officer in the united states air force for 30 years. he holds a u.s. record 409 fighter combat missions. to his left, herman, who i met on my very first world war ii event. he landed on utah beach in normandy, france. he and the other soldiers endured heavy machine-gun fire, extreme bloodshed and personally witnessed the loss of 5000 troops.
to his left -- allen howarton. he and i have a connection. he has a soft sought -- soft spot for broadcasting. that is one of the things that he was working on before he got into world war ii. he served with company k. a messenger. a radio operator. a communications sergeant. he served in germany and in belgium. he is also the author -- by the way -- he is a great resource of 3 world war ii books. he tried his hand at writing a novel, too. he said that was very challenging. we had a great discussion about that. on the end, colonel james ricky. he started in the army as a private, finished as a colonel. he commanded a platoon that invaded the japanese island of okinawa. he attended the airborne school
in georgia. he commanded an airborne battle group, airborne or -- brigade and was chief of staff of staff of the 82nd airborne division. before we get started, a little context -- oh, also by the way -- to other people to mention -- two other people to mention. carol george in the front row there. he wanted to be part of this. he was in okinawa and he lives in falls church virginia. he was with the u.s. coast guard. he served on a battleship. we also invited barbara martin from the women's medical corps. she also served in world war ii. she had to cancel. we want to have her and our next event. we thank her for her service and the fact that she committed to being here today but had to back out at the last minute.
let's talk some numbers here. 1939 to 1945. we are in the midst of a great depression. and the allied forces, including the united states and britain and others fought against the axis forces of germany and japan and others -- battle forces all over the world. these gentlemen were teenagers, they were twenty somethings. similar ages to our high school and college students now that we talk to on a regular basis -- both my educating -- but my reporting is an education reporter, you as students and teachers, they left college. they skipped out of high school, they lied on applications, saying they were 18, getting ready to go and serve. that is what it meant to these gentlement and so many who did the same thing. these twenty somethings and teenagers were killed and did killing. conservative estimates -- the total casualties, 60 million dead -- that's conservative. some say it is upwards of 80 million dead overall. the stories of survival are
legendary as they faced down tyranny, these gentlemen did. we want to continue to thank them for their service and try to put it in the context of the students we know today, the students we spend time with today, to help them understand they were their age when they decided to take this on for the fate of the world as we know it, and that is not overstating it. if we could, i would like to start -- please, by all means, raise your hand and i would like to dig questions so we can make this valuable for you. we want you to have a take away today. let's start with mr. mcgee -- as a tuskegee airmen, today you are considered a national hero peer review are told that much to your face. we want to continue to tell you that. initially when you started and you decided i'm going to go for this career, how were you treated initially?
was your race and major factor? did they just need so many people with the guts and the determination to do it? how were your first the days in the military? mr. mcgee: race was indeed a factor. also, the experience all through the end of the war, separated from the ground forces, there >> was segregation. it begins with a war college study determining that 1/10 of the population, now called black, would be used if america got involved in another war. paragraph four of the report
mentally inferior -- in other words, second class citizen, if you will. that report said to use and service roles, cook food, dig ditches, build roads, fine. do anything technical? impossible. so, that was the attitude in washington as far as policy was concerned. so, when world war ii broke out, the civilian pilot training program was established to help pilots, military units. initially did not include black pilots. subsequently it did. they graduated from our university program in the washington area. i said i wanted to be a pilot. the army said, we don't have any black mechanics. we can't use a black pilot.
also, there was a young man who graduated from west point in 1936, benjamin o. davis junior, who when he graduated pretty well up in his class, that segregated through his training years, said he wanted to be a pilot and they said, sorry, they did not have any black division units. so, he was denied that. so it took world war ii and the pressure was, the army said, we have the issue -- if you keep pressing us, we will authorize a squadron. i will be glad to talk on that. but segregation was the name of the game. segregation overseas.
it came back home. it took our united states air force to make a decision. mike: in your biography, it says you have a record of 409 combat missions, which would mean over time, i would think that attitude would start to change and you started to be considered eventually a valuable member, and effective fighter pilot. >> when did you start to notice the tenor of communications with you, when did that start to change? when did you start to get more respect? mr. mcgee: that's interesting. you did not want me to lecture for 20 minutes? mike: so what you're saying is you have plenty to tell? mr. mcgee: the air force ended segregation here in the states in july 1949. we were scattered around the >> world.
i received assignments overseas that i would not get here at home. in other words, log burn airbase was a segregated based near columbus ohio. and when that base closed in july of 1949, i became the commander of the airbase wing in june 1960 -- 1972. the first such assignment in the united states. change came very slowly. we received assignments overseas we would not get here at home. we had a reconnaissance squadron.
it was in the cold war. we did not get credit for the cold war. we commanded units in the jupiter missile deployment against russia. change came very slowly. and that is something to understand. but the value of the lessons sustained during those days are just as important for the young people today who are america's tomorrow and they need to understand. mike: utah beach, normandy, france, how old were you? >> 18. mike: did you enlist at 18 and immediately get sent there when you started? were you drafted, first of all? or did you enlist? >> what happened >> was, we were playing stickball out in the street, and one of the boys
came up very quickly. from there, we reported to fort dixon new jersey. mike: before you go, what was the conversation like in your household? how did your family respond? did they look at it that you have a duty, you have to go? did your mom and dad get upset? what was the conversation like at your dinner table? >> they were sorry to see me go. they did not want me to go. what it was either register at the post office or, i guess there was no choice. mike: were you scared? mr. zeitchik: no, i wasn't scared because i was a boy scout.
[laughter] mr. zeitchik: i was used to going out, sleeping overnight, spending time in the woods. mike: there isn't artillery fire in the boy scouts? you are very brave, sir. [laughter] mr. zeitchik: and then -- after training, the most important thing i can tell you is i happened to take a course in typing. and everything in the army is typed. everything is typed. nothing handwritten, so there can be no errors. and because of that, they sent me to fort bragg, north carolina, home of the 82nd and
101st airborne. from there, the training put me into a howitzer unit. 105. it's a big gun. it's the kind the president used on the fourth of july here. and then after the training, they sent me overseas to england, spent training in england, and finally they put me into the fourth infantry division artillery. with that, i did well.
you learn a lot about fighting, and the next thing we knew, a few short months flew by and we were on a ship headed for utah beach. landed on normandy on d-day, h-hour. that day, they tell me we lost 5000 boys the first day. mike: what time of day was that and describe what it sounded like, what did it sound like that morning? do you remember? what were the sounds? was there a lot of artillery fire? was it quiet the moment you
landed? what did it sound like? mr. zeitchik: i'm sorry? mike: what were the sounds that morning on the beach? what did you hear? mr. zeitchik: oh. we crossed the english channel -- it's only about 23 miles -- rather quickly. i must admit, there were about 500 ships. we were not the only ones in the army invasion. but it so happened there were two points to go in and ours happen to be utah. we landed there just as the light started to come in, and then we -- sorry.
continue, please. mike: absolutely. i'm going to let you collectors self, mr. seitchik, -- mr. zeit chik, and i will ask you again in a moment. mr. howard in, you started your college education and it got interrupted. how old were you when you started in the service and describe what led to you getting in the service. >> well, my experience -- all of our experiences are unique, but i grew up in western kentucky in the 1920's and 1930's. a very deprived area at that time. electricity only in the towns
that had generators. i was a bookworm kid, and the schools down there must've been very, very good at the time because i think i got an excellent education, a small high school. i was an academic inclined at that time. i finished second in my class, was salutatorian, but there is no number four college. i wanted to get out of the house -- there is no money for college. a way to get out of the house. >> 17 years old, graduating from college, turning 18, so i ended up in all places in northern new jersey working for white castle system incorporated. you all know what that is -- mike: one of the great hamburgers. mr. howerton: i was able to live on $18.50 a week, in a was able to audition and get enrolled in a radio broadcasting school within the vicinity of radio city.
so, when i was not flipping hamburgers or working on curb service at white castle, i was reading soap opera scripts and learning to be a radio actor and a radio announcer, which was my interest at the time. so, pearl harbor came along. i worked saturday nights. i woke up sunday morning, maybe noon 2:00, the radio next to my bed and heard about pearl harbor. well, i did not enlist at the time. i wasn't unpatriotic. i did not enlist. i was not waiting around to see what really was going to happen. so, while i was waiting, they lowered the draft age from 20 down to 18.
so, in february 1943, i got the greeting -- greetings, you have been selected. mike: for the infantry. in the infantry? mr. howerton: no, i was at fort dix, fort dix, new jersey. took a bunch of tests, ended up training as a medic. i had no interest in medicine, but they needed medic trainees at the time. so, you become medics. so, when i finished there at the end of 90 days, basic training -- except medics not get any weapons training -- so when i finished i was called into the cp one day. i was expecting to get an assignment overseas somewhere
as a combat medic. instead, there was a corporal sitting behind the desk. he said, howerton, you have to make a choice. i looked at him and i said, i can't believe it. the army is going to give me a choice? a smart alec remark like that. he said, yes. he said you can go to medical administrative ocs or you can go to the aspp. mike: which is? mr. howerton: which is -- that was my next question. what is that, corporal? he said, "i don't know." [laughter] mr. howerton: he fumbled in his desk, pulled out a brochure, handed it to me and then i knew
what it was because i knew there was a college program. this was called the army specialized training program. the army but about 200,000 young men into american colleges across the country. the idea was to develop a trained cadre to go overseas and rebuild whatever was being torn down during the war. we were studying engineering, various other things like that. i learned later in doing research on a book i wrote but there was another reason -- the university presidents were raising cain with the defense department because the colleges, some of them were going bankrupt. they were depleted. mike: they were taking all of the college students and their prospective students. mr. howerton: i ended up starting -- studying engineering. i had no interest in engineering. i was interested in history and english and social science and those kinds of academic things. but i was able to get pretty
good grades by listening to lectures in trying to memorize what was being said and boning up on tests, so i was pretty good. but after the first nine months, in april 1944, the army decided because of a severe manpower shortage, and mounting problem with the invasion and so on -- 1943, i mean -- with the invasion coming up, they really needed the troops. so they made the decision to break up that program halfway through. we entered as cadets with not a strike on our shoulders. so, we ended up on the troops train, 2800 men from
northeastern schools. among them was henry kissinger by the way -- mike: no kidding. teachers and students, imagine there is a train pulling up -- you're 18. you're getting on the train. imagine that happening today. never. never. we were joking before hand you are like cattle. and you said "educated cattle." mr. howerton: we worked cattle and we work to debts. cadets without any stripes. we go down to camp clayborn louisiana and late at night when we were finally trained, stay in your seats until your name is called, get out on the platform, follow your sergeant into your company. here i am out on the platform, all of my friends on the train. i had no idea how they selected people. at random, i presume. we went to bed, got up the next morning, stood formation. there was a very, very
competent draft or first sergeant out there, drill sergeant, typical world war ii jewel sergeant. he was from georgia. he had a wonderful accent. so he stood in front of the company. he says, y'all men here. you are not supposed to move your heads in my company. you may move your eyeballs if you wish. but you are not supposed to move your heads. you are going to see something. you heard about these young men, the college students went down here to help us win this war? they are right in here among us and you can tell them, because they look late -- they look like they have not had no sun in six months. [laughter] mr. howerton: that was my entrance into the infantry. mike: that's a great story.
i love that story. colonel, you had a varied experience when you started in the service as an army private and you finished as a colonel over 30 years -- you had a chance to see all different sides of the service. how old were you when you first saw combat in what was that like? >> well, i was 21 years old when i first saw combat on the island of okinawa, which was the last battle of world war ii, and it was the bloodiest battle in the pacific, particularly for the navy. >> i was entered in the service in august of 1942 as a private. by december, i was a staff
sergeant based on my previous military experience in rotc and a program at that time called citizen's military training camp, which most of you probably never heard of, but if you attended that camp for four summers, you would get promotion to a second lieutenant. the military bases were being used for the training of the national guard folks. i was ordered to go to fort benning, georgia to attend the officer training school and i graduated there in march 1943 as a second lieutenant. my assignment was as a student at the officers school in california. the school admission was to train company grade officers
for assignments in the pacific here. after the one-month course, i was an instructor, where i stayed for your. after that, i was sent to the pacific. first on the island, i was there for a short time. end up on the island where i joined the 27th division. i started my military career as a first lieutenant in the infantry. >> what were you responsible for doing? >> you are the leader of an infantry, which consisted of three squads, 12 men in each squad. then there was the headquarters, the sergeant, a bazooka team, so about 40 people led by a lieutenant. >> a bazooka shell is how big? >> 2.36.
it was small. >> how big of a whole could a bazooka put in this wall? >> it had a range of about 75 to 100 yards. it would destroy a machine gun nest, it would destroy a mortar. it did not have much penetrating power. in okinawa there was nothing to penetrate except trees and mountains and things like that. if we knew where a machine gun was located, we would train the bazooka on that. as a platoon leader you are responsible for leading your men into ground combat. the motto for a lieutenant was
follow me. i think it is why i survived the military combat because i was always leading up front. i would normally have one or two scouts upfront, maybe a b.a.r. team. and of course you always have plans as to what you are going to do. when you contact the enemy you have to make new plans. you have to be very effective because you can't participate -- you can't anticipate exactly what you are going to run into. i was wounded. i started out with 29 men. and there are nine of us left.
the 20 who were evacuated, seven were killed and 13 were wounded. out of the platoon, starting with 29, in three weeks there were nine of us left. >> now you are in your early 20's, how did all that death affect you emotionally? mr. riffe: it is something you never forget. to me it was like it happened yesterday. >> even now you feel that? mr. riffe: this is the first time i have ever talked about okinawa. i have been invited by the history club of fairfax county, the history club of arlington
virginia to talk about my experiences in world war ii. this is the first time i have been invited by my world war ii memorial friends. everything happens like it was yesterday. you never lose it. >> do you still hurt, do you still have nightmares? it seems to be like a very painful experience. mr. riffe: my wife asks me often asks me jim, what is wrong? it is an experience that lives with you forever. the biggest problem i have of the seven men under my direct control who got killed and 13
who evacuated, is to what happened to them. and what happened to their families? when you are upfront and a man this close to you is killed and you can hear the bullet going by your head, and this man is killed, you can hear the bullets but you survive. you always ask why not me. to this day i don't know why i survived. i did serve in the army for over 30 years, had many wonderful challenging experiences. i appreciate the opportunity to be here today and i would be happy to answer any questions about my combat experiences in world war ii. mike: now that we have had a chance to go across the board, does anybody have any questions in the audience they would like
to ask? yes, sir? >> as young men going into the army, would you see your life any other way? mike: as young men going into the army, now that you look back, could you envision your life in any other way? >> now with the war declared. mike: you felt the sense of duty and you had to do it. herman, would you envision your life in any other way you >> go -- any other way? >> i wouldn't consider my life any other way. >> i don't know whether i would go again.
i'm worried about that. i did want to say one thing, it was a bad war. world war ii was a bad war. especially normandy. we had a company of soldiers, american young soldiers that were surrounded. instead of having them shot by the germans, the officers surrendered. they marched the soldiers off to a field. there were german trucks there and machine gunned all of them. this was the winter of 44 and the weather was the worst
winter europe had, i was in the group that went out and happened to see everything. and it was frightening. absolutely frightening. then another place we went to, the germans had confiscated all the artwork. we found some of the caves. we did see art and crates that they were sending back to germany. then we hit the battle of the bulge. the germans tried to break up the american troops. and get to the gasoline and oil
that they needed. i think the battle of the bulge was the final big battle of world war ii. another first was the liberation of paris. which was great. french people woke up in the morning and found the american truck's sitting on a main thoroughfare. and there where we were brought down whatever food, flowers, just want to do everything with us.
i have pictures of all my happenings if anybody is interested in seeing it. i will be glad to show you. mike: we are seeing it in your eyes you are accessing that memory and also scenes, it is probably clear. would you change anything? you said you wanted to be a broadcaster. you said you were going to be an economist, then you are in the war. looking back, if you could have would you have done something different? would you have chosen a different path? >> that is a hard question to
answer. i suppose so. i probably would have chosen a different path. i would like to say this in response to the question, i actually have been through the war twice. in the 90's i gathered up all the records of my company. i really didn't know what had gone on there. he only see a few hundred yards in front of you. i wanted to find out what really happened. they set up a database of everybody in the company. the company was less than 200. you could see with a turnover was and you explained it very well. so i wrote a book. it went back through the war
again day by day. the agonies and ecstasy of war and memory. in one regard, the young man who fought the war in a sense is not sitting here today. because after going through it a second time this young fellow seemed like somebody else, not me. i recommended world war ii veterans, they don't necessarily have to publish but write down the experiences, put it down on paper. when you do that you see >> perspectives that you never
knew you had when you have to write something. so words are very important, along with memory. by going through that a second time, and off a lot of the terrible memories that we all had coming back. i have tried to tell the story in an executive way. we have more then 100 wounded. and evacuated for various other reasons. most of those people came home. you hear the story about a group -- i just heard last week about the websites used to research world war ii. one of those men who is
captured at the first battle had died in prison camp. it goes on. the knowledge, research, so you remember it. but you put it behind you if you can. i think i was reasonably successful in doing that. mike: you did realize you suffered posttraumatic stress. both mr. mckee and >> colonel, you chose to make service your career. you could have gone now.
he went through the pain, seeing people killed in the middle of combat. let's start with you, why did you stay in as long as you did? mr. mcgee: i was in college to be a teacher. i went to a small southern high school in west virginia. >> they would teach classes in the morning and then coach in the afternoon. and i experienced three years of that with the same coach and i wanted to be the same thing. so i went to college with that in mind. the japanese bombed pearl harbor and that changed not only my life but the life of all americans. one thing i do want to say about world war ii, i believe it is the only time in the history of our country we were completely united. i don't think we have been united before that and we have been united since. everything i knew had heard of and saw, they were behind the united states and defeating the
knot sees and europe in -- and europe in the pacific. they probably would charge you for your meal. they would never pass you up. so the good thing i remember about world war ii is the unity of america. i would like to see that again. i'm not very enthusiastic i will. mike: why did you choose to stay in the military? mr. mcgee: i was called in to cut debt training with just two years of college. i did like flying. training was good. it fortunately came through
combat all right in the late 50's. at that time they weren't -- because i enjoy the flying i stayed in the service and ended up as you have said. it was doing something i enjoyed. i couldn't have written a script for better opportunities. >> that has also prepared me and one other thing, because of service and education i was
able to go on and get a college degree. because of what the service offered. that served me -- in a post service career time. i like to pass on the young folks today, hope you like fine -- hope you find something you like doing. the fact is i loved aviation, it is hard to tell somebody -- the other side of it was being able to fly a plane and 40,000 feet, taking off at sunset, seeing the sunset again, seeing the stars come out. we individuals are just one small aspect in a mighty grand universe. mike: it provided a great
opportunity for you to grow and learn. any more questions from the audience? yes sir. >> i would like to say thank you to all of you gentlemen. you guys have all the right stuff. my question is for colonel dr. mckee. every black pilot in the cockpit, whether it is the military or commercial industry are standing on the shoulders of you guys. and particularly with what is going on in society today, i want to ask you this question. at the time did you have any idea of the impact you would ultimately have on the lives of those who came after you? mike: did you have any idea of the impact you had on those who came after you? >> i would say not at all. it came out of 10 years of
depression when war was declared. it was a different time. the country came together because of what was going on with europe. even though there was segregation, again it was america, our country willing to put the lives on the line. we don't all enjoy all of them in the same way or even to the same extent. but it is still america when you look at what is going on around the world. >> thank you very much. i'm very interested in knowing your perspective. and given what is going on
today and the opportunity that the military should offer young people. if the young people are the audience, i think he would have something special to say about education, commitment to the country, and as it pertains to today's context. i am impressed you have also been thinking about it. >> your impression of the military as a value to you people and how it plays in their lives. how it can plan their lives today. >> i wish we had everybody served two years and then go about their business supporting the country. then we wouldn't have a problem that we have. we have made this a problem because it is voluntary.
and we have to take care of the soldiers when they return. the future for our country requires that there be those who will take that step. very quickly, dream your trees, find your talents and support the country. prepare, get the education. you will learn to read, write, and speak well. we are talking about kids being bullied. treat them as you would want to be treated. don't let the circumstances be an excuse. too much of that going on.
>> one of the things i would like to say about this question is i think one of the great things that can happen was the selective service system. i say this because you have brought together men from all walks of life. we had people who had graduate degrees. we never would have crossed each other's path. we learned a lot about each other. i know the volunteer army is about the only thing we can do today in this situation. but i do think we have a problem in that there is clearly on equal sacrifice when it comes to military service.
i have always favored for most of my life some sort of universal service requirement and supporting various schemes along that line. so far none of it has come to pass. i think the phrase you here today so often, thank you for your service, that is a telling phrase. to some extent it is a little bit of a guilt complex. i've said to many people i don't know whether this panel would agree with me or not, but my perception is as we came back from world war ii, that phrase would have sounded strange to us. thank you for your service. everybody was in the service of
the country in one way or another. i quibble for a while with the term greatest generation. i wasn't sure that was much more than an excellent marketing slogan. i've come to terms with it and i have accepted only if we include the whole country. the country was unbelievably unified. and it happened in an instant but it stayed on through the war. >> and how we get that again, none of us here can say today. but the unity was a great thing during world war ii.
>> maybe this could translate to some students, you would see a newsreel regarding the war. it would say please don't buy canned food. it was the general public item, things you do every day that would help the war effort. everywhere you would see some sort of effort. you are at home but you can pitch in. >> we were thomas to troops are today. i will tell you a story very briefly. we were on a troop ship going out on our way to europe. where the convoy was making up, we had a >> we sat out there all night guarded by destroyers,
went back in next morning. we came back in with the same port we had left from. we were considered to be returning soldiers because returning soldiers were beginning to return home. on the ferry coming across the new york harbor, everybody was yelling bravo. we had been gone 24 hours. we went down the ladder to the docks. people were passing out donuts and coffee. we heard everybody say thank you for your service. 10 days later we went out again. >> how important is it for you to help today's youth understand how we meet our unit -- how we meet our military and what we can do to understand the sacrifice you all have made in so many people have made?
it is something the complaint their lives now, today. how can we stress to high school students, college students, how the military can play a role. it is still an option for a career today. is that important? >> i agree with alan. i am -- i believe there should be some sort of universal service. only 1% of americans are serving and military forces. i believed we could unify our country again if all young people, ladies and gentlemen,
would have to perform some kind of service for our country. >> it doesn't necessarily have to be with the military. but some position, some organization supports america and our values. today we are not a unified country, unfortunately. we are seeing the conventions for the republican nominations and last week for the democratic nominations. according to what i see on television, there is a great divide between those who claim to be republicans and those who claim to be democrats. it appears to me many politicians have put party above country. country should come first, party should come second.
i don't see that today. as i mentioned only 1% of americans are in uniform today. we are going to stay there for a while. sending more troops to iraq. we have military personnel all over the world. i will get a map once a week showing the location of all military personnel. and we have military personnel of all the branches, serving in
probably 35 or 40 countries of the world today and of course it is costing us a lot of money. i recently attended airborne week of fort bragg for 25 years and a member of the 82nd airborne division. it was a great opportunity for the people who serve in the airborne to get together. and while i was there i got a call from the japanese television. they had come to my home in april with a television camera and they asked me questions. there was only interest in talking about the secretary's visit to hiroshima. when i was on fort bragg in a telephone call, i didn't know,
but president obama had also visited hiroshima. and i told the japanese television should an official of the united states government go to hiroshima because i felt the japanese would consider it an apology for the two job bombs we dropped on japan. >> that was a wonderful answer. >> one question for jim and the second would be for all of you. i know the battle of okinawa was fierce. i just met with the 96th infantry division. can you tell me how many medal of honor winners, how many distinguished silver crosses, how many bronze stars and purple hearts if you could. >> all i could tell you is i
had two of my squad leaders recommended for a silver star. as about seven or eight members of my platoon, i recommended for the bronze star medal. what would happen if you recommend someone for the silver star, you have to go to the battalion division and often times it would change. myself, i was recommended for the silver star for a battle in which the entire battalion was pinned down and the battalion commander asked me to go around the flank and see if i could find the enemy's flank and destroy them. we conquered the battalion objective. i was recommended for the silver star for that.
i got two bronze stars. that is all i have information about. i do know reading the history of my division, the 27th, there were several people on medal of honor. the silver stars are recommended for two of my squad leaders. i should have recommended an opportune many for more than a bronze star. we had to give it again. i was leading a platoon. i had to scouts in front. we ran into a japanese strong
position. the scouts were killed immediately the two of them. somewhere the platoon medic heard about it and came rushing up. he reached in his bag and got a bandage. as he was doing that he got killed. i only recommended him for the bronze star. he gave his life to try to save another man. somewhere along the way i
believe whoever read the recommendation, i believe they should have upgraded to at least a silver star. today i know that things were different in world war ii. >> if harry truman was here today, what would you say to him? >> i would like to answer that. >> he is on a roll. >> harry truman made one of the most important decisions in the
history of our country. when he authorized the atomic bomb on japan. they dropped a bomb on hiroshima on the sixth of august, the death toll was anywhere from 120,000 to 170,000. that did not convince the japanese to surrender unconditionally. the president authorized the dropping of the second atomic bomb on nagasaki. the death toll there was half of what they said it was. there are people even today who say that those atomic bombs saved lives, saved the lives,
because we had planned to invade japan in november 1945 and in the spring of 46 we were going to invade tokyo. it was estimated that invasion would cost 150,000 american lives. and it would cost 10 million japanese lives. people are saying the atomic weapons killed 240,000 people. but if we invade japan we would kill 10 million japanese. i believe president truman, authorizing the use of the atomic bomb saved hundreds of thousands of lives, both american and japanese. the army particularly was
segregated. i never saw a negro soldier. i never saw one. in 1948, president truman said we are going to quit the segregation of the military, and we're going to put all our people together. president truman was the one who said we would no longer have segregation of the military services, we would put all people together. we had a quartermaster company
resolve -- i called my men together. we are going to get some black soldiers and they are americans, and it will be treated like anybody else. i made sure we would get three black soldiers, that we had a special welcome. they were altogether. we were all americans. i cannot understand why america has been segregated for so very long. and unfortunately it seems like there are more controversies among the blacks and the whites today. at least he did something when he said they were not be a segregated military service.
mike: go ahead. >> we owe president truman even more than that. he is the president that said the buck stops here. he issued two executive orders here. first we need to integrate because we need to use people based on experience, and we are not getting enough money to keep the base open, segregated. we need to integrate. >> 10 months later truman issued two executive orders. the ones that mandated all of the services that needed to integrate. it was equal access and equal hiring throughout the federal government. unfortunately it hasn't been
found through this. truman, you need to read his history. he believed in america and what america should be all about. >> your thoughts on president truman as well? >> only thing i have to add to this, i did receive four bronze clusters. >> two years ago, the french president, the french legion of honor -- i think just receiving the medal by the french government put a highlight to
my life. >> what i would like to say about this is i too saw very few if any black soldiers. the cultural mix we had was great. how can you advise people going in the military today--it will be a couple of things. first of all they are going to be exposed. think god -- thank god. to all americans the military. even with the volunteer army. another factor about that >> is the military will give a young person a family, a second
family. i think we would all agree to that. i think all of us in combat units, in my case, there are such heavy casualties, we knew in our own minds that we may not have ever come back. these people were our family. we may never give back -- may never get back our families. that kind of bond still exists. i think it does in monitored military units. -- in monitored -- in modern military units. i know for a few days those of us in my unit, coming up from normandy beach well after the fighting, the truck line that took us to the war, we were in effect under the command of black drivers.
the bulk of those drivers were the segregated black driver units. of those drivers were in command. we listened to what they said. when they said a 10 minute break that meant a 10 minute break. they saw to it that we were. that exposure was great. i came home is a radical civil rights guy, going up against
kentucky in the segregated school. half the day seems remarkable to me. in college i was in the forefront of the civil rights movement. sitting in one time. it had started serving black students at the university. we have come a long way, regardless of all the problems we have had. mike: one last question before we go. many of the students and the teachers that >> teach them, they talk and have conversations with them and they try to teach world war ii.
they are the age that you were when you were enlisted or drafted. do you have any life advice moving forward that these teachers can impart? as they move forward and choose a career and life and their connection to our nation as far as patriotism is concerned, can you impart one last bit of advice? >> what i would say, as i go around talking to students and schools, there certainly is a need to include this place in our country -- no idea. >> why aren't you teaching where technology is taking us? technology is taking us beyond what i flew. our youngsters aren't getting it. something is wrong in the textbooks they are using or the attitude. i enjoy talking to middle schools, because at least middle school kids listen. >> present company expect excepted. >> hang in there. i know you have a challenge and
too many parents are saying don't tell my kids -- we are missing the boat for the future of our youngsters. all the best to you. mike: any suggestions? >> i think it is important to remember, for teachers to remember that students today are far from world war ii as we were from the civil war. so what did we know about the civil war? not too much when you come right down to it. i heard of skirmishes of forces and farm communities in western kentucky, but we didn't know much about the civil war in
high school. >> so i have a lot of confidence in today's young people. i think they are curious. high school groups that particularly, i get a couple of reactions. i get intensive interest on the part of a few students in the classes. in others, they seem to be sleeping. i don't know, i think i would emphasize to teachers that you are not focusing entirely on the military aspects. today every world war ii veteran is a hero. we know that is not true, all of us know that is not true. we appreciate that but we were not all heroes, we were
ordinary young people. good, bad, defective or not. the unity of the country that resulted for one reason or another from world war ii is important to teach and what went on in the home front. the war was managed. the war was managed great -- managed greatly and ingeniously. the mobilization of the american industry -- the price controls and rationing, and supported the troops serving overseas. they will never forget that.
we are not all heroes. but there are a lot of heroes on the home front as well. it is very hard stuff to teach. mike: any advice to our young people? mr. zeitchik: i missed my high school graduation while i was landing in normandy. my class was graduating. 70 years later i got a >> call that the governor of new jersey wanted me at the high school to
it made me so much better in the army. i don't know how shooting a gun and playing music mix. but evidently it worked with me. thank you. >> colonel? >> >> i believe education is one of the primary factors to success in life. and the department of education does have the statistics too >> show high school graduates what their annual salary would be. and generally the more education you have the better chance you have for success. i learned that the hard way in 1937 and 38. i was in the civilian conservation corps. i shouldn't have then and there, i should have been 18 but i was 16.
i lied about it because i could not afford to go to school. so i was in the civilian conservation corps. i realized the importance of education. i made an application to be released so i could go back to high school. and i finished high school and had an opportunity to the scholarship. i did everything i could to increase my education. i went to school in nighttime and the weekends. and then a few years later i went to george washington university. to get a masters degree in international affairs. and then later on went to night school again. i got another masters degree.
when i got out of the service, i presented to particular employees, i got many job opportunities. including opportunities from the university of george washington university. a member of the staff, not the faculty. i got opportunities to be a part of the railroad as an officer. i contributed that to the fact i have a pretty good background in education. i would encourage our young people today and parents and friends to get all the education you can because the department of education proves the more education you have, the more opportunities you have for success.
they have this statistic to show there was some article in the washington post, comparing the salaries of high school graduates. to college graduates with a bachelors for your degree races those with advanced degrees. >> thank you, we appreciate it. i'd like to call up just i bunting. >> would you like to speak? to make some sort of remarks and think some people for today? only for about 30 seconds. >> first of all we have a representative of the corporation. jack taylor, who was the founder of enterprise died two weeks ago at the age of 96. he is responsible for this program and many of the programs that the world war ii memorial has been able to sustain. our hearts go out to his family and our gratitude to you.
if anyone here doubts that these gentlemen are members of what should be called the greatest generation. those doubts have been erased this morning. thank you. [applause] mike: thank you so much. >> and one last comment, as we know we are about to get a new president in the coming months, it is important to remember as our leaders make decisions to
send our young men and women in harm's way. it is important to remember these families who sacrificed for freedom. thank you and god bless. >> can i make one comment, please? it's about world war ii and i want you to know the sacrifices. in world war ii, 16 million americans served in uniform. -- 408,316 gave their lives. >> thank you. [applause] >> thank you ladies and gentlemen.