Sneak Peak – They Did It for Honor: Stories of American WWII Veterans

I’m putting finishing touches on my second book of World War II stories — They Did It for Honor: Stories of American WWII Veterans. It contains 34 stories of men/women of every branch- Army, Navy, Army Air Corps, Marines, Merchant Marines, Coast Guard. It will be available for purchase by the end of summer. I’ll announce its completion at that time.

A major book launch party is being planned that will be unique and patriotic. Details to follow!

Leading up to the book’s release and book launch, I’ll give a sneak peak of the stories included inside. Today we’ll begin with a particularly amazing story. I met Mr. James ‘Andy’ Anderson last year at a friend’s recommendation. This is the only story of its kind that I’ve heard from a World War II veteran. It’s pretty astounding, don’t you think?

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In June 1943, Private First Class James ‘Andy’ Anderson was assigned a secret mission.

Anderson, a graduate of Broad Ripple High School in Indianapolis, had been drafted and assigned to the 94th Medical Gas Treatment Battalion, Third US Army. After completing basic training at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Anderson had trained as a medic at Camp Grant and Camp Ellis in Illinois. “We learned how to give shots and dress wounds on a battlefield,” he said.

At Camp Sibert in Alabama, Anderson and others in his outfit learned how to treat injuries of a chemical nature and disengage chemical warfare weapons.

Upon being sent to Bushnell Army Air Field (AAF) in Bushnell, Florida, 50 miles north of Tampa, Anderson and other GIs volunteered to participate in experiments conducted by the US Army Chemical Warfare Service. “Fourteen guys in my group went through simulations to see the effects of mustard gas to learn about advanced chemical warfare,” he said.

**

The story goes on to relate how Andy survived the testing (some soldiers did not!) and later served in Europe as a medic in some of the war’s worst battles.

Please let me know if you’d like me to add your name to my email newsletter with updates about the book’s contents, book launch party and my speaking engagements. I’ll post about the first one I’ve given since returning from our World War II trip to Europe.

During my 1-hour talk with PowerPoint presentation, I show foxholes where soldiers would have stood during the Battle of the Bulge, the Architect of Triumph in Paris where American troops would have paraded around during their liberation of that city in summer 1944.

I also describe what it was like to meet a British World War II veteran and witness an historic event that will never happen again.

This is an appropriate talk for history groups, schools, civic and churches. Contact me at the form on this site.

Thank a veteran today for his/her service!

Tributes to WWII Vets Mankey, Beitler

Two World War II vets from my book have passed away recently.

WWII hat

Carl Mankey, one of the few World War II Marines I’ve interviewed and one of the 28 WWII vets whose stories are featured in my book, died on April 6, 2016. Here is a portion of his story:

In June 22, 1944, Marine Private First Class Carl Mankey led 20 men from his squadron up a mountain in Saipan in the Mariana Islands. Mankey’s goal was to destroy a Japanese machine gun nest that had fired for hours on Allied troops. Disregarding heavy fire from the enemy, Mankey moved into the open to shoot with his rifle and throw grenades, hoping to disrupt the firing. Failing to hit the target, Mankey refused to give up. Later, he returned to the machine gun nest, repeating his brave actions. This time he completely destroyed it.

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Carl was one of the first World War II vets I ever interviewed about four years ago at his home.

He had a nice small house with an American flag waving in the front yard. Someone had suggested he had a good story and I was looking for something to fill another week of my column in the Ossian Sun Riser.

Little did I know how much that story would come to mean to me.

Carl told me his story, using a lot of words I had never heard of—Tinian, Tarawa. They were islands in the Pacific. He told me he was injured once, healed and sent back to fight. I thought once a soldier was injured, he went home. First lesson.

Then he showed me his two Purple Hearts and explained they had been awarded for his two injuries. Wow! He had been injured a second time and lived to tell about it!

Carl was a small quiet man so it was hard to imagine him taking out a sniper nest, but I absolutely believed he did it if he told me he did. I got the sense he would not brag on himself.

After hearing his story, I went home and thought, “Gosh it’s too bad more people won’t have the opportunity to hear his story. It’s so amazing!”

As I began to interview more and more World War II vets, it came to me to put a book together about their stories. Carl’s story is in my first volume, World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans.

I visited him a few times after the book was released. His family was proud of him and turned out in numbers for our book launch. A family member took him on the Honor Flight of Northeast Indiana which he loved.

Carl died in his home. Thanks, Carl, for your support. I’ll miss you.

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Dick Beitler passed away on April 17, 2016. He was a godly man who was forced to fight in some extreme battles with the Army in the Pacific. Here is the introduction to his story in my book:

On Leyte Island in the Philippines American soldiers reconnoitered in the Bataan Mountains. It was January 1945 and American forces were trying to recapture the Bataan peninsula from the Japanese. All was quiet until the third night. When the enemy began firing, part of my company went to high ground to fight. I stayed in the valley with other soldiers, firing all night. Many Americans were killed in what would be later called the Battle of Zig Zag Pass.

**

Dick was one of the oldest vets I’ve ever interviewed. He graduated from Berne High School in 1935, years before the US was involved with the war. He worked at a furniture store before and after the war. He and his wife raised six children and he taught Sunday School for 70 years.

At my book launch Dick volunteered to pray for our group and I was nervous and glad to hand him the microphone. He might not have needed it as his voice boomed!

These were both great fellows and I’m privileged to have their stories in my book.

 

 

Veteran’s Day-Opp to Honor Our Heroes

241 Remember sign

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for us and many other military families around the nation. Veteran’s Day is perhaps the biggest day of the year for all vets. It gives the public the opportunity to honor them in so many ways.

Vet Day bus

John & I participated in Fort Wayne’s Veteran’s Day Parade. He rode the Air National Guard bus while I walked with the Blue Star Mothers. I had more fun handing out candy to children along the mile-long route, but guess who was more tired at the end of the parade?

Thanks to everyone in the Fort Wayne area – Boy Scouts, school bands, military groups and supporters – for going to the effort of showing our vets how much we appreciate them!

Lineberry class

Speaking opportunities for me to tell people about my World War II book of veteran stories abounded. These are pictures of some places I’ve been.

Belmont Lineberry K

Brian Lineberry allowed me to speak to his class at Bellmont High School in Decatur. The class is studying World War II and preparing to write profiles of fallen World War II soldiers from the area. Cool! I gave them tips on research and what they might discover.

Lani 2015

Lani Mahnensmith asked me to speak to a grief support group that meets at Kingston Retirement Center in Fort Wayne. Met some vets there I’ve interviewed and ate lunch with them. Double cool!

K display

The Allen County Public Library Author Fair was well attended. Several people stopped by to ask about the book and we chatted about World War II vets in the area.

Laurie Gray auth fair

It was fun seeing author friends Laurie Gray (above) and Doris Rapp (below).

Doris Rapp

We all were asked to speak on panels about writing.

Amn 241 fallen heroes display

one last thing to mention—the American Legion 241 Post in Fort Wayne hosted an exhibit that I’m sure moved everyone who viewed it.

It displays names, photos and mementos from family / friends of fallen soldiers from Indiana. The display was organized by a father who feared the public would forget his soldier son after his death. It is respectful and maddening to think of our loss because of their sacrifices on our nation’s behalf.

Hiester

The display is especially meaningful for me as there is a photo of a man who grew up in my church. See lower left.

Master Sergeant Michael Hiester, 33, was killed in Afghanistan in 2005 by a mine explosion. He left behind a wife, son, daughter, parents and two sisters, a church who loved him and many, many friends. I love them and respect them so much for carrying on. I don’t know how family get through those painful experiences. The least we can do for our fallen heroes is to show respect for every veteran we meet.

Learn more about this unique exhibit here.

If you have a chance today, thank a veteran for his/her service!

 

 

Bluffton Street Fair, Speaking Engagements Inform about WWII Vets

Seaman Richard Block served at Okinawa.

Seaman Richard Block served at Okinawa.

Whew! It’s been quite a week of promoting World War II veterans! Last week my husband John & I met hundreds (thousands?) of people as we manned our booth at the Bluffton Street Fair. It was great fun with lots of opportunities to tell people about the 100 World War II vets I’ve interviewed and my book, World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans. Often we had the privilege of talking to vets of other wars—mostly Vietnam.

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The poster I made just prior to the fair was especially popular. Having just completed my 100th World War II interview, I cut out photos of each veteran and placed them alphabetically on the poster. Many people from the community recognized men and women they had known but perhaps never knew were vets.

After five days at the fair, we are dog tired, but thankful that the weather was ideal with temps in the upper 70s all week. That caused attendance at the fair to be estimated as above average. Book sales during the week were helped by my keeping with a Street Fair tradition. Many businesses offer discounts for fairgoers. I chose to offer World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans at a sale price– $20 reduced to $15.

Carl Capatina K poster

Quite a bargain for the 28 detailed stories contained within! Several friends stopped by for a copy and I snapped their photos before they could get away! Strangers picked up hundreds of me business cards and dozens of people signed up to win a free book. My next blog post will announce the winner! People asked if I was planning another book. That’s a question I’ll address after Christmas. Stay tuned!

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This time of year is especially busy for me for another reason—Veteran’s Day (Nov 11). A number of groups have asked me to speak on the subject of my project of interviewing as many World War II vets as I can.

My talk with the Zanesville Lions Club a few weeks ago was a great experience. They are a most gracious group of people. Daughter Mandy attended with me. We were impressed with their friendliness and interest in the subject of WWII.

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I was particularly impressed with the students who attended as ‘Leo’ Lions (beginners). They listened respectfully and asked pertinent questions. One high schooler floored me when he told me afterward that he liked what I was doing in interviewing World War II vets. His grandfather had been a World War II veteran. “I think Grandpa would have liked being in your book if he was still alive,” he said.  I was so touched to think this young man honored his beloved relative and the military and me simultaneously without realizing it.

K J booth

The meeting was especially valuable because one of the vets from my book—Homer Bates – attended as a special guest. His good friend, Sue Harris (I’m glad to call her my good friend too), brought him and I read his story to the group. Those who purchased a copy of the book were thrilled when Homer agreed to sign their copies. That’s a benefit of this book—bringing generations together.

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The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel newspaper published another one of my World War II stories today as they have done every other Monday since February. These are new stories not found in my book

Today’s story was especially poignant. Richard Block was a Navy seaman who fought as part of the communication group aboard ship during the bloody Battle of Okinawa. Later he was an esteemed educator in the Fort Wayne area.

Sadly, Mr. Block died on September 19, 2015, just days before his story was published. His photo in uniform is pasted at the top.

Block Richard 08-15 (3)

That is part of the risk we take in working with men and women whose ages are older than 88 years old. Still, it is a sad occurrence and I’m always glad that we were able to get their story before they passed.

I can’t interview every World War II veteran still living. I challenge everyone reading this to find a World War II veteran and ask to hear stories he or she may be willing to share. If the veteran is not willing to talk, thank him/her for the military service they provided and move on to another veteran.

If we work together, we can gather these stories before they are lost to us completely.

Spreading the Word about WWII Vets

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In TV studio of WANE Channel 15

Last week was a busy, fruitful week for spreading the word about honoring our nation’s World War II vets!

Not one, not two, but three speaking engagements! One was even on TV! That’s a trifecta for this small town girl who enrolled in Toastmasters to learn how to speak to a group!

On Sunday August 30 at 8:30am WANE Channel 15 in Fort Wayne interviewed me for a segment about my book and my quest to interview as many World War II vets as possible. The link is WANE 15 WWII author

Those three minutes go fast! The hosts were friendly and professional. It was a pleasure working with them to tell my story.

Roth K Seniors 9-3-15 good

On Thursday, September 3, Peggy Roth invited me to speak to a group called LIFT (Living Information For Today). It is sponsored by Dignity Memorial for those who have lost spouses.  We met at Don Hall’s Factory in Fort Wayne. The first hour was a social time to meet other people and have fun in a comfortable setting. Then the group, which meets monthly, has a speaker.

Several in the group of 44, including a female, were veterans so we recognized them for their service. Then I told them about my book, World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans, and my goal to interview as many World War II vets as possible to help preserve our national heritage. Several people purchased copies of my book. I wish I had more time to get to know these kind, friendly people!

Edwards K Sara Wagner

That evening, after a break of a couple of hours, John and I arrived at Dupont branch of Allen County Public Library for yet another event. Branch manager Rebecca Wolfe (right) and I began the first of what we hope will be many monthly World War II veteran talks at the Allen County Public Library Dupont library branch.

The meeting began at 6pm. Al Edwards, a Navy veteran whom I had interviewed for the News-Sentinel WWII stories. This column has run every other Monday since February. Al served as our guest of honor. We had an audience of all ages, including one little guy who was around age 10!

Edwards boy 9-15

The crowd was so interested in listening and asking questions that we went past the 7pm time frame, but no worries as the library stays open on Thursday until 9pm.

Edwards Al grson Wagner

A special bonus for Al is that his grandson showed up to honor his grandfather’s special night. Another young lady was there—Sara Wagner. She served as Al’s guardian on his Honor Flight of Northeast Indiana.  You can see from Al’s expression that he was delighted to see both.

It was a great night and one we plan to do again on the first Thursday of October which happens to be October 1.

We plan to hold these meetings on the first Thursday of the month, weather permitting. Call the library to confirm the date and time.

Here’s a clue for the next month’s meeting: The World War II veteran who has agreed to be our guest was in the Army. He not only helped liberate a concentration camp, but has sobering photos of what he saw there. It’s sure to be an informative evening. He may bring another veteran so we’ll have double the military impact! Please keep in mind that circumstances may influence our choice of speakers.

The Dupont library is located at 536 E. Dupont Rd. 260.421.1315. This is sure to be an educational and poignant series as we learn from our nation’s oldest vets what it was like to serve 70+ years ago!

As always, take the time to thank a veteran for his/her service!

Tips to Interviewing 100+ WWII Veterans

Vernon Byer brought home flag from Japan after serving there during the Occupation.

Vernon Byer brought home flag from Japan after serving there during the Occupation.

Sometimes people want to know what happens when I interview a World War II veteran. It’s a process and always a privilege.

First, I allot two hours for the interview. This does not include the time it takes to drive to/from the place where the veteran lives.

The two hours does include my getting set up with my tape recorder, notepad, getting both of us settled across from each other and then the actual talking. That can be quite a brain strain for the veteran! They are reaching back 70+ years for details! I recently listed the questions that I typically ask—53 minimum! Whew!

Bill Yaney also served in Japan during WWII with the Army.

Bill Yaney also served in Japan during WWII with the Army.

Then there are photos—prior to the interview I ask the veteran and/or his /her family to gather mementos, photos, souvenirs, books, cap/T-shirt from an Honor Flight of Northeast Indiana trip, medals, anything brought home from the war.

 

I’ve seen Nazi flags, Hitler Youth T-shirt, guns from many countries, Japanese shoes, Navy logbooks, uniforms, photos of locales all over the world. It’s all 70+ years old and fascinating!

I then drape these items over and around the veteran for the photos. I take several shots with my digital camera and then shoot more pics with my iPad to post online.

 

Then I ask the veteran to tell me of a brief incident that happened to him/her during the war. I tape that incident in a minute or so on the ipad.

Dick Willey brought home a Hitler Youth T-shirt from his time of service in Germany.

Dick Willey brought home a Hitler Youth T-shirt from his time of service in Germany.

The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel newspaper has been publishing my World War II stories. They have sometimes used these vids on their website (News-Sentinel.com).

You can access my stories here: Kayleen Reusser WWII stories.

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

These are different stories than the 28 listed in my book, WWII Legacies: Stories of Northeast IN Veterans.

I use my handheld scanner to scan old photos (I always try to get one of the veteran in uniform and any others), documents for verification and even book pages.

 

Finally, I pack up my gear in a small suitcase, thank the veteran for his/her time and leave. By the end of the time, I’m tired but exhilarated. I think the veteran is probably tired too! The interview is quite a mind-numbing session, but totally worth it.

Here’s why.

Each interview means I’ve made a new friend. That’s how I see the vets and how I hope they view me.

I’m thrilled because another veteran has entrusted his/her story to me. That is a privilege.

I’m also thrilled because we have another piece of our national heritage documented. So far, I’ve interviewed 100+ vets from across Indiana.

They are not just a number. Each story is unique and precious. I record each veteran’s birthday and send them cards. I’m also going to send Christmas cards this year! When possible, I visit the vets.

Sure, I wish I had begun interviewing like this 10 years ago. But I was not ready then for the commitment it requires. I believe in ‘better late than never’.

Hey, we have 100 stories that we didn’t have a few months ago!

What are you doing to preserve our nation’s heritage?

 

Elmo Rieddle served in Army Air Corps during WWII.

Elmo Rieddle served in Army Air Corps during WWII.

Elmo Rieddle served in Army Air Corps during WWII.

I’d like to recognize a vet who passed away last year. Elmo Rieddle was drafted into the Army Air Corps in 1943. He worked two years as a mechanic for the 486th Bomb Squadron at Sudbury England. After he was discharged at the war’s end, he was a member of the Army National Guard for many years. “I was glad to have served,” he told me. “I would have hated to have not served.”

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

I get excited each time it works out for me to interview another World War II vet. At this point the total number of World War II vets I’ve interviewed over the past few years is 75.

 

I’m trying to average two per week, but the wintry weather is making it a challenge.

 

This week I’m averaging three interviews. If all goes well this weekend, I’ll interview a man who has been on an Honor Flight for Northeast Indiana but that is all I know of him. Can’t wait to pick his brain tonight!

His daughter will be there to also hear the stories.

 

Tomorrow I plan to interview a female who is 101 years old! She served as a nurse during the war. Her two children will be there to help with stories she has told them. She will be only the second person I’ve ever interviewed who is a centenarian! I’m looking forward to each of these interviews. My goal is to interview as many World War II vets as possible.

 

What are you doing to keep history alive? We all can do something!

In the same vein what are you doing to thank our nation’s vets of all ages/ eras for their service? I’ll say it again—THANK YOU! We appreciate your service on our behalf!

Tell a vet thank you today!