Post by Category : World War II

“Before the Colors Fade”

“Before the Colors Fade” is the title of a story about six Chapel Hill Veterans who went to Arlington to help say a final “goodbye” to a friend and fellow soldier, Carl Fritz. I am reminded of that trip and the camaraderie that we shared in a chartered Greyhound Scenicruiser to Arlington, Washington, and the World War II Memorial.  I am also reminded that we are losing more and more of the history of the Great War, The War to End All Wars, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Kuwait, the Gulf and more.  


We celebrate the living on Veterans Day.  We remember the dead on Memorial Day.  So, why not spend some time with a veteran on Veterans Day.  Young or old, ask them to share a small part of their story.  You will be glad you did.  So will they.


Here is a story about two boys and an old sailor from the USS Yorktown.  Watch it and you will understand.


Twin boys surprised by their WWII hero

In an era of pop culture overhype, two young brothers remind us who our American idols really are.

Posted by Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) on Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Chapel Hill Naval History – Survival Training

University of North Carolina photo - Navy Preflight Training
University of North Carolina photo – Navy Preflight Training

In Missoula, Montana, John Craighead celebrated his 100th Birthday. John played an important part in naval pilot survival training and is the author of one of the “most critical survival guides ever written for pilots and everyday hikers.” John Craighead and his brother were recruited by the Navy as Ensigns to teach survival skills to pilots. They served here in Chapel Hill with the Navy’s Pre-flight Training Program at the University of North Carolina.


John Craighead and his late twin brother, Frank, co-authored How to Survive on Land and Sea “the flagship survival guide for pilots during World War II.”  Many military veterans and ecologists do not know of their efforts. 


Their story was shared by the Missoulian and is a must read for our local navy history buffs.  It was published this week and it is available on-line.  It includes photos from their survival program from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Read story


Related story:  The Brothers Wild, Washington Post, November 11, 2007

Mark Sumner Highlighted in Documentary



The screening will be held at the Seymour Center on Friday, December 18, 2015 from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM (EST). The Seymour Center is located at 2551 Homestead Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27516


Nearly seven decades after landing on the Normandy coastline on June 6, 1944 with the aim to liberate France, two veterans returned to those same beaches. Rather than fighting the entrenched German army, these two 92-year old men found nearly 100,000 waving flags and clapping hands of support. As world leaders took the stage to articulate their appreciation and awe at the achievement of that day, both men sat in wheelchairs squeezing the hands of current servicemen, sharing tokens of faith and thanks, and praising the next generation of young people.


This story follows the efforts and dedication of two generations of young people – the men who fought in service of our country on the beaches of Normandy in 1944, and the students who created the opportunity for them to return 70 years later. Please join us in celebrating this story of unparalleled bravery and service at the debut screening of “Wait Until the Kids See This!”: Service and Learning from North Carolina to Normandy – and how we can transfer these lessons to learning and classrooms today. Attend Event This project was possible due to the generous support of the Oak Foundation.


Sign up now to reserve a seat.  Just click on Attend Event button.


Inspired by Youth

I was recently reminded of an earlier story wherein a high school student inspired  our post to be more active in our community.  That one student created a lot of enthusiasm among the members.  Here we were thinking that we were leading the way to patriotism when the student was out in front of us!


This past month we came in contact with a young lady in our community that inquired about local events commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz.  She contacted our post because of our speakers bureau.  “Are local veterans involved in a commemorative ceremony?” she asked.  We knew of nothing to remember Auschwitz in January.


Here was a young lady asking the infamous second question, “Why not?”  We helped her get in contact with the right people, provided information on what could be done, and promised to help advertise an event, if it became a reality.  We also promised to help get some local veterans to join in. 


How did it go?  Was she successful?  It went very well.  She managed to work with the Chapel Hill Holocaust Speakers Bureau (it has a new name now (learn more)) and others to make it happen and on January 26th, 2015, Chapel Hill remembered the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz at The Cedars Retirement Community in Meadowmont.   Read story


VFW Chapel Hill Post 9100 and the American Legion of Chapel Hill provided veterans.  Robert Patton’s wife, Helen, attended with her sister Pat McDonald.  Robert’s son drove them.  Jim Mackorell also attended and shared his post war stories of visiting concentration camps in Germany.  Edward Gill and his wife also attended and brought along a special guest on behalf of the American Legion. There were several other local veterans from both posts.


The American Legion recently lost a member, Richard Romano.  At a memorial service for him, we met a friend of his and a survivor of Auschwitz, Rebecca Hauser.  Rebecca and her daughter, Bonnie, also attended.


Rebecca was able to honor her lost family and villagers by lighting a candle of remembrance.  As we watched Rebecca light the candle, we could see the impact the candle lighting had on her.  It was a blessing, a blessing to be able to bring their story, the story of her Greek village to light again. 


One person, through a single unselfish act, had affected the lives of many in our community.  For her efforts, our post salutes Ms. Amanda Garfinkle.  Her drive and perseverance made the Auschwitz commemorative event a very special event for three local holocaust survivors.




Amanda enters Auschwitz
Amanda enters Auschwitz

The 70th  anniversary of Auschwitz’ liberation has special meaning for Amanda. 


Amanda visited Europe last Fall.  Her journey took her near Auschwitz and she decided to make a pilgrimage.   


It was time for her to walk where thousands perished.  So, she bought a train ticket and made the five to six hour train trip to Auschwitz.  She had an interest in the holocaust while growing up and often thought about how fortunate she was that her family left that part of the world when they did.  If not, she might have been one of the millions of unborn souls that were to be the descendents of those killed.


Her grandfathers both served during World War II.  One, Aaron Schultz, served in the U.S. Army Air Corps as an armourer in the U.S. 389th Group, 8th Air Force.  He devised a modification to bomb bay doors that prevented the locking pins from engaging unless the bomb door creep was excessive.  The modification was made to all B-24 Liberators in the 389th Group in March 1944 and was then approved for all 8th Air Force B-24’s.  He was awarded the Bronze Star.




– Lee Heavlin


Major Alvin Meers – 95 Years and counting


A hearty congratulations to Major Alvin Meers.  He will be 95 on March 1st.


Major Meers was a member of our post for a few years after relocating from Chicago.   His daughter reports that he is doing well in his new home in Colorado.


He  served in WWII in the Armyalvin meers Air Corps  (Air Force) and was a prisoner-of-war for 11 months.  General Patton liberated his prison camp and he was soon heading stateside.  You can view his complete story on our earlier blog site.  Click here


He has lots of stories to tell and Ed Gill visited him while here on a regular basis.  Let’s all join in to wish him a Happy Birthday.  You can send him a personal birthday card to wish him well on this milestone birthday.  His address is:   Major Alvin Meers, c/o Allan Meers,  4740 W. 99th Avenue Westminster, CO    80031  

Auschwitz 70 Years Later

A gathering of over 30 people remembered the Holocaust and the liberation of Auschwitz on January 26 at The Cedars of Chapel Hill retirement community.  Three survivors of Auschwitz were present.


Seventy years ago Allied Forces entered Auschwitz and the surrounding camps.  This included Mauthausen concentration camp where Robert Patton, then a sergeant in George Patton’s Third Army, was part of the liberating force.  Robert shared his stories, returned to Europe several times, and participated as a speaker for the Chapel Hill Holocaust Speakers Bureau.  We lost Robert last April, but his wife, Helen was able to attend this event.


Rebecca Hauser
Rebecca Hauser

Rebecca Hauser joined us at the ceremony and lit a candle in remembrance of her family and village.  Rebecca, a Greek, was just 20 years old when her village was assembled and sent to Auschwitz.  From her village, only about 100 survived.  Over 45,000 Greeks were sent to Auschwitz.  Learn more



Survivors are now in their 90’s and we are losing them daily.  Soon, only their stories, recollections, and mementos will remain.  Their stories are recorded in books, in libraries, on film, and on video, but it is the remembrance stories that are so important.


Our Bible was first passed by the spoken word from generation to generation.  Our stories were passed down from father to son and repeated countless times before it became the written word.


We gather each Sunday to recall the stories that are the Bible with readings from the Torah or Holy Scripture.  So, too, were we able to hear this night a riveting story as told by a granddaughter.  It was the story of her mother and her mother’s mother.


Deborah Long shared the story of her mother hiding from the Germans during a roundup of Jews.  Deborah read from the pages of her mother’s diary. 


She told the story of a young girl who was well hidden and evaded capture, but as she came out of hiding, her mother was gone.  Her mother was heading to the railway to board a train, destination unknown.


As we listened to Deborah read from the diary, we felt the anguish of a parent separated from a child.  We have all experienced the temporary loss of a child, only to rejoice in finding them safe.  In her case, she was far from safe.  Her story was going to be so much more than anything we could imagine.


The story continued with the young girl following the Jews heading to the railway.  She found and pleaded to an officer to help her find her mother.  She wanted to be with her.  It was where she would be safe in her arms.


She could have safely escaped by just being quiet and getting away—now while there was still hope. 


Voitair 40 and 8 car
40 and 8 boxcar

After much commotion and pleading, an officer took her with him as he  started to bang on a railcars.  We veterans know them as a French 40 and 8 boxcar.  They held forty people or eight horses and were the transport for World War I doughboys heading to the front lines.  This time they were packed with far more people.


From the very first car came a voice answering back with the name of the mother.  She was there!  Mother and child were united.  She wanted to be with her mother and begged  her mother to just tell them to let them go.  The mother told the little girl that maybe she could go, but mother had to stay as they would not let her leave the railcar.


Mother and daughter were as one and they endured the long trip to an unknown in each others arms.  Arriving in Auschwitz, men were put into one line, older mothers into another, young women in another, and then there were the children.  Sick, faint, tired, strong, all were sorted.  The girls were separated from her mother.  


They led her mother to another line.  Mother said, “I am weak and they are giving me a ride to the next stop.”  You know the rest.  They were separated and the mother eventually found the only way out of Auschwitz, “up through the chimneys.”


As Robert Patton would often say, “We can’t let them be forgotten.”  That is one thing we will not do.  You are encouraged to attend local events and memorials of The Holocaust.  Find out more and see upcoming events.


To learn more about the Shoah (The Holocaust), click here.

Holocaust Remembrance

flyer AuschwitzThe Holocaust Speaker’s Bureau is holding a special event to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. It is on Monday, January 26, from 7 to 8 pm at The Cedars of Chapel Hill Retirement Community, Cedar Berry Lane, Chapel Hill, NC 27517.


The event is in the ballroom where the will be a 30-minute historical video and reflections by several speakers.


Robert Patton (right front) with 65th Division at Mauthausen in 2011
Robert Patton (right front) with 65th Division at Mauthausen in 2011

Robert Patton, former post adjutant, frequently attended local holocaust events as his army unit, the 65th Division, Third Army, liberated a concentration camp at Mauthausen.  It was through his efforts that an unmarked mass grave was identified and a memorial placed to remember those interred in the unmarked site.  Let’s honor Robert’s memory by attending this event.


For more information about the Holocaust Speaker’s Bureau, visit their site.


Military Appreciation Day at Golden Corral


Louis Drogos, Navy Nurse, with husband, Gene, Navy Lighter than Air crewman. World War II
Louis Drogos, Navy Nurse, with husband, Gene, Navy Lighter than Air crewman. World War II

Golden Corral and its guests raise millions for Disabled American Veterans organization.  They do this by providing a free meal to local veterans at most Golden Corral restaurants.  The Disabled American Veterans are present at the dinner and accept donations for their programs to assist disabled veterans.


The Golden Corral Community. 2014 Military Appreciation Monday ‘thank you’ dinner is Monday, November 17, 2014 at 5 pm.  Learn more


Why not team up with fellow members and head to Golden Corral for a little socializing?

Final Muster Set for The Fighting Fourth

Major Bud Hampton of the Fighting Fourth Division
Major Bud Hampton of the Fighting Fourth Division

On the 70th Anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima, the Fourth Marine Division Association (all Iwo Jima survivors) will have its final muster at Camp Le June, NC (Aug. 3 – 8) 2015. The Fighting Fourth‘s final ceremony will be open to the public.


This will be a major news media event which will include the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Amos, the silent drill team, drum and bugle corps, etc.

The Fourth Division Association has started a fund drive to raise funds for the rental of handicapped equipped tour buses, wheel chairs, a ladies breakfast, and some tour attractions including some travel funds for members who cannot afford the trip.  Want to donate?  Please visit this link and look for the donate option in the top right corner of the page.  Click here


Major Bud Hampton, USMC (Ret.) of Chapel Hill Post 9100 and a member of the Fighting Fourth, is a member of the association.


The association anticipates a larger turnout than usual, as this is the association’s final muster. A message will also be posted in the Fighting Fourth newsletter to help get the word out. These Marines are in their 90’s and it would be fitting to see them retire the colors with all the pomp and ceremony they well deserve as they are the of Marines of greatest generation.


The Fighting Fourth last met in Charleston, SC.  Here are photos of that event


and still more photos with Charleston sights.


Story updated Oct 1, 2014



A Salute to Carrier Sailors of World War II

Thousands upon thousands of young men left cities, towns, hamlets, and farms to join the fight to defend America.  Many enlisted in the Navy or sought a commission to drive ships, submarines, or to fly navy aircraft.

Some headed right here to Chapel Hill to a university campus transformed into a Navy Pre-flight Training Center.  About 18,700 people went through Chapel Hill.  Learn more

At the beginning of the war there were four Naval Training Stations (boot camps)  located at Bainbridge, MD; Newport, RI; San Diego, CA; and Great Lakes, IL.  That was not enough to supply the expanding fleet and three more centers were opened.  They were Farragut, ID; Sampson, NY; and  Norfolk, VA.  Learn more

We still have men and women heading to sea, but only one Naval Training Center.  It is the greatly expanded Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, near Chicago.  Ships needed many men and carriers needed thousands to keep these floating cities going.

Actual footage of duty at sea on navy carriers is now on-line.  This is not recreated footage.  It is the real thing.  Take a look.

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