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Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
National WWII Reunion

Veterans History Project

The Veterans History Project provided compelling first-hand accounts from men and women, civilian and military, who served during the war. Topics presented on stage included D-Day, Women in the Military, the Home Front, Red Cross, Tuskegee Airmen, the Japanese-American and Hispanic Experiences, Navajo Code Talkers, and Prisoners of War. Veterans and Civilians were encouraged to stop by and tell their wartime memories (or drop off their written memoirs of war experiences) to be preserved at the Library of Congress American Folklife Center. In addition, a team of VHP volunteers collected "on the spot" interviews on the National Mall. Information was also available on how veterans and wartime workers with special needs can participate in the Veterans History Project.

List of Participants:

Everett Alvarez, Jr. (Veterans History Project, May 27, 28)
He was the first American aviator shot down over North Vietnam, and was held as a prisoner of war for eight-and-a-half years. After retiring from the Navy as Lieutenant Commander, he served as deputy director of the Peace Corps, deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration, and vice-president for government services with the Hospital Corporation of America.

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Lee A. Archer, Jr. (Wartime Stories, May 27; Veterans History Project, May 28, 30)
He is the first and only confirmed "ace" of the Tuskegee Airmen, having earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with 18 clusters. As a fighter pilot in Europe, Archer flew 169 combat missions; and returned to combat during the Korean War. After retiring from the Air Force as Lieutenant Colonel, Archer served as a corporate vice-president of General Foods.

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Bob Babcock (Veterans History Project, May 27, 30)
He is president of Americans Remembered, Inc. An Infantry veteran of the Vietnam War, Babcock is past president and historian of the National 4th Infantry Division Association, president of the 22nd Infantry Regiment Society, and author of War Stories: Utah Beach to Pleiku.

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Margaret E. Bailey (Veterans History Project, May 30)
She joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1944 and reported to Ft. Huachuca, where she cared for soldiers returning from service. She became the first African American nurse promoted to the rank of Colonel in the Army Nurse Corps. After retiring in1970, she served as a consultant to the Surgeon General of the United States. Currently, she is active in her church, nursing sororities, and the American Nursing Association.

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Riki Belew (Veterans History Project, May 27)
She served first with the American Red Cross in clubs for the troops in North Africa: near Algiers, in Oran, and at the Casablanca Officers' Club. She later served at a series of Red Cross clubs in Italy, and recalls dancing with hundreds of men a night while stationed near Naples.

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Enso V. Bighinatti (Veterans History Project, May 27)
Bighinatti was shot down over Germany while serving on an Army Air Forces B-24. After nearly a year as a Prisoner of War, he and a friend escaped. Ever grateful for the life-saving parcels he received from the American Red Cross during his captivity, he joined the organization in 1951 and became National Director of Disaster Services. He retired as Under Secretary of Disaster Relief for the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies.

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James H. Billington (Veterans History Project, May 28)
He became the 13th Librarian of Congress in 1987. Following service in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and in the Office of National Estimates, he taught history at Harvard University and Princeton University. From 1973 to 1987, he was director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and founded the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at the Center.

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Sam Billison (Veterans History Project, May 27, 30; Wartime Stories, May 28; Family Activities, May 29)
Billison enlisted in the Marines in 1943, and landed on Iwo Jima on the second day of the battle. With other Code Talkers, he transmitted more than 800 error-free messages during the 36 days of fighting. Following the war, Billison served as a school principal for many years, and was elected to the Navajo Tribal Council. He is the founder and president of the Navajo Code Talkers Association, and currently serves as an education consultant.

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Robert Bloxsom (Veterans History Project, May 27, 29)
He joined the Merchant Marine in 1941, and traveled to South Africa, England, and the Persian Gulf at a time when ships faced air raids and torpedo attacks. At the age of 24, Bloxsom became Captain of the Liberty ship, Lillian Nordica, sailing into Antwerp two weeks after the ship had been taken from the Germans. He left the Merchant Marine in 1948, and two years later joined the U. S. Coast Guard, serving until his retirement in 1974.

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Jerry Brenner (Veterans History Project, May 27; Family Activities, May 27)
He served with the Army's 740th Field Artillery Battalion, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. Following the war, he worked in freight transportation until 1974, and then with the federal government until 1986. When he learned of the Veterans History Project, Brenner donated the letters that he and his wife wrote to each other daily during the war—a total of 1,261 letters, including 80 letters in the month of July 1944 alone.

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Gail Buckley (Veterans History Project, May 28)
She is an historian and author of two books, The Hornes: An American Family and American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Newsday, Vogue, Playboy, Premiere, and America.

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Anna Urda Busby (Veterans History Project, May 30)
Busby joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1939, and was initially assigned to transport duty in the Panama Canal Zone. Subsequent assignments took her to Fort Adams in Rhode Island, and to Tripler Hospital in Hawai'i where she was a firsthand witness to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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Helen Thompson Colony (Veterans History Project, May 27)
She served as the Recreation Club Director for the American Red Cross in India and Burma, running clubs primarily for pilots who were flying the dangerous route "over the Hump" (the Himalayas) into and out of China. Later she became one of the Red Cross workers escorting war brides to this country and training them en route about American customs and procedures.

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Joseph De Luca, Jr. (Veterans History Project, May 27, 29)
He fought with the 103rd Infantry Division in Belgium, Germany, Austria, and Italy. Later, with the Army of Occupation in Germany, he served with the Military Police. Now retired, De Luca does military duty at the National Cemetery in Rittman, Ohio, and serves on the firing squad for military funerals.

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Marian Sebring Elcano (Veterans History Project, May 30)
She is known as "SeaBee" by her comrades, she joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1943, and in June 1944 moved into Normandy with the Second Evacuation Hospital. Her semi-mobile hospital unit moved more than 20 times across northern France, the Rhineland, Germany, and Central Europe. She left the Army in 1946, and currently serves a volunteer nurse in retirement facilities in her Virginia community.

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Miguel Encinias (Veterans History Project, May 28, 30)
He first served as a combat engineer with the Army's 45th Division, but later became a pilot, flying a British Spitfire. In 1944 he was shot down over northern Italy, and became a Prisoner of War in Frankfurt. Encinias also flew 111 missions during the Korean War, and 60 missions in Vietnam. He taught French at the U.S. Air Force Academy until his retirement in 1985, and currently writes history, particularly that of New Mexico.

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Ruth Rothberg Erno (Veterans History Project, May 28)
Erno received her commission with the Navy WAVES in 1944, and subsequently served as Base Communications Officer at the Naval Base in Portsmouth, N.H., and as Communications Superintendent at the Portsmouth Naval Yard. In 1951, Erno transferred to the Office of Naval Operations in the Pentagon, where she remained on active duty until 1954. Erno remained with the Navy Reserves and retired as Commander in 1977.

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Richard Francies (Veterans History Project, May 27, 28)
He joined the Army in 1937, and served in the Signal Corps as a radio operator and later in radio maintenance. He installed radio stations in Bataan, and was there when the Japanese invaded. He was among those on the Bataan Death March. While a Prisoner of War, Francies became part of a crew in Manila that repaired radio and telephones, sabotaging as much equipment as they repaired. After the war, he worked 35 years for the Ohio Bell Telephone Co.

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Sam M. Gibbons (Veterans History Project, May 27)
Gibbons began his military service in June 1941 as part of the 101st Airborne Division. He led Parachute Infantry forces in the pre-dawn invasion of Normandy on D-Day. Elected to the Florida State House of Representatives in 1953, he served there until 1958; and from 1959 to 1963 served in the Florida State Senate. In 1962 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where he served until 1997, becoming Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in 1993.

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Paul S. Green (Veterans History Project, May 30)
He was a Staff Sergeant in the Army, serving as a reporter and editor for Stars and Stripes in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, and Germany. Following the war, Green worked as an aide to Senator Estes Kefauver. His autobiography is entitled, From the Streets of Brooklyn to the War in Europe, 1917-1945.

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Evelio Grillo (Veterans History Project, May 30)
He was raised in Ybor City, a Cuban neighborhood inside Tampa, Florida. He attended an all-black high school in Washington, D.C., and graduated from Xavier University. As part of the 823rd Engineer Aviation Battalion (Colored), Grillo served in the China-Burma-India Theater, building the Ledo Road. He wrote about his experiences in the book, Black Cuban, Black American.

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Marion Reh Gurfein (Veterans History Project, May 27)
She accompanied her husband, Joe, around the world during his 26 years of military service. When they could not be together during World War II and the Korean War, she created and sent him a hand-lettered and illustrated mock newspaper of family and community news, The Goofein Journal. Gurfein later began a career in copy writing, eventually becoming Deputy Director of Marketing for the National Technical Information Service.

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Marty Higgins (Veterans History Project, May 27, 28)
Higgins was assigned to the 10th Cavalry Regiment, but transferred to the 36th (Texas) Infantry Division, and participated in the invasion of southern France. He was captured in late 1944, and sent to Luckenwalde, Germany, where he was liberated by the Russians in 1945. He returned to the United States in1945, and worked in the playing card industry for 33 years. In his retirement, he has been a literacy advocate and teacher.

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J. L. Holloway III (Veterans History Project, May 28)
He was a member of the Navy for 39 years, and served in combat during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. During World War II, he served in the North Atlantic, in North African waters, and in the Pacific. He commanded the USS Enterprise from 1965-67, established the Navy's Nuclear Powered Carrier Program, commanded the Seventh Fleet, and served as Chief of Naval Operations from 1974 to 1978. He retired from the Navy as Admiral in 1970, and currently serves as Chairman of the Naval Historical Foundation.

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Jeanne Holm (Veterans History Project, May 28)
Holm, one of the first women to enlist in the military during World War II, joined the Army in 1942 and rose to the rank of Captain. In 1971, she became the first woman promoted to Brigadier General in the Air Force. She retired as Major General in 1975, the highest ranking woman in the U.S. Armed Forces. She has written Women in the Military: An Unfinished Revolution, and has edited In Defense of a Nation: Servicewomen in World War II.

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Francisco F. Ivarra (Veterans History Project, May 30)
He is a highly decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, having served with the America Division 196th Light Infantry Brigade. In 1995 he joined the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Counselor, and has conducted research and published on the effects of PTSD on Hispanic veterans.

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Jimmie Kanaya (Veterans History Project, May 27, 28)
He served with the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team Medical Detachment in Italy and France, where he was captured. Taken to a POW camp, Kanaya escaped, but was later re-captured. Following the war, Kanaya served with the Army in Germany, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Hawaii and Alaska. He retired in 1974 with 33 years of military service.

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Martha Blackman Leierer (Veterans History Project, May 30)
She served as a U.S. Navy ward nurse aboard the USS Solace hospital ship from November 1943 to January 1945. She treated patients from combat zones in the Pacific and evacuated the wounded to Pearl Harbor. Her husband, Everett, is a World War II U.S. Marine Corps officer.

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Keith Little (Veterans History Project, May 27, 30; Wartime Stories, May 28)
He enlisted in the Marines in 1943 when he was 17, and was trained as a radio operator and Navajo Code Talker. With the 4th Marine Division, he was sent overseas to Roi-Namur, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima. Following the war, he returned to his home in the Southwest, where he worked as a logging manager, and is still active in community organizations.

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Timothy Lloyd (Building the Memorial, May 27, 28, 30; Veterans History Project, May 28, 29, 30)
Lloyd is the Executive Director of the American Folklore Society, which is working with the Veterans History Project to offer community-based workshops throughout the country on how to collect and document veterans' oral histories and stories of their military experience.

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Thomas Lowery (Wartime Stories, May 27; Veterans History Project, May 28, 30)
He enlisted in the Army Air Corps, trained as a mechanic and engineer, and was assigned to the 477th Medium Bombardment Group, which accrued the best safety record in the First Air Force. Following the war, Lowery returned to Washington, D.C., became an electrician, and continues to work in the field.

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Charles McGee (Wartime Stories, May 27; Veterans History Project, May 28, 30)
McGee flew 136 combat missions with fighter aircraft in Europe before returning to the Tuskegee Airfield to serve as an instructor. Still with the Air Force, he later flew combat missions in Korea and Vietnam. After retiring as Colonel, McGee served as a vice-president with the Interstate Securities Company and as manager of the Kansas City Downtown Airport.

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Barrett McGurn (Veterans History Project, May 30)
He served as the South Pacific correspondent for Yank, the Army Weekly, taking part in several invasions and earning a Purple Heart. He also worked as a correspondent for the New York Herald-Tribune, as press attaché for the American Embassy in Rome, and as the public spokesman for the U.S. Supreme Court, where he served until 1982.

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Francis X. (Frank) Medina (Wartime Stories, May 28; Veterans History Project, May 30; Family Activities, May 30)
He was serving as a tail gunner in the 459th Bomb Group of the 756th Bomb Squadron, when his plane was shot down over northern Italy in July 1944. The crew of nine bailed out, and all but Medina were captured. He eventually linked up with Italian partisans, and fought with them for eight months. He is the author of Ciao, Francesco.

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J. Todd Moye (Veterans History Project, May 28, 29, 30)
Moye is the Director of the Tuskegee Airmen Oral History Project of the National Park Service's Southeast Regional Office in Atlanta. This project will form the basis of the museum interpretation at the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, where the interviews will be available to the public. His book, Let the People Decide, exploring the Civil Rights Movement in Sunflower County, Mississippi, will be published in 2004.

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Fayard Nicholas (Veterans History Project, May 27, 28)
He joined his younger brother, Harold, to form the renowned dance team of stage and film, celebrated for their choreography and artistry. During World War II, the Nicholas Brothers served in the military, assigned to a special services unit where they performed for the troops. The Nicholas Brothers also appeared with Bob Hope and his USO troupe in 1951 and were part of Hope's Christmas Tour to Vietnam, Thailand, and Guam in 1965. Nicholas continues to perform and make personal appearances.

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Mary Sullivan O'Driscoll (Veterans History Project, May 27)
She served as one of the famous American Red Cross Clubmobilers during World War II. Her assignments included distributing coffee and doughnuts in Scotland, and running a Clubmobile that served the Army Air Forces in England. After D-Day, her unit moved to France to provide Clubmobile services to the troops on the European continent.

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Elizabeth Olson (Veterans History Project, May 27)
Olson served during World War II as a field representative for the American Red Cross Home Service in the Midwest. This service provided lines of communication and other means of support and assistance to military personnel and their families at home.

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Miriam Lee Ownby (Veterans History Project, May 28)
She joined the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps in October 1942, and served in military personnel at Headquarters Air Technical Service Command at Wright-Patterson Fields in Ohio from 1943 to 1945. In 1945, she transferred to Oakland Air Force Base where she served as a squadron commander until her separation from the Army in July 1946.

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Jennifer Petersen (Veterans History Project, May 30)
She served as the Head Nurse in the Ambulatory Surgery Unit at Fort Hood, Texas, and has also held nursing assignments at Fort Riley, Kansas, and at Camp Walker in Korea. She has published numerous articles in Army Nurse Corps publications. In 2002, Major Petersen became the Army Nurse Corps Historian for the Office of Medical History, Office of the Surgeon General.

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Bob Powell (Veterans History Project, May 27)
Powell served with the 352nd Fighter Group, flying 87 combat missions over Europe, including three combat missions on D-Day. Following the war, he worked as a newspaper reporter and feature writer. Today he is a military historian who, in the early 1980s, began to locate veterans of the 352nd in order to write a history of the Group, entitled The Bluenosed Bastards of Bodney.

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Jack Pulwers (Veterans History Project, May 30)
He served as an infantryman during World War II, and afterwards as a radio and broadcast journalist. He has headed university departments of history and journalism, and is the author of The Press of Battle: The G.I. Reporter and the American People.

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Venus Ramey (Veterans History Project, May 27, 28)
She entered and won the competition for Miss Washington and went on to become Miss America 1944. While fulfilling her pageant duties, she sold war bonds across the country and during her tenure actively worked with Congress to obtain suffrage for Washington, D.C. Her picture adorned a B-17 Bomber that made 68 sorties over Germany without losing a man.

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Gary Rhay (Veterans History Project, May 27, 28, 29)
Rhay enlisted in the U.S. Army and fought in Vietnam in 1971-72. In 1996 he became in-house historian at Marathon Music and Video, which has a veterans' oral history program that predates the Library of Congress project. The Marathon archive holds approximately 700 to 750 videotaped interviews, and is an official partner of the Veterans History Project.

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Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez (Veterans History Project, May 29, 30)
She launched the U.S. Latino & Latina World War II Oral History Project in 1999, a multifaceted effort that includes a conference, several books, a play, and a documentary film. Before entering academia, she worked as a newspaper and television journalist for more than 17 years.

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Steven Sabat (Veterans History Project, May 29)
Sabat is Professor of Psychology at Georgetown University. His research focus has been the cognitive and social abilities of Alzheimer's disease sufferers, which he has explored in scientific journal articles and in his recent book, The Experience of Alzheimer's Disease: Life through a Tangled Veil.

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Samuel J. Smith (Veterans History Project, May 27, 30; Wartime Stories, May 28)
Smith became a Marine when he was 16. When his commander determined that he was Navajo, he was transferred to the 4th Marine Division and trained to become a Code Talker. He served in the Marshall Islands, Saipan, Tinian, and other Pacific islands, and also as a teacher of Code to others. Since the war, he has held numerous positions of leadership in his community in New Mexico.

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Francis Y. Sogi (Veterans History Project, May 28)
Sogi joined the Military Intelligence Service in 1944, and went on to serve with the Counter Intelligence Corps in 1946, rising to the rank of Captain before retiring in 1953. He is a member of the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission and many Japanese-American veterans' organizations.

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Elizabeth (Betty) Splaine (Veterans History Project, May 28)
She joined the U.S. Coast Guard SPARs, and was the first SPAR to re-enlist after a period of post-war demobilization. In 1958, she became the first female Warrant Officer in the Coast Guard, and was transferred to the Admiral's office, where she remained until forced to retire as a CW04 due to grade and term limits in 1970.

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Helen (Billie) Sudyk (Veterans History Project, May 27)
She worked in the Case Brass plant from 1943 to 1945, making brass shell casings and, later in the war, steel mortar shells. She now does volunteer work and, with her husband, speaks to various local groups about their war experiences.

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John Sudyk (Veterans History Project, May 27, 29)
He was a gun mechanic in the 187th Field Artillery, landing at Omaha Beach in the D-Day offensive to support the 29th Infantry. He and his wife do volunteer work in their community and have spoken about their war experiences at schools, churches, and civic gatherings.

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Tracy Sugarman (Veterans History Project, May 27; Family Activities, May 28)
She landed at Utah Beach on D-Day, not only as a sailor but also as an illustrator. He chronicled every aspect of the war in watercolors, sketches, and more than 400 letters to his wife, June. Fifty years later, she astonished him by revealing his long-lost pictures and words.

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Peter C. Sweers, USA (Ret.)Col. (Veterans History Project, May 30)
He served with the Army in six major European campaigns. Afterwards he worked in Armed Forces Radio and as editor-in-chief of Pacific Stars and Stripes during the Vietnam conflict. Since retiring from the Army as Colonel, Sweers has been a school administrator, professor of journalism, and employee relations manager.

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Tom Swope (Veterans History Project, May 27, 28)
Swope produced special radio programs in 1996 to commemorate significant dates from World War II. For the past three years he has produced a weekly radio show, Legacies: Stories from the Second World War, in which he interviews veterans and plays music of the era.

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Warren Tsuneishi (Veterans History Project, May 28)
He volunteered for the Military Intelligence Service and served in the Pacific with the 306th Headquarters Intelligence Detachment, translating captured documents. Today he is active in professional and academic organizations and has written numerous papers and journal articles.

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Alvin D. Ungerleider (Veterans History Project, May 27)
He landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day with the 29th Infantry Division. He later commanded a tank unit in the Korean War and a large unit in Vietnam. After retiring from the Army as Brigadier General with 36 years of military service, he pursued a career in publishing and served for 10 years as a senior editor of military almanacs.

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Fredrick Wallace (Veterans History Project, May 27, 29, 30)
Wallace served in the Air Force during the Korean War, and later worked for the Veterans Administration, counseling veterans returning from Vietnam. In 1995, he retired to Georgia where he volunteers for AARP, contributing his time and energy to the Veterans History Project.

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John W. Warner (Veterans History Project, May 28)
He enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the age of 17 in 1945, serving as an electronic technician's mate. He began a second tour of active military duty during the Korean War, serving as a ground officer with the First Marine Air Wing. He later became Secretary of the Navy, and has served continuously as a U.S. Senator from Virginia since 1979.

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Brien R. Williams (Veterans History Project, May 27, 30)
Williams is the Historian for the American Red Cross. He is also responsible for the development and implementation of the national Red Cross Oral History Program, a partner of the Veterans History Project and, to date, has conducted nearly 40 videotaped interviews with individuals who have had exceptional Red Cross experiences.

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David Winkler (Veterans History Project, May 28, 30)
He supervises an oral history program and other Navy history-related projects to support the Naval Historical Center and the Navy Museum. A Commander in the Naval Reserve, Winkler serves as Executive Officer at the Naval Historical Center, and writes a monthly history column for the Navy League's journal, Sea Power.

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George Zavadil (Veterans History Project, May 27)
He enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard in 1942 and served on the USS Eridanus with supply duties, and on the USS Orlando with convoy duty and anti-submarine activities. He was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade during his 25 months at sea. Following the war, he made his career in tax law and financial planning.

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