tv World War II Veterans Stories CSPAN September 17, 2016 12:10pm-1:41pm EDT
this weekend we are featuring the history of grand rapids, michigan, together with our comcast cable partners. learn more about grand rapids and other cities on our cities c-span.org/citiestour. you are watching american history tv all weekend every weekend on c-span3. >> next on american history tv, four veterans discuss their lives in the u.s. military and combat experiences during world war ii. the participants include veterans of the d-day invasion of normandy, the battle of the bulge, the battle of okinawa, and a fighter pilot with the tuskegee airmen. this took place at arlington, virginia and was part of a conference hosted by the group friends of the national world war ii memorial. it is about 90 minutes. mike: 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 this morning.
my name is mike hydeck. i will be your moderator this morning. i am honored to be here once again with friends of the world war ii memorial and the foundation. i'm a morning anchor it channel nine in washington dc. the goal of this discussion is to hopefully share some of their most personal stories from our greatest generation. the thought being 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 gentlemen sitting in front of us and the other events we do honoring world war ii veterans, we have a short time to connect with them and understand their stories and the
fact they made it through one of the most horrific experiences in the world's history. 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 can hear as well. let's introduce our panel. first to my left in a handsome red blazer, 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. flown in world war ii, korea, and vietnam.
, who iherman zeitchik met on my very first world war ii event. he landed on utah beach in normandy, france. a soldier in the artillery unit where he and his fellow soldiers endured heavy machine-gun fire, extreme bloodshed and personally witnessed the loss of 5000 troops. to his left, allan howerton. he and i have a connection. he has a soft spot for broadcasting. that is one of the things that he was working on before he got into world war ii. he was in the 84th infantry division. he served with company k. 335th infantry as a rifleman, a messenger, a radio operator, and a communications sergeant. he served in germany and in belgium. he is also the author, by the way, he is a great resource. three world war ii books. he tried his hand at writing a novel, too. he said that was very challenging.
we had a great conversation about that. on the end, colonel james rippey . he started in the army as a private, finished as a colonel. 30 years. he finished in 1972. he was in the infantry. he commanded a platoon that invaded the japanese island of okinawa. he attended airborne school in georgia. he commanded an airborne battle group, an airborne brigade and was the chief of staff of staff of the 82nd airborne division. before we get started, a little context. oh, also by the way, to other -- two other people to mention. we would like to recognize carol george in the front row there. he wanted to be part of this. we appreciate him. he was in okinawa, and now 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 want to recognize her and say thank you for her service and the fact that she committed to be here today but had to back out at the last minute. before we get started, just to set a little context 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. battlefronts all over the world. these gentlemen were teenagers, they were twentysomethings. similar ages to our high school and college students now we talk to on a regular basis. both my reporting as an education reporter and you as teachers and students, 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 how much it meant to
these gentlemen and so many people who did the same thing. these twentysomethings and teenagers were killed and did killing. conservative estimates, the total casualties over world war ii, 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 love to jump into the audience and get questions so we can make this valuable for you. we want you to have a take away today. that is the most important thing today. let's start with mr. mcgee. as a tuskegee airmen, today you are considered a national hero. you are told so much to your face. we appreciate your service, we want to continue to tell that. initially when you started and you decided, i'm going to go for this career, how were you treated initially? was your race a major factor? did they just need so many people who have the guts and the determination to help save our world? how were your first days in the military? mr. mcgee: race was indeed a factor. also, the experience, the early years all through the end of the war still in the united states air force separated from the ground forces, there was segregation.
it begins with a 1925 war college study determining that how 1/10 of the population, now called black, would be used if america got involved in another war. paragraph four reporting on the problem. physically qualified, yes, mentally inferior, morally inferior. in other words, second-class citizen if you will. that report came to washington. said to use in service roles, cook food, dig ditches, build roads, fine. do anything technical? impossible. so, that was the attitude in washington about that as far as policy was concerned. so, when world war ii broke out, the civilian pilot training program was established to help
pilots for military units. initially it did not include black pilots. subsequently it did. they graduated from our howard university program in the washington area. i went next door and 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, but segregated through his training years, said he wanted to be a pilot and they said, sorry, they did not have any black aviation units. so he was denied that. it took world war ii and the country willing to help the allies in europe.
the pressure was, the army said, we studied the issue, we know it will fail, but you keep pressing us. we will authorize a squadron. 99th pursuit squadron. i will be glad to talk on that. but segregation was the name of the game. segregation went overseas. it came back home. it took our united states air force to make a decision. mike: when, in your biography, it says you record of 409 combat missions, which would mean over time, i would think that attitude started to change and you started to be considered eventually, i am sure it took a long time a valuable member and , effective fighter pilot. when did you start to notice the tenor of communications with you and added responsibilities? when did that start to change when you started to get more
respect? mr. mcgee: that's interesting. you did not want me to lecture for 20 minutes. [laughter] mike: so what you're saying is you have plenty to tell? mr. mcgee: what happened was the air force ended segregation here in the states in july of 1949. we were scattered around the world. i received assignments overseas that i would not get here at home. in other words, the airbase was a segregated based near columbus, ohio. now rick and bacher for those of you that know the history. and when that base closed in july of 1949, i became the commander of the airbase in the 1840th airbase wing in june of 1972.
the first such assignment in the states from the end of segregation. change came very slowly. we received assignments overseas we would not get at home. i commanded a fighter squadron for two years in the philippines, commanded a fighter squadron in vietnam. a reconnaissance squadron. it was in the cold war. we did not get credit for the cold war because we did not fire anything. commanded units during the missile deployment against russia. change came very slowly. and that is something to understand. but the value of the lessons sustained us during those days are just as important for the young people today who are america's tomorrow, and they need to understand that. mike: mr. zeitchik, utah beach, normandy, france.
how old were you? mr. zeitchik: 18. mike: did you enlist at 18 and immediately get sent there when you got started? were you drafted, first of all? or did you enlist? mr. zetchik: what happened was we were playing stickball out in the street, and one of the boys came over and told us that japanese just bombed and then we went.
president roosevelt was president at the time. and he said everybody 18 and older had to register at the local post office. i went to the local post office with my dad, and they gave us a number. and sure enough, that number came up very quickly. from there we reported to fort dix, new jersey. mike: before you go, what was the conversation like in your household? how did your family respond? did you have a conversation or say this is your duty, you have to go? did your mom and dad get upset? were they supportive? what was the conversation like at your dinner table? mr. zeitchik: they were sorry to
see me go, did not want me to go, but it was either register at the post office, or i guess they would lock you up. no choice. mike: were you scared? mr. zeitchik: no, i wasn't scared because i was a boy scout. [laughter] i was used to going out, sleeping overnight, spending time in the woods. mike: there isn't artillery fire in the boy scouts. you were 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 4th 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 4th 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 when you landed? was it quiet the moment you landed? what did it sound like? mr. zeitchik: i'm sorry? mike: what were the sounds that morning when you landed 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 happened to be utah.
we landed there just as the light started to come in, and then we -- sorry. continue, please. mike: absolutely. mr. howerton -- i will let you collect yourself, mr. zeitchik. i will ask the question once again in the moment. howerton you started your , college education and some of it was interrupted. how old were you when you started in the service and describe what led to you getting in the service. mr. howerton: my experience, all
of our experiences are unique, but i grew up in western kentucky in the 1920's and 1930's. very deprived area at that time. electricity only in the towns that had generators. there was no tva. i grew up in a pretty deprived area. 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 at a small high school. i was an academic inclined at that time. i finished second in my class, was salutatorian, but there is no money for college. i wanted to get out of the house and make some money. and try to figure out how to get an education. i was 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 white castle system is, i'm sure. mike: hamburgers. mr. howerton: one of the great chains. i was able to live on $18.50 a week, and i 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 had worked saturday night. i woke up sunday morning, maybe noon or 2:00 in the afternoon and turned on 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 a procrastinator. i was 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 of 1943, i got the greeting. greetings, you have been selected. [laughter] mike: for the infantry. in the infantry? mr. howerton: no, i was at fort dix, new jersey. took a bunch of tests, ended up training as a medic. at camp ticket, virginia. i had no interest in medicine, but they needed medic trainees at the time. you, you, and you become medics. when i finished there at the end of 90 days, basic training,
except medics did 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? [laughter] a smart alec remark like that. he said, yes. he said you can go to medical 's -- medical administrative ocs, officer candidate school, or you can go to the astp. mike: which is? mr. howerton: which is -- that was my next question. what is the astp? he said, "i don't know." [laughter]
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 put 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 some research on a book i wrote but -- that 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: we became college students. i ended up studying engineering. i had no interest in engineering. [laughter] 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 and trying to memorize what was being said and boning up on tests, so i was pretty good. right 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. well, we had entered as cadets with not a stripe 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. wait a minute, teachers and students. imagine there is a train pulling up, you're 18. we are sending you off to training right now. imagine that happening today. never. never. imagine how we were joking before. i said you are like cattle. and you said educated cattle. mr. howerton: we were cattle and we were cadets. cadets without any stripes. we were on this troop train. we go down to camp clayborn, louisiana, and late at night when we were finally de-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 left on the train. i had no idea how they selected people. at random, i presume. we were marched to our barracks late at night. went to bed, got up the next morning, stood formation. here was a very, very competent draft or first sergeant out there, a drill sergeant, typical world war ii drill 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 know you are not supposed to move your heads in my company. however, you may move your eyeballs if you wish. [laughter] but don't move your heads. but when you move your eyeballs, you will see something here.
you heard about these here 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 like they have had no sun in six months. [laughter] 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, and what was that like? colonel riffe: 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 with rotc and a program at that time called citizen's military training camps, which most of you probably never heard of, but if you attended that camp for 4 summers, you would get commissioned as a second lieutenant. the program was terminated in 1940 because the military bases were being used for training of national guard folks. i was a staff sergeant when i was ordered to go to fort benning, georgia to attend the infantry officer candidate school and i graduated there in march 1943 as a second lieutenant.
my first assignment was as a student at the officers school in california. the school's mission was to train company-grade officers for assignments in the pacific theater. after the one-month course, i was selected as an instructor and i stayed for a year. after that, i was sent to the pacific. first on the island of new caledonia. i was there for a short time. went to the new hebrides, ended up on the island espiru santo where i joined the 27th division. >> what were you responsible for doing? >> you were the leader of an inch tree platoon -- infantry
platoon. each squad was commanded by a staff sergeant. there was the platoon headquarters. was a stupid team, two people. about 40 people led by a lieutenant. >> a visit shell is how they -- big?ka shell is how hole could it put in a small? 75they had a range of about 200 yards. it would destroy a machine gun nest. it would destroy a mortar position. it did not have much penetrating power.
okinawa, there is nothing to penetrate accept trees and mountains and holes and things like that. we used it if we knew where a machine gun was located. we would train it on that to destroy it. you are responsible as a platoon leader for leaving your men in ground combat. ground,.g your men in the motto was follow me. that is why i survived the military combat. i was always leading up front. i would normally have one or two scouts in front, maybe a bar team. wouldst of the team i leave behind until we contacted
the enemy. you always have plans as to what you are going to do. when you contact the enemy, you have to make new plans. exactlyot anticipate what you're going to run into, how many people, what kind of gods, the artillery, the mortar. i was wounded. had 29 mented out, i and in three weeks there were nine of us left. of the 20 the were evacuated, seven were killed and 13 were wounded. 29, inthe platoon of three weeks, there were nine of us left. >> now you are in your early 20's coming from home and doing all of this training. how did seeing all of that debt quicklyly -- death so
affect you emotionally? >> to me it is like it happened yesterday. >> even now you feel that? haveis is the first time i ever talked about okinawa. i have been invited by the history club of fairfax county, if the club of arlington, virginia, to talk about my experiences in world war ii. this is the first time i have been invited by the world war ii memorial friends. everything happens like it is yesterday. it.never lose >> does it still hurt? do you still have nightmares? what is your life like when you try to recall it? >> i'm very sad, and i don't want to talk. my wife often asks me what is
wrong. i will be ok. i think the people who are here can also confirm that it is an experience that lives with you forever. is biggest problem i have the seven men under my direct control who got killed, and the 13 were seriously wounded and evacuated is what happened to them. what happened to their families. front and a man is close to you is kill and you can hear the bullets going by your head, the next man is killed, you can hear the bullets, but you survive, and you always ask why not me? to this day, i don't know why i survived.
hopefully i have been a good citizen of my country. i did serve in the army for a little over 30 years. i have many wonderful, challenging experiences. opportunity toe be here today. i will answer any questions about my combat experiences in world war ii. >> now that we have had a chance to go across the board, any questions from the audience? yes, sir. [indiscernible] who went inton the army, do you all see your life any other way? >> the question was, as young men going into the army, as you look back, could you envision your life any other way? >> not with the war declared. >> not with the work plan.
you felt a sense of duty. would you envision your life in any other way than the way you did i going into the service? you.did not hear [inaudible] >> i don't know. again. i would go my primary thing is that i wanted to continue school, but the germans would not let us. [laughter] >> good point. >> we are lucky that we have an .cean on each side of us
if the election, the people we have running in the election don't do something quickly, we will be in a lot of trouble. i am worried about that, but i didn't want to say what thing. it was a bad word. world war ii was a bad war. especially normandy. i don't know these people remember. we had a company of soldiers, american young soldiers that was surrounded. instead of having a shot by the germans, the officers surrendered. they marched the soldiers all to off to a field, and
there were german trucks there, and a machine gunned all of them. 1944.as the winter of the weather was the worst winter europe had. i was part of the group that happened- went out and to see everything. it was frightening. absolutely frightening. to wherelace we went allgermans had confiscated the artwork and hid it in
caves in the mountains, and we found some of the caves. ates that art in cr they were sending back to germany. then we did the thele of the bulge, which germans tried to break the and get to this gasoline and oil that they needed. we would not let them. i think the battle of the bulge of the final big battle
.orld war ii another first was the liberation of paris, which was great. the french people woke up in the found the american on a mainting , and there were we were they brought down whatever dod, flowers, just wanted to everything with us. i have pictures of all my happenings if anybody is interested in seeing. i would be glad to show you. >> we can see in your eyes that
you are accessing all those memories and going through the scenes. it is probably very clear. mr. howerton, would you change anything? you wanted to the a broadcaster, then you're an economist. if you could, would you do something different? >> i'm sorry, what? >> would you choose a different path? >> that is a hard question to ask. i suppose so. i probably would have. i would like to say this in response to the question. i actually have been through the war twice. in the 1990's, i gather all the records of my company because i did not really know what had gone on there. you see only a few hundred yards in front of you. i wanted to find out what really happened. i got the records altogether and
set up a database of everyone who was in the company, 572 men served in company k during six months of combat, company strength was less than 200. you could see what the turnover was. you explained it very, very well. we had similar experiences. i wrote a book it took me years and years to do it. i went back through the war again day by day. the agonies andi wrote a book is and ecstasies of war and memory. regard, the young man who sense, is war, in a actually not sitting here today. because after going through it a second time, this young fellow seemed like somebody else.
not me. i recommend it to world war ii veterans that they don't have to necessarily publish a book, but write down the experiences, put it down on paper. when you do that, you see perspectives that you never knew that you had when you have to write something. words are very, very important along with memory. i have the memory of it sure. by going through it a second purged an awful lot of the terrible memories that we all had coming back. i have tried to tell the story in a very, very objective way. i documented every casualty. ,e had 41 men killed in action
more than 100 wounded and evacuated for various other reasons. 99 captured. most of those people came home captured. most of those people came on. i learned last week through websites that one of those men who was captured at the first in a prisonied camp. i did not know that. it goes on. the knowledge, the research, and so you remember it, but you put it behind you if you can. i think i was reasonably successful in doing that. >> you mentioned that you did suffer post-traumatic stress, you did not call it that back
then. you chose to make the service your career. you could have gotten out. you went through everything you went through, the pain, seeing people killed, being in the middle of combat. you chose to stay in. why do you stay in as long as you get? -- as you did? >> i was planning in college to be a teacher because i was very fond of my high school teachers. i went to a small high school in southern west virginia where a teacher had with a call teacher coaches, where they would teach in the morning and coach in the afternoon. i experienced that and admired the same coach. i wanted to be the same thing. i went to college with that in mind. on december 7, 1941, the japanese bombed pearl harbor.
that changed not only my life but the light of probably -- life of probably all americans. one thing i do want to say about world war ii and that period, i think it is the only time in the history of our country when we were completely united. i don't think we have been united before that, and we have not been united since. everybody that i knew and heard of and sought and met, they were behind the united states and defeating the nazis in europe and the japanese in the pacific. if you go to a restaurant, they probably wouldn't charge you for your mail. if you wrote a taxi, they wouldn't charge of your it you are hitchhiking, if there was room, they would not pass you.
the good thing i remember about world war ii is the unity of america. in my lifetime, i would like to see that again. i am not very enthusiastic that i will, but that is my hope and prayer. >> why did you choose to stay in the military? >> there were a couple of reasons why i stayed. i was called to go into cadet training with those two years of college. i did like flying. training was good. fortunately, i came through combat all right in the late 1950's. i was interested in getting into commercial aviation. at that time, the airlines were not hiring blacks or women. >> that was the only place you could apply.
>> because i enjoyed the flying, i stayed in the service. was doing something i enjoyed. i could not have written a script for a better opportunity than what i added up with. i did not know that up front. because of service and education i was abled earlier, to go on and get a college degree because of what the service offered. ed me in process service time. -- postal service -- post- service time. i tell you about today, i hope you find something you like doing. it turned out to be part of the expense, but the fact that i love aviation.
justng into the air and come back and put your feet on the ground. the other side of it was taking off at sunset, seeing the sunset again, seeing the stars come out. it makes you realize we individuals are one small aspect in a mighty grand universe. >> provided an amazing 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 can women. -- you gentlemen. you guys have the right stuff. my question is for colonel dr. mickey. -- mcgee. every black pilot in the cockpit, whether the military or commercial industry, are standing on the shoulders of you guys.
particularly 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? did you have any idea of the impact you have a lives at the? >> i would say not at all. we came out of tenures of depression when war was declared. the country came together behind that act. the jobs that were now available. you talk about a car in every port. it was a different time. the country came together because of what was going on in europe and what hitler had done. even though there was segregation, again, it was america. our country, willing to put our
lives in the line for the freedoms we enjoyed. when we say freedoms we enjoy, we don't all enjoy them in the same way or even to the same extent. it is still america. >> thank you, very much. i'm very interested in knowing your perspective on military service given what is going on today and the opportunities the military should offer young people. if young people are in the audience that would like to use these lectures, i think you have something special to say about education, youth, commitment to the country, and as it pertains in today's context. what i am also impressed about is it the question you have been
thinking about also. thank you. mike: your impression of the military, its value to young people? how it can play in their lives today? >> i wish we had everybody served two years and then go about your business supporting our country. then they wouldn't of the problems we have faced with the military. we have made this a problem because it is voluntary. do is take care of the soldiers when they return. the future for our country requires there be those who will take that step. teachers andt for so on in them four p's. find your dreams would
with your talents are to support the country. prepare. get the education. learn to read, write and speak well and develop talents. perform. let excellent your goal and everything. we talked by kids being bullied. the treatinge those as you want to be treated. and persevere. don't let circumstances be excuse for not achieving. there is too much of that going on. mike: mr. howard? >> one of the things i would like to say is that i think one of the great things that happened in mobilization for world war ii with the selective service system. i say this because it brought together men from all walks of life. in one company, my company in the 84th infantry division, we ,ad a literate's --illiterates
we had people with graduate degrees. would never would have crossed each other's paths. we learned a lot about each other. that the volunteer army is about the only thing we can do in today's situation where you don't need masses of people. i do think we have a problem in that there is clearly unequal sacrifice when it comes to military service. i have always favored for most of my life some sort of a universal service requirement supporting -- and have supported various schemes along that line. one of which would be a military option. i think the phrase you here today so often, thank you for your service, that is a telling
phrase. to some extent to me it's a little bit of a guilt complex. know if the men on these panel would agree with me or not, but my perception is when 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. quibbled for a while with the term "greatest generation." i wasn't sure that was much more than an excellent marketing slogan for brokaw's book. i have come to terms with it. if we includely the whole country. as you said, the country was
unbelievably unified and it happened in an instant, but it stayed right on through the war. again, none of us here in this audience can say today. certainly i can't. unity was the great thing during world war ii. mike: my grandfather used to tell me prior to seeing the movie unity newsreels regarding the war. it would say please don't buy canned food, we need to ship it to the soldiers. it would be general public items, things you do everyday would help the entire war effort. both on the radio, movies, everywhere you would see some sort of effort. you are at home but you can pitch into the effort. you don't see that anymore. >> we were welcomed home as the troops are today. i will tell you a story about what happened to us briefly.
we were on a troopship going out of new york harbor on our way to europe. when the convoy was making up outside new york harbor, we had a collision with a tanker. it knocked the bow out of the hms stirling castle. we regarded by destroyers. limped back in the next morning. wally came back into the same porch we left from, we were considered to be returning soldiers because returning soldiers were beginning to come home. [laughter] on the fairies coming across the new york harbor we were waves. everybody was yelling bravo. we have been gone 24 hours. [laughter] they went down the ladder to the dock. the van -- bands were playing.
red cross was passing out donuts and coffee. i didn't hear anybody say thank you for your service, but we are glad to see you back, fellow. 10 days later we went out again. mike: how important is it to help today's youth understand how we need our military, and what can we do to help them understand the sacrifice you all have made and so many people have made, millions have made, is something that can play into their lives now, today? how can we stress to high school students, college students how the military can play a role in their lives? you chose it as a career. it's still an option as a career today. is that important to impart? i was asking colonel riffy.
>> i agree with alan. there should be some sort of universal service. americans about 1% of are serving in the military forces. 1%. i believe we can unify our country again if all young gentlemen,ies and would have to perform some type of service for our country. it doesn't necessarily have to be in the military, but some organization that supports america and our values. i believe that would also help us to unify because today we are not a unified country, unfortunately. theourse, we are seeing conventions for the republican
nominations and next week for the democratic nominations. see onording to what i television, there is a great divide between those who claim to be republicans and those who claim to the democrats. unfortunately,e, that many politicians have put party above country. country should come first. parties to come second, but i don't see that today. [applause] as i mentioned, only about 1% of americans are in uniform today. we are still in afghanistan. we will stay there for quite a while. we are sending more troops to iraq. jordanand jordan -- in
and we have military personnel practically all over the world. map showing the location of all the military personnel. 35have personnel serving in or 40 countries in the world today. it is costing us a lot of money. but i recently attended what they call airborne we get for bragg. i was a paratrooper for 25 years. a member of the 82nd airborne division as a major, lieutenant colonel and a colonel. it's a great opportunity for people to get together. while i was there i got a call from the japanese television. first in april, they came to my home with a television camera, the director and asked me questions. i thought they were going to
talk about the pacific in world war ii. they were only interested in talking about secretary kerry's visit to hiroshima. and later on when i was at fort bragg, i didn't know it but president obama had also visited hiroshima. i told the japanese television that in no case should official of the united states government go to hiroshima because i felt the japanese were -- would consider it an apology for the two bombs were dropped on august 6 and august 9. have entered your question? [laughter] mike: that was a wonderful answer. yes, sir? >> i have two questions. one is for jim, and the second for all of the. jim, i know the battle of
okinawa was fierce. 24 medal of honor winners are no canola. infantryt with a 96th division. can you tell me in your unit how many medal of honor winners, distinguished service crosses, silver stars, and bronze stars and purple hearts in the 27th? hadll i can tell you is i two of my squad leaders have recommended for the silver star. or eight of the members of my platoon i recommended for the bronze star medal. would happen if you themmend someone unity of the battalion and regiment and division. often times they would change it. i was recommended for the silver star for a battle in which the
entire battalion was pinned down and the 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 with one rifle platoon. i was recommended for the silver star was that it was downgraded to a bronze star. i have two bronze stars. that's all i have information about. i don't know what happened. division some men at in reading the history of my division, the 27th, there were several people who got the medal of honor. and there were a lot of distinguished service crosses and silver stars. stars i recommended for two of my squad leaders. i don't know if they received them are not because they were
both wounded and evacuated. i don't know what happened to their recommendations. i do know that i should have dicommended my platoon mec -- medic for more than a bronze star. we were fighting to retake the ridge. we had taken it once, given it up, and we had it take yet again. i was leading up to 10. i had two scouts in front. i had a bar man. we ran into a japanese strong position. the lead scout was killed immediately. bar man wase injured in his leg. i crawled up to see what i could do for him. heard about itic and he came rushing up.
bag to get a his bandage to put on the man's leg. when he was doing that he got killed. him for themended bronze star, but looking back he gave his life to try to save another man. way iere along the believe whoever read the recommendation somewhere along the way, looking back now, they should've upgraded to at least the silver star or the distinguished service cross. hear the name is treating a wounded man, came out under fire, gave his life. today, i know the individual would probably get the medal of honor that things were different in world war ii. , this isond question
for all of you. if harry truman was here today, standing in the audience, what would you say to him? mike: what would you say to harry truman if he was in the audience today? >> i would like to answer that. [laughter] mike: he is on a roll. at they truman made one most important decisions in the history of our country. he authorized the atomic bomb on japan. ofst of all, on the sixth august they bombed hiroshima. fromeath toll was anywhere 120,000 to 170,000. convince the japanese to surrender unconditionally. on the ninth of august the president authorized dropping the second atomic bomb on nagasaki.
aboutath toll there was half of what they had said it was in hiroshima, around 70,000. there are people even today who say those atomic bombs saved lives. we had planned to invade japan in november of 1945, on the island of kyushu. in 1946 we were going to invade tokyo, honshu. that invasion was estimated to cost 150,000 american lives, and 10 million japanese lives. on that basis people say today atomic weapons killed 240,000 people, but if we had invaded japan, we would have killed 10 million japanese.
i believe that president truman, by authorizing the use of the atomic bomb saved hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of lives, both american and japanese. youher thing which some of may or may not know about was the military -- the army particularly with segregated. i served during world war ii. in my division 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 are going to put all the people together. president truman is the one he
said he will no longer have segregation in military services, we will put all people together. at that time is commanding infantry rifle company in salzburg, austria. we had a quartermaster company that was all negroes, all-black. i called my men together. i said we are going to get some black soldiers, and they are americans and he will be treated just like anybody else. i made sure when he got black soldiers to my rifle company we had a special welcome for them. integrated and they were altogether. we are all americans. unfortunately, i look back today and i cannot understand why america has been segregated for so long, for so very, very long. , today itrtunately seems there is more controversy
among the black and white today. that is very sad. at least president truman did something when he decided there was no longer be a segregated military service. for those two things i applaud president truman, the atomic bombs and for any segregation of military services. mike: go ahead. >> we owe president truman even more than that because he was the president he said the buck stops here. he issued two executive orders. the air force said we need to integrate because we need to use people based on training, experience, where they were needed. they were not getting enough money to keep the base open, segregated, and meet the requirements. 10 months later truman issued to executive orders. 9981, the one that mandated all
the services need to integrate. but he also issued 9980. there should be equal access at equal hiring throughout the federal government. unfortunately, even though that executive order was written, it has not been followed throughout. -- you need to read his history. he was from southern missouri, but he believed in america and what america should be all about. on? your. howart thoughts on truman? >> the only thing i have to add fouris, i did receive bronze clusters and two years president,e french
, and ilegion of honor just receiving the medal by the french government put a highlight to my life. thank you. mike: mr. howerton? >> what i would like to say fewt this is i too saw very if any black soldiers. for me, the cultural and we had otherwise was great. anything inay response to the question about how can you advise people going to the military today, it would be that a couple of things. first of all, they are going to be exposed. thank god.
even with a volunteer army. is the factor about that military will give a young person a family. a second family. i think we will all agree to that. i think those of us in combat , and in my case those of us in company k with such heavy casualties our own minds that we may not ever come back. are family. we might never get back to our families. i think that kind of bonding still exists. i think it does. i don't know for sure, but it think it doesn't modern american military units.
-- it does exist in modern military units. ironically, for a few days those of us in my unit coming up from normandy beach well after the fighter -- fighting but on the red ball express that took us to the war, we were in effect under the command for about three days of black drivers. the bulk of the drivers of those trucks or black drivers. a segregated black driver unit. they were in command. we listened to what they said. when they said 10 minute break, they met 10 minute break and we were back in the trucks. they sought to which we were. exposure.ittle bit of i came home as a radical civil rights guy.
growing up in kentucky in the segregated school, that today seems remarkable to me, but i did. in college i was in the forefront of the civil rights movement. an organization that closed the bar in the university of denver. that went out of business. it started serving black students, comrades in the university. we have come a long way. regardless of all the problems we have, we have come a long way i think. mike: one last question before you go. many of the students and teachers who teach them, they talk and they have conversations with them and try to teach world war ii. they are the age that you were when you enlisted or were drafted. do you have any advice, life advice moving forward for students that these teachers can has a move forward and
choose a career in life and their connection to our nation as far as patriotism is concerned? can you impart one last edited by student? and i'm assured directly answering the question, but as i go around talking to students in schools there is certainly to meet a need to include what is taking place in our country. knowsn ask youngsters who what the thrust of one and on today's 777 airliner is? no idea. why aren't you taking -- teaching where technology is taking us? it is taking us way beyond what i flew. our youngsters are not getting it. how can they take their place? something is wrong in the textbooks we are using where the attitude.
i enjoy talking to middle schools most because at least middle school kids listen. [laughter] mike: present company excepted. [laughter] >> high school, that's another story. teachers, hang in there. i know you have such a challenge. there are too many parents saying don't tap my kid. we are missing the boat, folks for the future with our youngsters. education. mike: any suggestions for our youth? >> is important to remember for teachers to remember, students today are as far from world war ii as we were from the civil war. mike: wow.
>> what did we know about the civil war? not too much. skirmishes of forces and little farm communities in western kentucky, but we did not 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. i have high school groups in particular i have talked with. i get a couple of reactions. one is i get intensive interest on the part of a few students in the classes. and others they seem to be sleeping. [laughter] i don't know. i think i would emphasize the
teachers you are not focused 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, effective and not. made isthe point jim extremely important. the unity of the country that resulted for one reason or another from world war ii is important to teach. and what went on on the home front. -- i've studied this in economics and history, the war ingeniously the
administration of that time -- managed ingeniously by the administration of that time. the mobilization of industry, the institution of price controls and rationing. all those things made the homefront what it was and supported the troops serving overseas. never forget that. heroes, but there are a lot of heroes in the homefront as well. from meery hard subject to teach. mike: some advice for our young people? would you like to give some advice to our young people, our high school students about life? you when i was discharged i missed my high
i sang in the a cappella choir. user was sort of a gift to me. it made me so much better in the army. gunn't know how shooting a and playing music next. but evidently it worked with me. thank you. >> i believe education is one of the primary -- the department of education does have statistics to show high school graduation and whether high school -- annual salary would be, a
bachelors degree would be more, and generally the more education you have the better chance you have for success. i learned that the hard way. 1938, i was in the civilian conservation corps. i was 16. i lied about it because it couldn't afford to go to school. i realize the importance of education. i mentioned pearl harbor came along. after the war i did everything i could to increase my education. i went to school at nighttime, weekends. 1957, the army sent
me to the university of maryland to get a bachelors degree in military science. later i was sent the george washington university to get a masters degree in international affairs. later on i want to night school again. days, weekends. i got another masters degree from george washington university. iat i got out of the service had many opportunities, including opportunities at the university of my carolina and george washington university.
i would encourage the young to get all the education you can because the department of education has statistics to prove the more education you have, the better opportunities you have for success. they have statistics to show that is true. recently there were articles in the washington post comparing the salaries of high school graduates to college graduates with a bs for a four-year degree versus those who had advanced degrees. mike: before he make our final remark, i would like to call josiah bunting iii to speak and make some remarks and thank some people. >> only for about 30 seconds. first of all, we have a
representative of the enterprise corporation. jack taylor, the founder of enterprise died two weeks ago at the age of 96. he is responsible for this program and for many of the programs at the world war ii memorial. familyrts go out to his and our gratitude to you. [applause] if anyone here doubts that these gentlemen are members of what should be called the greatest generation, those doubts of interest this morning. thank you. [applause]
mike: alan howerton, colonel james riffy. thank you so much. one last comment. we are about to get a new present to -- president in the coming months. it's important to remember leaders make decisions to send our young men and women in harm's way, to remember it is these families to sacrifice for our freedom. it is not just numbers, not just a location around the globe. he got to hear personal stories not only these people saved the united states but save the world. >> can i make one comment, please? mike: of course. >> it's about world war ii. i want to to know the sacrifices. in world war ii 16 million americans served in uniform. 400-8000 gain --
lives -- gave their lives for our country. thank you. [applause] thank you, ladies and gentlemen. >> you are watching american history tv all weekend, every weekend on c-span 3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook. >> next a panel of scholars compares past presidential races to the 2016 campaign. topics included changes in media coverage and similarities and differences between previous