Category Archives: War Heroes

Bataan Death March Survivor Silas Legrow of Cabot, Arkansas Rest in Peace

We lost a great man recently when we lost Silas Legrow. He was 90 years old. I had written about him before. Back then I wrote:

My longtime friend Craig Carney is originally  from Jacksonville, and  he told me a couple of years ago about a friend of his parents from Jacksonville, Arkansas named Silas Legrow. Legrow  was going to speak at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History on April 17, 2008 about his experience in the March of 1942 when he and his unit were forced to participate in what became known as the Bataan Death March in the Philippines. My 11 year old son Wilson and I went to hear him speak that night and were able to get a front row seat. 

Legrow started off his talk that evening by stating, “I want to tell you that prayer and faith meant a lot to me during those 39 months. Each day on the march, we plodded along like zombies.Words can’t explain the mental and physical abuse your body takes when you go without food and water.”

Legrow said he weighed 175 pounds at the beginning of the march, and 110 when the 10-day trek was over. About 100,000 American and Filipino prisoners of war were forced to march about 60 miles with no food and little water from the Bataan Peninsula to prison camps. Over 10% of that number died during the march.

“Many died, many lived, and only a few of us are alive today to tell the story,” Legrow said. “I feel both blessed and grateful to be one of those few.”  

After the talk was over I got to visit personally with Mr Legrow (who was 85 yrs old at the time) and he thanked us for coming. I told him  that his talk seemed only a few moments long since it was so interesting. In fact, you could have heard a pin drop during his talk because of the respect the people had for Mr. Legrow. 

 

OBITUARY SUBMITTED BY:

Roller-Owens Funeral Home

5509 John F. Kennedy Blvd., North Little Rock, AR

Phone: 501-791-7400

Below is an excellent story on Legrow’s experience.

 

Pfc. Silas B. LeGrow


    Pfc. Silas B. LeGrow was born in August 12, 1918.  He was raised, with his brother, at 3512 Tacon Street in Tempa, Florida, where he attended school.  While he was a child, he was orphaned and raised by his aunt and uncle.  He later moved to Toledo, Ohio, where he lived with a cousin at 1116 Starr Avenue.  He would later work on a farm as a hired hand in Portage Township, Wood County, Ohio.       While a resident of Toledo, Silas attempted to join a local Ohio National Guard Unit, but since there were no openings, he could not join the company.  With the help of Lt. Col. Roland B. Lee of the Ohio National Guard, Silas was able to join the Company H Tank Company of the Ohio National Guard.

    On November 25, 1940, Silas’s National Guard company was called to Federal duty as C Company, 192nd Tank Battalion.  The company was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky were it joined three other National Guard companies from Wisconsin, Illinois, and Kentucky to form the battalion.  For most of the next year, the soldiers trained and attended school. In Silas’s case he became a tank driver.

    In the late summer of 1941, the 192nd Tank Battalion took part in maneuvers in Louisiana.  It was after these maneuvers that Silas learned that the battalion was being sent overseas.  He and the other soldiers were given furloughs home to say goodbye to family and friends.

    From Camp Polk, Louisiana, Silas traveled west to San Francisco by train. Upon arrival, the battalion was taken by ferry to Angel Island.  There, the soldiers were inoculated and received physicals.

   Sailing for the Philippine Islands, the battalion arrived in Manila and was transported by train to Ft. Stotsenburg.  For over two weeks the soldier prepared their tanks for maneuvers.  

   The morning of December 8, 1941, Silas learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Around 12:45 in the afternoon, while Silas was serving lunch to C Company, the Japanese attacked Clark Field.  During the attack, Silas could do little but watch. Silas recalled, “It seemed like a false alarm. No one could believe that the Japs would ever attack the United States.” 

    For the next four months, Silas attempted to feed the soldiers of C Company in whatever manner he could.  The morning of April 9, 1942, he became a Prisoner of War when Bataan was surrendered to the Japanese.  

    Two days after the surrender, Silas and the rest of C Company made their way to Mariveles.  It was from there that they started what became known as the Bataan Death March.  “I weighed 175 pounds at the start of the two week march and was down to 110 when it ended.”  Suffering from malaria, Silas had to be helped on the march by other members of the company.  “We all had to help each other.  The men were ready to drop from exhaustion and anyone who lagged would be prodded along with bayonets and rifle butts.”

    Silas and the other POWs made there way to San Fernando.  There, they were packed into small wooden boxcars and taken to Capas.  At Capas, the dead fell out of the cars as the living climbed out.  From Capas he made his way to Camp O’Donnell.

   Silas was next held as a POW at Cabanatuan.  He remained in the camp until October 1942, when he was selected for shipment to Manchuria.

       On October 5, 1942, Silas and another 1600 POW’s were sent to the dock area of Manila,  They spent two days housed in a warehouse on the dock before being boarded onto Tottori Maru. 

    Silas and the other men were placed into the ship’s hold.  They would remain there for two days before the ship sailed.  The trip would take 31 days before the ship docked in Korea. According to Silas “All we had to eat was fish and wormy rice. We had to pick out as many worms as we could, but we couldn’t get out all of them.  Sometimes we got so hungry, we ate the rice, worms and all.”

    The ship sailed for Takao, Formosa.  The prisoners were divided into two groups. One group was placed in the holds while the other group remained on deck.  The lucky POWs remained on deck.   The conditions on the ship were indescribable, but those in the hold were worse off than those on deck.  This situation was made worse by the fact that for the first two weeks of the voyage the prisoners were not fed.  Many POWs died during the trip.

    Shortly after leaving Manila, the Totori Maru came under a torpedo attack by an American submarine.  The captain of the ship maneuvered it to avoid torpedoes.  Woody and the other POWs watched as the two torpedoes fired at the ship missed. 

    The ship continued its voyage arriving at Takao, Formosa on October 12th.  The ship remained at Takao for four days before sailing.  It returned to Takao the same day and sailed again on October 18th.   When it reached the Pescadores Islands, it dropped anchor. It remained off the islands until October 27th when it returned to Takao.  During this stay, the POWs were disembarked and washed down with fire hoses.

   The ship sailed again on October 30th.  On October 31st, the ship stopped at Makou, Pescadores Islands before continuing its trip to Pusan, Korea.  During this trip, the ship was caught in a typhoon which took five days to ride out.  It was during this storm that Woody’s friend lost the vision in one eye because he was hit the face by salt water spray.

    After 31 days on the ship, the Totori Maru docked at Pusan, Korea on November 7th.  1300 POW’s got off the ship and sent on a four day train trip north to Mukden, Manchria.   The 400 POWs who remained on the ship were sent to Japan.  There, they worked in a sawmill or a manufacturing plant.

    At Mukden, Manchuria, Silas was given a set of clothes and a overcoat.  These were the only clothes he received while he was held at Mukden.   At Mukdan, the POWs were housed in wooden barracks.  The prisoners slept on double-decker shelves with only a thin mat between them and the wooden boards. He and the other POWs had to sleep on their sides since there was no room to stretch out.

   Silas remained in Manchuria until he was liberated by Russian troops in 1945.  He returned to the United States and visited his relatives in Florida. Later, he returned to Port Clinton to be reunited with the other surviving members of C Company.

   Silas married and became the father of four sons.  Today, Silas B. LeGrow resides in Cabot, Arkansas.  He is one of the last two surviving National Guard members of C Company.

Rel

 

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Veterans Day 2011 Part 2 (Bataan Death March)

My longtime friend Craig Carney is originally  from Jacksonville, and  he told me a couple of years ago about a friend of his parents from Jacksonville, Arkansas named Silas Legrow. Legrow  was going to speak at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History on April 17, 2008 about his experience in the March of 1942 when […]

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War Heroes from Arkansas can be found here on www.thedailyhatch.org

Below I have the story of Joe Speaks who fought in Europe and was captured twice by the Germans.

American GI's clamber into a landing craft as they prepare to hit the beaches along France's Normandy coast in June 1944. The World War II operation was part of the massive Allied D-Day invasion to chase German forces out of France. An armada of landing vessels sits in the background under barrage balloons. (AP Photo/Wartime Pool)

Photo by Associated Press

American GI’s clamber into a landing craft as they prepare to hit the beaches along France’s Normandy coast in June 1944. The World War II operation was part of the massive Allied D-Day invasion to chase German forces out of France. An armada of landing vessels sits in the background under barrage balloons. (AP Photo/Wartime Pool)

If you would like to read some great stories about some fine soldiers who fought to defend our country then click on the links below. All the soldiers are from Arkansas and I have been writing their stories for a local paper called “The Benton Courier” (now known as “The Saline Courier”).

A U.S. Coast Guard landing barge, tightly packed with helmeted soldiers, approaches the shore at Normandy, France, during initial Allied landing operations, June 6, 1944. These barges ride back and forth across the English Channel, bringing wave after wave of reinforcement troops to the Allied beachheads. (AP Photo)

Photo by Associated Press

A U.S. Coast Guard landing barge, tightly packed with helmeted soldiers, approaches the shore at Normandy, France, during initial Allied landing operations, June 6, 1944. These barges ride back and forth across the English Channel, bringing wave after wave of reinforcement troops to the Allied beachheads. (AP Photo)

Story of Joe Speaks:

On Sunday June 27th, 2010 in the article “Heroes among us,” Benton Courier, there was a story about Larry’s father Joe. Here is a portion of that article: 

Larry Joe Speaks of Cabot is my wife’s cousin, and recently he told me about his father’s time in World War II. Joe Speaks (originally from Waldron , Ark. ) arrived in Normandy six days after D-Day (June 6, 1944), and he was involved in the Battle of the Bulge and he fought at Bastogne . The Battle of the Bulge was the bloodiest of the battles that U.S. forces experienced in World War II; the 19,000 American dead were unsurpassed by those of any other engagement. 

During one day of intense fighting, Speaks was so focused on shooting and reloading during the heat of the action that he did not realize that his leg had been struck by shrapnel during the battle. As soon as the battle was over, a fellow soldier pointed out that his boot was filled with blood. Speaks said he had not felt a thing.  

In another battle, Speaks was on the second floor of a building involved in a machine gun battle with the Germans. Then in the middle of the battle, the soldier in charge of getting the ammunition from downstairs did not return. So Speaks went downstairs to get the ammunition and discovered the Germans were holding everyone at gunpoint. Speaks asked the lieutenant upstairs to come down because the situation was hopeless, but the lieutenant refused.  

Then the Germans took their prisoners and backed off some and bombed the building. For the next two weeks, the American prisoners were forced to march back and forth next to that building with the lieutenant’s boot still sticking out of the rumble.  

When the Germans were not looking, Speaks and another soldier took off running and escaped. They made it to a farm owned by a German lady, and they made up a story that Hitler had been killed and the lady broke down and cried. She allowed them to stay in the barn until the end of the war.  

Joe Speaks passed away on March 1, 1999, at age 73 and was buried in Sheridan . He had received two Purple Hearts, a Silver Cross and a Silver Eagle. 

In this June 6, 1944 file photo, while under attack of heavy machine gun fire from the German coastal defense forces, American soldiers wade ashore off the ramp of a U.S. Coast Guard landing craft during the Allied landing operations at the Normandy. (AP Photo)

Photo by Associated Press

In this June 6, 1944 file photo, while under attack of heavy machine gun fire from the German coastal defense forces, American soldiers wade ashore off the ramp of a U.S. Coast Guard landing craft during the Allied landing operations at the Normandy. (AP Photo)

Related posts:

Veterans Day 2011 Part 9:Roy “Roxy” Oxenrider survived Korean War’s Toughest Battle

Picture of Roy after he had recovered at the hospital. Picture of Roy below in the hospital recovering from his injuries followed by a picture of Roy encouraging another soldier who was in the hospital:  Below is an article that was published in November of 2010 in the Saline Courier: Saline County War Hero Bryant […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 8 Leon McDaniel of World War II (second post)

Okinawa – At the Emperor’s Doorstep” episode from “WWII: GI Diary”….. This old 1978 TV docu-drama was narrated by Lloyd Bridges and told the stories of real soldiers/sailors/pilots and their first-hand experiences in battle. Archival footage and good background music really made the stories come alive…..about 25 episodes were made. Video converted from really old […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 7:You have heard of Jimmy Doolittle, but what about Leon A. McDaniel?

President Reagan and Senator Barry Goldwater present the fourth star to General Jimmy Doolittle during a White House ceremony in the Indian Treaty room, OEOB. 6/20/85. I love the movie “Pearl Harbor” with Ben Affleck and it tells the story of Jimmy Doolittle.  He was born in 1896 and died in 1993. He is pictured […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 6 (A look back at Okinawa)

This portion below appeared in an article I did for the Saline Courier about 18 months ago: I went to the First Baptist Church in Little Rock from 1983 to 1997, and during that time I became friends with Walter Dickinson Sr. In fact, we used to attend a weekly luncheon together on Thursdays.  Just […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 5 (A look back at the “Battle of the Bulge”)

The Lost Evidence: The Battle Of The Bulge (1/5) This article was published in the Saline Courier about 18 months ago: When we celebrate July 4th we are focusing on the freedoms that so many soldiers have fought for over the last 234 years. That focus has been highlighted for me since my son Hunter […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 4

  This is taken from an article that appeared in the Saline Courier about a year ago: Bravery is not just limited to one generation, but Americans have had it in every generation. It makes me think about those who are currently serving in our military. Jon Chris Roberts who is graduate of Benton High […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 3 (A look back at World War 1)

I was born in Tennessee and everyone in Tennessee knows the name of Alvin York. Above is a clip about his accomplishments in War World I. Cara Gist of Shannon Hills tells me that her grandfather Herbert S. Apple of Salado, Arkansas (near Batesville) fought in World War I. He served in France and fought […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 2 (Bataan Death March)

My longtime friend Craig Carney is originally  from Jacksonville, and  he told me a couple of years ago about a friend of his parents from Jacksonville, Arkansas named Silas Legrow. Legrow  was going to speak at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History on April 17, 2008 about his experience in the March of 1942 when […]

Veterans Day 2011 (Black Hawk Down and North Little Rock’s Donavan “Bull” Briley)

The Background Facts of The Black Hawk Down (1/7) Uploaded by WarDocumentary on Feb 14, 2011 The movie Black Hawk Down was based on an actual event that took place in Mogadishu, Somalia. This documentary explains the event. _______________________________ On October 3, 2003 my son  played quarterback at the Arkansas Baptist High School Football game […]

War Hero Joe Speaks and D Day pictures

 Below I have the story of Joe Speaks who fought in Europe and was captured twice by the Germans. Photo by Associated Press American GI’s clamber into a landing craft as they prepare to hit the beaches along France’s Normandy coast in June 1944. The World War II operation was part of the massive Allied […]

D-Day Landings,”Saving Private Ryan” most frightening and realistic 15 minutes ever

Saving Private Ryan – Omaha Beach Part 1 – HD Saving Private Ryan – Omaha Beach Scene Part 2 – Super High Quality Saving Private Ryan – Omaha Beach Scene Part 3 – Super High Quality Saving Private Ryan opens with a 30-minute cinematic tour de force that is without a doubt one of the […]

German prisoners of war are led away by Allied forces from Utah Beach, on June 6, 1944, during landing operations at the Normandy coast, France. (AP Photo)

Photo by Associated Press

German prisoners of war are led away by Allied forces from Utah Beach, on June 6, 1944, during landing operations at the Normandy coast, France. (AP Photo)

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower visits paratroopers, including Bill Hayes, at center behind Ike's right hand, in England on June 5, 1944, moments before the troops boarded transport planes bound for Normandy and the June 6 D-Day invasion. Hayes, who now lives in Fargo, N.D., recalls how he told Eisenhower that he was 'damned scared' before the mission, his first combat jump of the war.  This photo became a pre-invasion classic and continues to bring Hayes a measure of celebrity. (AP Photo/File)

Photo by Associated Press

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower visits paratroopers, including Bill Hayes, at center behind Ike’s right hand, in England on June 5, 1944, moments before the troops boarded transport planes bound for Normandy and the June 6 D-Day invasion. Hayes, who now lives in Fargo, N.D., recalls how he told Eisenhower that he was “damned scared” before the mission, his first combat jump of the war. This photo became a pre-invasion classic and continues to bring Hayes a measure of celebrity. (AP Photo/File)

This was the scene along a section of Omaha Beach in June, 1944 during Operation Overlord, the code name for the Normandy invasion during World War II. Large landing craft put troops and supplies on shore at Omaha, one of five invasion beaches. In background is part of the fleet of 2,727 ships that brought the allied troops from Britain.  In the air are barrage balloons, designed to entangle low-flying attack aircraft in their cables. (AP Photo/files)

Photo by Associated Press

This was the scene along a section of Omaha Beach in June, 1944 during Operation Overlord, the code name for the Normandy invasion during World War II. Large landing craft put troops and supplies on shore at Omaha, one of five invasion beaches. In background is part of the fleet of 2,727 ships that brought the allied troops from Britain. In the air are barrage balloons, designed to entangle low-flying attack aircraft in their cables. (AP Photo/files)

Members of an American landing unit help their exhausted comrades ashore during the Normandy invasion, June 6, 1944. The men reached the zone code-named Utah Beach, near Sainte Mere Eglise, on a life raft after their landing craft was hit and sunk by German coastal defenses.  (AP Photo)

Photo by Associated Press

Members of an American landing unit help their exhausted comrades ashore during the Normandy invasion, June 6, 1944. The men reached the zone code-named Utah Beach, near Sainte Mere Eglise, on a life raft after their landing craft was hit and sunk by German coastal defenses. (AP Photo)

U.S. Air Force photograph of P-38's streaking towards France on D-Day.

Photo by U.S. Air Force

U.S. Air Force photograph of P-38′s streaking towards France on D-Day.

Men of the American assault troops of the 16th Infantry Regiment, injured while storming a coastal area code-named Omaha Beach during the Allied invasion of the Normandy, wait by the chalk cliffs at Collville-sur-Mer for evacuation to a field hospital for further treatment, June 6, 1944.  (AP Photo)

Photo by Associated Press

Men of the American assault troops of the 16th Infantry Regiment, injured while storming a coastal area code-named Omaha Beach during the Allied invasion of the Normandy, wait by the chalk cliffs at Collville-sur-Mer for evacuation to a field hospital for further treatment, June 6, 1944. (AP Photo)

 

Pearl Harbor 71 years ago

Below is a story from One News Now:

Pearl Harbor survivors share stories of attack

AUDREY McAVOY- Associated Press – 12/5/2011 5:55:00 AMBookmark and Share

HONOLULU- Clarence Pfundheller was standing in front of his locker on the USS Maryland when a fellow sailor told him they were being bombed by Japanese planes.

“We never did call him a liar but he could stretch the truth pretty good,” Pfundheller said. “But once you seen him, you knew he wasn’t lying.”

The 21-year-old Iowa native ran up to the deck that Sunday morning to man a five-inch anti-aircraft gun. Seventy years later, he remembers struggling to shoot low-flying Japanese planes as smoke from burning oil billowed through the air.

“This was the worst thing about it _ yeah, your eyes _ it bothered you. It bothered your throat too, because there was so much of that black smoke rolling around that a lot of times you could hardly see,” he said.

Now 91, Pfundheller will be returning to Pearl Harbor on Wednesday for the 70th anniversary ceremony honoring those lost in the Dec. 7, 1941 attack that brought the United States into World War II.

Accompanying him will be fellow survivors, other World War II veterans, and a handful of college students eager to hear their stories. The student and veteran group will be among 3,000 people attending a ceremony the Navy and the National Park Service hoist jointly each year at a site overlooking where the USS Arizona sank in the attack.

The College of the Ozarks program aims to preserve the stories of veterans _ something that’s becoming increasingly urgent for Pearl Harbor survivors as the youngest are in their late 80s.

Pfundheller said he enlisted in the Navy in 1939 because he kept hearing there was going to be a war and he wanted to know what to do when the fighting started. By the time Japanese fighter planes and torpedo bombers invaded the skies above Hawaii, he was well-trained.

Even so, the scene was utterly chaotic.

Commanders hadn’t expected Japan to strike from the air, so Pfundheller’s anti-aircraft ammunition was locked away in a gun locker. Then, when he gained access to the 3-foot-long, 75-pound shells, Pfundheller said the Japanese planes were flying too close for him to take aim.

“You could see them pumping their fists and laughing at you,” he said.

The Maryland’s crew scrambled to prevent their battleship from going down with the USS Oklahoma, which rolled over after being hit by multiple torpedoes.

“We had to cut her lines tied up to us because it was pulling us away,” he said.

Altogether, 2,390 Americans lost their lives in the attack. Twelve ships sank or were beached, and nine were damaged. The U.S. lost 164 aircraft. On the Japanese side, 64 people died, five ships sank, and 29 planes were destroyed.

After the war, Pfundfeller returned to Iowa where he worked as a district feed salesman and became an elementary school custodian. He now lives in Greenfield just 12 miles from Bridgewater, the town where he was raised.

Many veterans didn’t talk much about their experiences after World War II, and Pfundheller’s own children didn’t hear what he went through until he began sharing his stories at schools and libraries.

“People in the Midwest where I lived _ why, you just went back, got your job and went to work and nobody asked anything,” he said.

Today, efforts are under way to make sure stories like his are handed down to younger generations.

Pfundheller and four other World War II veterans are traveling to Hawaii with 10 students from the College of the Ozarks, a Christian school in Branson, Mo. After Hawaii, the group will travel to Japan to visit Okinawa, where the U.S. and Japan fought a brutal battle in the last few months of the war, and Hiroshima, where the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb.

Heather Isringhausen, a 21-year-old senior who will be one of Pfundheller’s two student escorts, said she wanted to join the trip in part because she’s never been able to get her grandfather to tell her about his experiences serving in World War II.

She wants to know what the veterans were thinking at the time, and what life was like in the 1940s.

“If most of the veterans are anything like my grandpa, they probably haven’t talked much about it,” Isringhausen said. “Once they’re gone, all we’ll have left are history books and movies and different tales that people have been told and written down.”

Guy Piper, who was brushing his teeth in his barracks on Ford Island when the attack began, said he was honored to go on the trip. He said programs like this make “us older people feel good.”

The sailor who served in World War II and the Korean War said he would share with the students his hope that younger generations won’t have war.

“When you see young men like I saw on Dec. 7 _ a bunch of blood _ it just stays with you. You can’t get rid of it. That’s what war is about. Just plain hell,” he said.  “I’d like people to stop and think about staying away from wars.”

Daniel Martinez, the National Park Service’s chief historian for Pearl Harbor, said the program fits in with the theme of this year’s events: how the legacy of Pearl Harbor will be carried on by future generations. But he lamented more survivors aren’t alive to tell their stories.

“It’s a little sad because it’s coming a little late,” he said. “I wish it could have happened at the 50th anniversary when there were so many of them around.”

In a reminder of how many are passing on, the ashes of two survivors who died after living until their 90s will be interred within their sunken battleships this week.

Navy and National Park Service divers on Tuesday will lower Lee Soucy’s cremated remains into the USS Utah, which rolled over and sank next to Ford Island after being hit by a torpedo. Soucy died last year at the age of 90 in Plainview, Texas. He’ll be joining some 50 men who perished when the ship sank and eight survivors whose ashes were interred there after their deaths decades later.

On Wednesday, divers will place Vernon Olsen’s ashes in the USS Arizona, where many of the sailors and Marines who served on the ship are still entombed. The Arizona lost 1,117 crew members during the attack. Olsen was one of the 334 who survived. Olsen died in Port Charlotte, Fla. in April at the age of 91.

Dec. 7 events in Hawaii this year will feature a parade. Marching bands, military families, and dignitaries are expected to walk along Waikiki’s main drag, Kalakaua Avenue. Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, who received the Medal of Honor for his actions as a soldier in Italy in 1945, will be grand marshal.

Related posts:

Veterans Day 2011 Part 9:Roy “Roxy” Oxenrider survived Korean War’s Toughest Battle

Picture of Roy after he had recovered at the hospital. Picture of Roy below in the hospital recovering from his injuries followed by a picture of Roy encouraging another soldier who was in the hospital:  Below is an article that was published in November of 2010 in the Saline Courier: Saline County War Hero Bryant […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 8 Leon McDaniel of World War II (second post)

Okinawa – At the Emperor’s Doorstep” episode from “WWII: GI Diary”….. This old 1978 TV docu-drama was narrated by Lloyd Bridges and told the stories of real soldiers/sailors/pilots and their first-hand experiences in battle. Archival footage and good background music really made the stories come alive…..about 25 episodes were made. Video converted from really old […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 7:You have heard of Jimmy Doolittle, but what about Leon A. McDaniel?

President Reagan and Senator Barry Goldwater present the fourth star to General Jimmy Doolittle during a White House ceremony in the Indian Treaty room, OEOB. 6/20/85. I love the movie “Pearl Harbor” with Ben Affleck and it tells the story of Jimmy Doolittle.  He was born in 1896 and died in 1993. He is pictured […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 6 (A look back at Okinawa)

This portion below appeared in an article I did for the Saline Courier about 18 months ago: I went to the First Baptist Church in Little Rock from 1983 to 1997, and during that time I became friends with Walter Dickinson Sr. In fact, we used to attend a weekly luncheon together on Thursdays.  Just […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 5 (A look back at the “Battle of the Bulge”)

The Lost Evidence: The Battle Of The Bulge (1/5) This article was published in the Saline Courier about 18 months ago: When we celebrate July 4th we are focusing on the freedoms that so many soldiers have fought for over the last 234 years. That focus has been highlighted for me since my son Hunter […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 4

  This is taken from an article that appeared in the Saline Courier about a year ago: Bravery is not just limited to one generation, but Americans have had it in every generation. It makes me think about those who are currently serving in our military. Jon Chris Roberts who is graduate of Benton High […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 3 (A look back at World War 1)

I was born in Tennessee and everyone in Tennessee knows the name of Alvin York. Above is a clip about his accomplishments in War World I. Cara Gist of Shannon Hills tells me that her grandfather Herbert S. Apple of Salado, Arkansas (near Batesville) fought in World War I. He served in France and fought […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 2 (Bataan Death March)

My longtime friend Craig Carney is originally  from Jacksonville, and  he told me a couple of years ago about a friend of his parents from Jacksonville, Arkansas named Silas Legrow. Legrow  was going to speak at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History on April 17, 2008 about his experience in the March of 1942 when […]

Veterans Day 2011 (Black Hawk Down and North Little Rock’s Donavan “Bull” Briley)

The Background Facts of The Black Hawk Down (1/7) Uploaded by WarDocumentary on Feb 14, 2011 The movie Black Hawk Down was based on an actual event that took place in Mogadishu, Somalia. This documentary explains the event. _______________________________ On October 3, 2003 my son  played quarterback at the Arkansas Baptist High School Football game […]

War Hero Joe Speaks and D Day pictures

 Below I have the story of Joe Speaks who fought in Europe and was captured twice by the Germans. Photo by Associated Press American GI’s clamber into a landing craft as they prepare to hit the beaches along France’s Normandy coast in June 1944. The World War II operation was part of the massive Allied […]

War Heroes from Arkansas can be found here on www.thedailyhatch.org

Below I have the story of Joe Speaks who fought in Europe and was captured twice by the Germans.

American GI's clamber into a landing craft as they prepare to hit the beaches along France's Normandy coast in June 1944. The World War II operation was part of the massive Allied D-Day invasion to chase German forces out of France. An armada of landing vessels sits in the background under barrage balloons. (AP Photo/Wartime Pool)

Photo by Associated Press

American GI’s clamber into a landing craft as they prepare to hit the beaches along France’s Normandy coast in June 1944. The World War II operation was part of the massive Allied D-Day invasion to chase German forces out of France. An armada of landing vessels sits in the background under barrage balloons. (AP Photo/Wartime Pool)

If you would like to read some great stories about some fine soldiers who fought to defend our country then click on the links below. All the soldiers are from Arkansas and I have been writing their stories for a local paper called “The Benton Courier” (now known as “The Saline Courier”).

A U.S. Coast Guard landing barge, tightly packed with helmeted soldiers, approaches the shore at Normandy, France, during initial Allied landing operations, June 6, 1944. These barges ride back and forth across the English Channel, bringing wave after wave of reinforcement troops to the Allied beachheads. (AP Photo)

Photo by Associated Press

A U.S. Coast Guard landing barge, tightly packed with helmeted soldiers, approaches the shore at Normandy, France, during initial Allied landing operations, June 6, 1944. These barges ride back and forth across the English Channel, bringing wave after wave of reinforcement troops to the Allied beachheads. (AP Photo)

Story of Joe Speaks:

On Sunday June 27th, 2010 in the article “Heroes among us,” Benton Courier, there was a story about Larry’s father Joe. Here is a portion of that article: 

Larry Joe Speaks of Cabot is my wife’s cousin, and recently he told me about his father’s time in World War II. Joe Speaks (originally from Waldron , Ark. ) arrived in Normandy six days after D-Day (June 6, 1944), and he was involved in the Battle of the Bulge and he fought at Bastogne . The Battle of the Bulge was the bloodiest of the battles that U.S. forces experienced in World War II; the 19,000 American dead were unsurpassed by those of any other engagement. 

During one day of intense fighting, Speaks was so focused on shooting and reloading during the heat of the action that he did not realize that his leg had been struck by shrapnel during the battle. As soon as the battle was over, a fellow soldier pointed out that his boot was filled with blood. Speaks said he had not felt a thing.  

In another battle, Speaks was on the second floor of a building involved in a machine gun battle with the Germans. Then in the middle of the battle, the soldier in charge of getting the ammunition from downstairs did not return. So Speaks went downstairs to get the ammunition and discovered the Germans were holding everyone at gunpoint. Speaks asked the lieutenant upstairs to come down because the situation was hopeless, but the lieutenant refused.  

Then the Germans took their prisoners and backed off some and bombed the building. For the next two weeks, the American prisoners were forced to march back and forth next to that building with the lieutenant’s boot still sticking out of the rumble.  

When the Germans were not looking, Speaks and another soldier took off running and escaped. They made it to a farm owned by a German lady, and they made up a story that Hitler had been killed and the lady broke down and cried. She allowed them to stay in the barn until the end of the war.  

Joe Speaks passed away on March 1, 1999, at age 73 and was buried in Sheridan . He had received two Purple Hearts, a Silver Cross and a Silver Eagle. 

In this June 6, 1944 file photo, while under attack of heavy machine gun fire from the German coastal defense forces, American soldiers wade ashore off the ramp of a U.S. Coast Guard landing craft during the Allied landing operations at the Normandy. (AP Photo)

Photo by Associated Press

In this June 6, 1944 file photo, while under attack of heavy machine gun fire from the German coastal defense forces, American soldiers wade ashore off the ramp of a U.S. Coast Guard landing craft during the Allied landing operations at the Normandy. (AP Photo)

Related posts:

Veterans Day 2011 Part 9:Roy “Roxy” Oxenrider survived Korean War’s Toughest Battle

Picture of Roy after he had recovered at the hospital. Picture of Roy below in the hospital recovering from his injuries followed by a picture of Roy encouraging another soldier who was in the hospital:  Below is an article that was published in November of 2010 in the Saline Courier: Saline County War Hero Bryant […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 8 Leon McDaniel of World War II (second post)

Okinawa – At the Emperor’s Doorstep” episode from “WWII: GI Diary”….. This old 1978 TV docu-drama was narrated by Lloyd Bridges and told the stories of real soldiers/sailors/pilots and their first-hand experiences in battle. Archival footage and good background music really made the stories come alive…..about 25 episodes were made. Video converted from really old […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 7:You have heard of Jimmy Doolittle, but what about Leon A. McDaniel?

President Reagan and Senator Barry Goldwater present the fourth star to General Jimmy Doolittle during a White House ceremony in the Indian Treaty room, OEOB. 6/20/85. I love the movie “Pearl Harbor” with Ben Affleck and it tells the story of Jimmy Doolittle.  He was born in 1896 and died in 1993. He is pictured […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 6 (A look back at Okinawa)

This portion below appeared in an article I did for the Saline Courier about 18 months ago: I went to the First Baptist Church in Little Rock from 1983 to 1997, and during that time I became friends with Walter Dickinson Sr. In fact, we used to attend a weekly luncheon together on Thursdays.  Just […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 5 (A look back at the “Battle of the Bulge”)

The Lost Evidence: The Battle Of The Bulge (1/5) This article was published in the Saline Courier about 18 months ago: When we celebrate July 4th we are focusing on the freedoms that so many soldiers have fought for over the last 234 years. That focus has been highlighted for me since my son Hunter […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 4

  This is taken from an article that appeared in the Saline Courier about a year ago: Bravery is not just limited to one generation, but Americans have had it in every generation. It makes me think about those who are currently serving in our military. Jon Chris Roberts who is graduate of Benton High […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 3 (A look back at World War 1)

I was born in Tennessee and everyone in Tennessee knows the name of Alvin York. Above is a clip about his accomplishments in War World I. Cara Gist of Shannon Hills tells me that her grandfather Herbert S. Apple of Salado, Arkansas (near Batesville) fought in World War I. He served in France and fought […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 2 (Bataan Death March)

My longtime friend Craig Carney is originally  from Jacksonville, and  he told me a couple of years ago about a friend of his parents from Jacksonville, Arkansas named Silas Legrow. Legrow  was going to speak at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History on April 17, 2008 about his experience in the March of 1942 when […]

Veterans Day 2011 (Black Hawk Down and North Little Rock’s Donavan “Bull” Briley)

The Background Facts of The Black Hawk Down (1/7) Uploaded by WarDocumentary on Feb 14, 2011 The movie Black Hawk Down was based on an actual event that took place in Mogadishu, Somalia. This documentary explains the event. _______________________________ On October 3, 2003 my son  played quarterback at the Arkansas Baptist High School Football game […]

War Hero Joe Speaks and D Day pictures

 Below I have the story of Joe Speaks who fought in Europe and was captured twice by the Germans. Photo by Associated Press American GI’s clamber into a landing craft as they prepare to hit the beaches along France’s Normandy coast in June 1944. The World War II operation was part of the massive Allied […]

D-Day Landings,”Saving Private Ryan” most frightening and realistic 15 minutes ever

Saving Private Ryan – Omaha Beach Part 1 – HD Saving Private Ryan – Omaha Beach Scene Part 2 – Super High Quality Saving Private Ryan – Omaha Beach Scene Part 3 – Super High Quality Saving Private Ryan opens with a 30-minute cinematic tour de force that is without a doubt one of the […]

German prisoners of war are led away by Allied forces from Utah Beach, on June 6, 1944, during landing operations at the Normandy coast, France. (AP Photo)

Photo by Associated Press

German prisoners of war are led away by Allied forces from Utah Beach, on June 6, 1944, during landing operations at the Normandy coast, France. (AP Photo)

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower visits paratroopers, including Bill Hayes, at center behind Ike's right hand, in England on June 5, 1944, moments before the troops boarded transport planes bound for Normandy and the June 6 D-Day invasion. Hayes, who now lives in Fargo, N.D., recalls how he told Eisenhower that he was 'damned scared' before the mission, his first combat jump of the war.  This photo became a pre-invasion classic and continues to bring Hayes a measure of celebrity. (AP Photo/File)

Photo by Associated Press

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower visits paratroopers, including Bill Hayes, at center behind Ike’s right hand, in England on June 5, 1944, moments before the troops boarded transport planes bound for Normandy and the June 6 D-Day invasion. Hayes, who now lives in Fargo, N.D., recalls how he told Eisenhower that he was “damned scared” before the mission, his first combat jump of the war. This photo became a pre-invasion classic and continues to bring Hayes a measure of celebrity. (AP Photo/File)

This was the scene along a section of Omaha Beach in June, 1944 during Operation Overlord, the code name for the Normandy invasion during World War II. Large landing craft put troops and supplies on shore at Omaha, one of five invasion beaches. In background is part of the fleet of 2,727 ships that brought the allied troops from Britain.  In the air are barrage balloons, designed to entangle low-flying attack aircraft in their cables. (AP Photo/files)

Photo by Associated Press

This was the scene along a section of Omaha Beach in June, 1944 during Operation Overlord, the code name for the Normandy invasion during World War II. Large landing craft put troops and supplies on shore at Omaha, one of five invasion beaches. In background is part of the fleet of 2,727 ships that brought the allied troops from Britain. In the air are barrage balloons, designed to entangle low-flying attack aircraft in their cables. (AP Photo/files)

Members of an American landing unit help their exhausted comrades ashore during the Normandy invasion, June 6, 1944. The men reached the zone code-named Utah Beach, near Sainte Mere Eglise, on a life raft after their landing craft was hit and sunk by German coastal defenses.  (AP Photo)

Photo by Associated Press

Members of an American landing unit help their exhausted comrades ashore during the Normandy invasion, June 6, 1944. The men reached the zone code-named Utah Beach, near Sainte Mere Eglise, on a life raft after their landing craft was hit and sunk by German coastal defenses. (AP Photo)

U.S. Air Force photograph of P-38's streaking towards France on D-Day.

Photo by U.S. Air Force

U.S. Air Force photograph of P-38′s streaking towards France on D-Day.

Men of the American assault troops of the 16th Infantry Regiment, injured while storming a coastal area code-named Omaha Beach during the Allied invasion of the Normandy, wait by the chalk cliffs at Collville-sur-Mer for evacuation to a field hospital for further treatment, June 6, 1944.  (AP Photo)

Photo by Associated Press

Men of the American assault troops of the 16th Infantry Regiment, injured while storming a coastal area code-named Omaha Beach during the Allied invasion of the Normandy, wait by the chalk cliffs at Collville-sur-Mer for evacuation to a field hospital for further treatment, June 6, 1944. (AP Photo)

 

Veterans Day 2012 (A look back at Okinawa)

This portion below appeared in an article I did for the Saline Courier about 18 months ago:

I went to the First Baptist Church in Little Rock from 1983 to 1997, and during that time I became friends with Walter Dickinson Sr. In fact, we used to attend a weekly luncheon together on Thursdays. 
Just this week I was told that Mr. Dickinson fought in War World II. I called him up yesterday, and he told me his story. 
In 1939 Walter joined the National Guard in Wooster, Mass., where he grew up. He was activated in January 1941 and was trained in Fort Benning, Ga. The military moved him down to Little Rock, and that is where he met his future wife, Carlice, and their first date was at Little Rock’s First Baptist Church in downtown Little Rock in 1943. 
He was shipped out in May 1943 to Leyte Island in the Philippines, but before he left, he told Carlice if she would wait for him, then he would marry her upon his return. He did that in December  1945 at the First Baptist Church of Little Rock. 
Dickinson remembers Easter Day, April 1,1945, like it was yesterday. He landed as an infantryman on the island of Okinawa in what was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War, and lucky for the Americans the Japanese were not there to meet them on the beaches. Instead, they were dug in the side of the mountain waiting for them. 


He was a 2nd Lieutenant, which was the group that got wiped out the most. Dickinson said that he was a replacement lieutenant.
The main objective of the operation was to seize a large island only 340 miles away from mainland Japan. The plan was to use Okinawa as a base for air operations on the planned invasion of Japan. 
On April 20, 1945, Dickinson was hit by shrapnel, and he was sent to the army hospital in Guam. He got fixed up and then prepared for the invasion of Japan. However, President Truman had two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Japan surrendered  shortly before the invasion of Japan was to begin. 
Japan lost over 100,000 troops, and the Americans suffered more than 12,500 dead and 35,000 wounded at Okinawa. 
Walter Dickinson will turn 89 in three months, and he is still active today. He received the Purple Heart, and after the war he got his law degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and set up his practice in Little Rock.

Related posts:

War Hero Joe Speaks and D Day pictures

 Below I have the story of Joe Speaks who fought in Europe and was captured twice by the Germans. Photo by Associated Press American GI’s clamber into a landing craft as they prepare to hit the beaches along France’s Normandy coast in June 1944. The World War II operation was part of the massive Allied […]

D-Day Landings,”Saving Private Ryan” most frightening and realistic 15 minutes ever

Saving Private Ryan – Omaha Beach Part 1 – HD Saving Private Ryan – Omaha Beach Scene Part 2 – Super High Quality Saving Private Ryan – Omaha Beach Scene Part 3 – Super High Quality Saving Private Ryan opens with a 30-minute cinematic tour de force that is without a doubt one of the […]

Real American Heroes Series part 1 Leon A. McDaniel of Mt Ida, Ark (part B)

Leon McDaniel’s picture Okinawa – At the Emperor’s Doorstep” episode from “WWII: GI Diary”….. This old 1978 TV docu-drama was narrated by Lloyd Bridges and told the stories of real soldiers/sailors/pilots and their first-hand experiences in battle. Archival footage and good background music really made the stories come alive…..about 25 episodes were made. Video converted […]

Real American Heroes Series part 1 Leon A. McDaniel of Mt Ida, Ark (part A)

President Reagan and Senator Barry Goldwater present the fourth star to General Jimmy Doolittle during a White House ceremony in the Indian Treaty room, OEOB. 6/20/85. I love the movie “Pearl Harbor” with Ben Affleck and it tells the story of Jimmy Doolittle.  He was born in 1896 and died in 1993. He is pictured […]

Veterans Day 2012 Roy “Roxy” Oxenrider survived Korean War’s Toughest Battle

Below is an article that was published in November of 2010 in the Saline Courier:

Saline County War Hero

Bryant resident Roy “Roxy” Oxenrider Survived Korean War’s Toughest Battle in 1950 

The Battle of Chosin Reservoir took place in Korea from November 26, 1950 to December 11th. The United Nations (UN) forces included soldiers from  South Korea, United States, and the United Kingdom. The UN forces numbered 25,000 soldiers and 2836 were killed and 7500 suffered cold related injuries. The Chinese had 120,000 soldiers and 35,000 killed.

 China had entered the conflict just days earlier and huge numbers of Chinese Soldiers swept across the Yalu river, surrounding the UN troops at the Chosin Reservoir. A huge battle in freezing weather followed, and the UN troops were able to cut through Chinese lines in what can be described as a fighting withdrawal. 

Roy Oxenrider has been a Saline County resident for over 30 years and currently both he and his wife Mildred live in Bryant. He was born near Harrisburg, PA. Below is his story concerning his experience in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir: 

On September 13, 1949, age 17, I entered the U.S.Army through the recruiting center in Philadelphia, PA. After basic training in Ft Knox, KY, I was sent to Ft Benning, GA for advanced infantry training with the 3rd Division. Four days after the Korean war broke out, my name was posted on the board for duty in Korea.

I was assigned to 1st Battalion, 32 Regiment, 7th Division, Company A. On December 1, 1950 the weather started to clear around noon and the Corsairs appeared to give us cover. Someone yelled, “Able Company on the road.” I jumped out of my foxhole and started toward the road and realized my ROK soldier,  Joung He Su, was not by my side, this was unusual. I was between the road and railroad near the front of the truck column when I turned to look for Joung He Su. As I turned, I heard a plane and just looked up in time to see a napalm dropping from the bottom of the plane, prematurely hitting in our perimeter area. I jumped for a nearby foxhole but did not make it all the way in. You could smell the scorch of my clothing. The men coming across on their way to the front of the truck column were hit by napalm. There were 10 to 12 men completely on fire and several others with blotches of fire on them. We yelled for them to roll in the snow. I believe Joung He Su to be one of those that was on fire because I did not see him anymore. We still were having to fight hand to hand with the Chinese as the men were burning.

A machine gun had started firing on us and small arms fire was coming from the high ground on the left. We managed to cut down enough of them to move up to take our place at the rear of the truck column. The trucks were not moving. A Chinese MG on the high ground to the left was firing. It was accompanied by a hail of small arms fire. My squad went down the bank on the right side of the road to the edge of the reservoir. We used the bank for cover to get behind the MG to knock it out. As we moved along the reservoir edge we came to a little opening, like a cove. As I started across the open space, the MG switched fire zones. I was shot through both thighs, and knocked to the ice. There was no pain. Perhaps because of the extreme cold, I did not yet know that I had been hit. 

My buddy and squad leader, Harold Verseman, was behind me, and said, “Come on, Roy, get up. We got work to do.” I thought my feet had slipped from under me on the ice, but as I tried to rise, I couldn’t move. I was paralyzed. I called to Harold, “I can’t get up, I’ve been hit.” Harold turned, came back through a storm of bullets, the ice chipping and shattering around him and me as well. He got me by the arm and pulled me to the bank out of the line of fire. How he escaped being hit, I will never know. Of one thing I am certain, Harold Verseman saved my life. I could not have gotten off the ice by myself. I had dropped my carbine. Harold called a medic, turned to get my carbine, but it was gone. Someone had picked it up. He turned, and said, “Roy. I’m sorry, but I have to go.” He left at a run for the head of the column. 

The medics cut my pants in a cross pattern, bandaged my legs, and carried me up the bank to a truck. They moved other wounded forward in the truck bed. I was placed parallel to the tailgate. My head was on the driver’s side. By this time, a Corsair plane had knocked out the Chinese MG. The truck began moving. I was in the last truck in the column. One thing that sticks in my memory is the courage of the soldier/truck drivers who manned those improvised ambulances loaded with wounded. Any man who slipped into the seat of one of those trucks was committing suicide. All knew it, but it stopped none. The trucks never lacked drivers. As one was hit he would be dragged out, another took his place. I think they deserved our nations; highest award. The Medal of Honor. Each of those guys was a hero. There was only one narrow road. The Chinese could concentrate fire on the driver. They had the advantage of the high ground on the left, looking down the driver’s throat. Blown bridges and road blocks also slowed the column. It was a nightmare scenario. 

By the time we reached the first blown out bridge our fifth driver had been killed or wounded. This time the truck went into a shallow ditch on the right and leaned at a 45% angle, exposing the rear of the truck to direct enemy fire. The Chinese were firing into the truck, wounding and killing already wounded men. The bullets sounded like great gravel thrown against the truck, only much louder. My arm was jammed against the tailgate, as bullets hit the steel it felt like my arm was being torn off.  The Chinese were now streaming down the hillside. John Parker of A Company got out, followed by a wounded officer. I kept trying and finally was able to roll over the top of the tailgate. As I felt, my rib cage hit on the trailer hitch, knocking the wind out of me. I thought, this is it. I can’t move. The Chinese will shoot me because I can not walk. 

This thought enabled me to roll into the ditch and crawl into the brush with the wounded officer and Parker. We hid until dark. We heard screams, grenades and shooting. We knew no one else would get off that truck alive. That scene haunts me to this day. Some of those men stuck fast, frozen in the their own blood. I knew there was nothing I could do. Nevertheless, the self questioning has never stopped. I can still hear those cries for help. The bitter cold helped some like myself because blood froze so that one did not bleed to death, but to others it was tragic.

The officer wanted to follow the road. Parker and I did not agree with him. We parted. Parker had no shoes, only socks. He had suffered a stomach wound at the perimeter. The medics had removed his boots since he was unable to change his own socks, and placed his feet in a sleeping bag to prevent frostbite. I had extra socks under my shirt and an extra pair of insoles. We put the insoles on the bottoms of the first pair of socks, then pulled on the second pair to hold the insoles. It wasn’t much in that -25 degree to -40 degree weather, but better than what he had. When it is that cold, a few degrees did not seem to make much difference. I had regained some feeling in my left leg. Finding a tree limb for a crutch, we followed the RR, moving cautiously throughout the night. At one point, the Chinese walked by us. We lay doggo among the dead, there were so many they never noticed us. We left the RR, too many Chinese. We must have gone around the back (west) side of Hill 1221.

Next day we would go a short distance, stop, listen, then go on again. We did this all day. After dark we came to a village. It must have been Sasu. John was in bad shape. he could not walk. His feet were frozen. Pushing open the door of a L-shaped Korean house, I remember the frightened faces of the elderly couple who lived there. There were three other GI’s in the hut, one badly wounded. We decided we three unwounded would leave early in the morning to find our lines. I left my .45 pistol with one round for John, and promised the two of them to send help if we found anyone. Next morning, December 3rd, in total darkness, the three of us left. I moved very slowly, but the other two men did not leave me. 

 Throughout the morning we were fired upon by the Chinese. About 10 AM several marines stood up and zeroed in on us with their rifles. I thought, My God, we have come this far, and now our own people are going to shoot us. They came out to us, two marines slung their rifles, picked me up, carried me bodily for some distance. They loaded us into a 3/4 truck that was brought out of the Marine perimeter. We told them about our other two buddies in the Korean village, and they promised to go find them. In 1988, scanning some morning reports I had requested, I learned that John Parker was flown out on December 3rd on the same plane I was on. I don’t remember leaving the truck. Perhaps I passed out.The next memory is being loaded onto an airplane. My litter was dropped in loading. I came to for a brief few seconds. A temporary airstrip had been completed at Hagaru-ri. We were flown from there to a clearing station, then to Osaka Army Hospital in Japan. In an article I later read, one of the pilots described the wounded evacuees as filthy, unshaven, stinking from dried blood, the smell of smoke, gun powder and unwashed bodies. He was not critical, merely literal and honest in his description.Roy Oxenrider received three battle stars, the Purple Heart Metal, National Defense Service Metal, Field Medical Badge, United Nations Service Metal, Korean War Presidential Unit Citation, Good Conduct Metal, and the Combat Infantry Badge.

Everette Hatcher is a regular contributor of the Saline Courier and he is the fourth generation in his family to work in the broom manufacturing business. Everette and his wife Jill have four children and live in Alexander.  
 
Related posts:

Veterans Day 2011 Part 8 Leon McDaniel of World War II (second post)

Okinawa – At the Emperor’s Doorstep” episode from “WWII: GI Diary”….. This old 1978 TV docu-drama was narrated by Lloyd Bridges and told the stories of real soldiers/sailors/pilots and their first-hand experiences in battle. Archival footage and good background music really made the stories come alive…..about 25 episodes were made. Video converted from really old […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 7:You have heard of Jimmy Doolittle, but what about Leon A. McDaniel?

President Reagan and Senator Barry Goldwater present the fourth star to General Jimmy Doolittle during a White House ceremony in the Indian Treaty room, OEOB. 6/20/85. I love the movie “Pearl Harbor” with Ben Affleck and it tells the story of Jimmy Doolittle.  He was born in 1896 and died in 1993. He is pictured […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 6 (A look back at Okinawa)

This portion below appeared in an article I did for the Saline Courier about 18 months ago: I went to the First Baptist Church in Little Rock from 1983 to 1997, and during that time I became friends with Walter Dickinson Sr. In fact, we used to attend a weekly luncheon together on Thursdays.  Just […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 5 (A look back at the “Battle of the Bulge”)

The Lost Evidence: The Battle Of The Bulge (1/5) This article was published in the Saline Courier about 18 months ago: When we celebrate July 4th we are focusing on the freedoms that so many soldiers have fought for over the last 234 years. That focus has been highlighted for me since my son Hunter […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 4

  This is taken from an article that appeared in the Saline Courier about a year ago: Bravery is not just limited to one generation, but Americans have had it in every generation. It makes me think about those who are currently serving in our military. Jon Chris Roberts who is graduate of Benton High […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 3 (A look back at World War 1)

I was born in Tennessee and everyone in Tennessee knows the name of Alvin York. Above is a clip about his accomplishments in War World I. Cara Gist of Shannon Hills tells me that her grandfather Herbert S. Apple of Salado, Arkansas (near Batesville) fought in World War I. He served in France and fought […]

Veterans Day 2011 Part 2 (Bataan Death March)

My longtime friend Craig Carney is originally  from Jacksonville, and  he told me a couple of years ago about a friend of his parents from Jacksonville, Arkansas named Silas Legrow. Legrow  was going to speak at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History on April 17, 2008 about his experience in the March of 1942 when […]

Veterans Day 2011 (Black Hawk Down and North Little Rock’s Donavan “Bull” Briley)

The Background Facts of The Black Hawk Down (1/7) Uploaded by WarDocumentary on Feb 14, 2011 The movie Black Hawk Down was based on an actual event that took place in Mogadishu, Somalia. This documentary explains the event. _______________________________ On October 3, 2003 my son  played quarterback at the Arkansas Baptist High School Football game […]

 

War Heroes from Arkansas can be found here on www.thedailyhatch.org

Below I have the story of Joe Speaks who fought in Europe and was captured twice by the Germans.

American GI's clamber into a landing craft as they prepare to hit the beaches along France's Normandy coast in June 1944. The World War II operation was part of the massive Allied D-Day invasion to chase German forces out of France. An armada of landing vessels sits in the background under barrage balloons. (AP Photo/Wartime Pool)

Photo by Associated Press

American GI’s clamber into a landing craft as they prepare to hit the beaches along France’s Normandy coast in June 1944. The World War II operation was part of the massive Allied D-Day invasion to chase German forces out of France. An armada of landing vessels sits in the background under barrage balloons. (AP Photo/Wartime Pool)

If you would like to read some great stories about some fine soldiers who fought to defend our country then click on the links below. All the soldiers are from Arkansas and I have been writing their stories for a local paper called “The Benton Courier” (now known as “The Saline Courier”).

A U.S. Coast Guard landing barge, tightly packed with helmeted soldiers, approaches the shore at Normandy, France, during initial Allied landing operations, June 6, 1944. These barges ride back and forth across the English Channel, bringing wave after wave of reinforcement troops to the Allied beachheads. (AP Photo)

Photo by Associated Press

A U.S. Coast Guard landing barge, tightly packed with helmeted soldiers, approaches the shore at Normandy, France, during initial Allied landing operations, June 6, 1944. These barges ride back and forth across the English Channel, bringing wave after wave of reinforcement troops to the Allied beachheads. (AP Photo)

Story of Joe Speaks:

On Sunday June 27th, 2010 in the article “Heroes among us,” Benton Courier, there was a story about Larry’s father Joe. Here is a portion of that article: 

Larry Joe Speaks of Cabot is my wife’s cousin, and recently he told me about his father’s time in World War II. Joe Speaks (originally from Waldron , Ark. ) arrived in Normandy six days after D-Day (June 6, 1944), and he was involved in the Battle of the Bulge and he fought at Bastogne . The Battle of the Bulge was the bloodiest of the battles that U.S. forces experienced in World War II; the 19,000 American dead were unsurpassed by those of any other engagement. 

During one day of intense fighting, Speaks was so focused on shooting and reloading during the heat of the action that he did not realize that his leg had been struck by shrapnel during the battle. As soon as the battle was over, a fellow soldier pointed out that his boot was filled with blood. Speaks said he had not felt a thing.  

In another battle, Speaks was on the second floor of a building involved in a machine gun battle with the Germans. Then in the middle of the battle, the soldier in charge of getting the ammunition from downstairs did not return. So Speaks went downstairs to get the ammunition and discovered the Germans were holding everyone at gunpoint. Speaks asked the lieutenant upstairs to come down because the situation was hopeless, but the lieutenant refused.  

Then the Germans took their prisoners and backed off some and bombed the building. For the next two weeks, the American prisoners were forced to march back and forth next to that building with the lieutenant’s boot still sticking out of the rumble.  

When the Germans were not looking, Speaks and another soldier took off running and escaped. They made it to a farm owned by a German lady, and they made up a story that Hitler had been killed and the lady broke down and cried. She allowed them to stay in the barn until the end of the war.  

Joe Speaks passed away on March 1, 1999, at age 73 and was buried in Sheridan . He had received two Purple Hearts, a Silver Cross and a Silver Eagle. 

In this June 6, 1944 file photo, while under attack of heavy machine gun fire from the German coastal defense forces, American soldiers wade ashore off the ramp of a U.S. Coast Guard landing craft during the Allied landing operations at the Normandy. (AP Photo)

Photo by Associated Press

In this June 6, 1944 file photo, while under attack of heavy machine gun fire from the German coastal defense forces, American soldiers wade ashore off the ramp of a U.S. Coast Guard landing craft during the Allied landing operations at the Normandy. (AP Photo)

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German prisoners of war are led away by Allied forces from Utah Beach, on June 6, 1944, during landing operations at the Normandy coast, France. (AP Photo)

Photo by Associated Press

German prisoners of war are led away by Allied forces from Utah Beach, on June 6, 1944, during landing operations at the Normandy coast, France. (AP Photo)

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower visits paratroopers, including Bill Hayes, at center behind Ike's right hand, in England on June 5, 1944, moments before the troops boarded transport planes bound for Normandy and the June 6 D-Day invasion. Hayes, who now lives in Fargo, N.D., recalls how he told Eisenhower that he was 'damned scared' before the mission, his first combat jump of the war.  This photo became a pre-invasion classic and continues to bring Hayes a measure of celebrity. (AP Photo/File)

Photo by Associated Press

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower visits paratroopers, including Bill Hayes, at center behind Ike’s right hand, in England on June 5, 1944, moments before the troops boarded transport planes bound for Normandy and the June 6 D-Day invasion. Hayes, who now lives in Fargo, N.D., recalls how he told Eisenhower that he was “damned scared” before the mission, his first combat jump of the war. This photo became a pre-invasion classic and continues to bring Hayes a measure of celebrity. (AP Photo/File)

This was the scene along a section of Omaha Beach in June, 1944 during Operation Overlord, the code name for the Normandy invasion during World War II. Large landing craft put troops and supplies on shore at Omaha, one of five invasion beaches. In background is part of the fleet of 2,727 ships that brought the allied troops from Britain.  In the air are barrage balloons, designed to entangle low-flying attack aircraft in their cables. (AP Photo/files)

Photo by Associated Press

This was the scene along a section of Omaha Beach in June, 1944 during Operation Overlord, the code name for the Normandy invasion during World War II. Large landing craft put troops and supplies on shore at Omaha, one of five invasion beaches. In background is part of the fleet of 2,727 ships that brought the allied troops from Britain. In the air are barrage balloons, designed to entangle low-flying attack aircraft in their cables. (AP Photo/files)

Members of an American landing unit help their exhausted comrades ashore during the Normandy invasion, June 6, 1944. The men reached the zone code-named Utah Beach, near Sainte Mere Eglise, on a life raft after their landing craft was hit and sunk by German coastal defenses.  (AP Photo)

Photo by Associated Press

Members of an American landing unit help their exhausted comrades ashore during the Normandy invasion, June 6, 1944. The men reached the zone code-named Utah Beach, near Sainte Mere Eglise, on a life raft after their landing craft was hit and sunk by German coastal defenses. (AP Photo)

U.S. Air Force photograph of P-38's streaking towards France on D-Day.

Photo by U.S. Air Force

U.S. Air Force photograph of P-38′s streaking towards France on D-Day.

Men of the American assault troops of the 16th Infantry Regiment, injured while storming a coastal area code-named Omaha Beach during the Allied invasion of the Normandy, wait by the chalk cliffs at Collville-sur-Mer for evacuation to a field hospital for further treatment, June 6, 1944.  (AP Photo)

Photo by Associated Press

Men of the American assault troops of the 16th Infantry Regiment, injured while storming a coastal area code-named Omaha Beach during the Allied invasion of the Normandy, wait by the chalk cliffs at Collville-sur-Mer for evacuation to a field hospital for further treatment, June 6, 1944. (AP Photo)

 

Louis Zamperini: American Hero part 3

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Louis Zamperini – “Unbroken” by Men, Humbled by Jesus

Published on Nov 21, 2014

The personal testimony of Louis Zamperini on how Jesus changed his life after the Japanese were unsuccessful in taking his life during World War II. This talk by Louis Zamperini at Emmanuel Enid, Oklahoma was one of his last public appearances before his fall limited his travel schedule. Louis died July 2, 2014.

The Great Zamperini

When my wife Jill and I watched the interview that Louis Zamperini gave to Jay Leno we were not astonished to learn that the strength Louis Zamperini needed to forgive those who tortured him came from his faith in Christ.

Louis Zamperini’s Story of Survival and Redemption

Former Olympic Star and POW Finds New Ministry through “Unbroken”

UNBROKEN_COV

Associated PressMr. Zamperini, record-setting miler, 1939

May 27, 2011 – The story of Louis Zamperini’s POW experience—and conversion to Christ at the 1949 Billy Graham Crusade in Los Angeles—is told in the bestselling book, Unbroken. We caught up with Zamperini to talk about his June 10 book signing at the Billy Graham Library and how God is using Unbroken to touch lives around the world.

Louis Zamperini's Story of Survival and Redemption

I have tears in my eyes and praise in my heart for what God has done through you.
~A letter from Billy Graham to Louis Zamperini

Louis Zamperini's Story of Survival and Redemption

by Janet Chismar

When 94-year-old Louis Zamperini opened his mailbox a few months ago, he found a letter he will always treasure.

“Dear Louis,” wrote Billy Graham, “My associate read me parts of the new book about you yesterday. What a life you have lived. What a description you have in the book of your conversion to Christ in 1949, and the great part that [your wife] Cynthia played in it, which I was aware of, but not in such detail. I had tears in my eyes and praise in my heart for what God has done through you.”

Mr. Graham’s letter is one of thousands that have poured into Zamperini’s mailbox since the release of the New York Times No. 1 bestseller “Unbroken.” The story about Zamperini’s remarkable journey from Olympic runner to World War II hero has been hailed by TIME magazine as the best nonfiction book of the year.

And Billy Graham isn’t just a consumer of “Unbroken,” he plays a pivotal role in the book.

As his letter said, the year was 1949. The city: Los Angeles. Louis Zamperini was adrift and struggling with alcoholism and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following savage abuse as a prisoner of war in Japan. Cynthia was ready to saddle him with divorce papers.

It was around this time that neighbors convinced the young woman to listen to the bold evangelist preaching in a big tent outside downtown Los Angeles. Cynthia accepted Christ that night, and she told her husband that because of her conversion, she wouldn’t file for divorce. She asked Louis if he would accompany her to the Crusade. After a week of arguing, she finally persuaded him to go.

“I was resentful,” he says. “I’d always been poisoned against such tent meetings since I was a youngster.”

An Answer to Prayer

Hillenbrand paints a vivid picture of what happened when Zamperini actually walked into the Billy Graham Crusade, including portions of the sermon he heard, which concluded with a clear presentation of the Gospel. That chapter in the book is an answer to prayer.

“‘Unbroken’ is Laura’s book,” says Zamperini, “so all I could do was pray that she would somehow have the Gospel in it. Then she called me and told me she had talked to Billy Graham and Cliff Barrows. She wanted to include the sermon I heard, and they sent it to her.”

He describes how the two joined forces to share the story of “Unbroken.” When Hillenbrand was researching her book about the thoroughbred racehorse Seabiscuit, she found an interesting quote from a 1938 Los Angeles Times article. A reporter had called Zamperini’s coach and said, “Louie hasn’t lost a mile race in four years. If he loses this year, who do you think will beat him?” Zamperini’s coach answered, “Seabiscuit.”

The newspaper writer loved that quote—and so did Hillenbrand. She proceeded to call Zamperini and said she wanted to write a book about his life. “I told her I had just finished my own book, ‘Devil at My Heels,’ and that I had milked the story dry.”

Hillenbrand recognized that Zamperini’s story was worth waiting for. “We became close friends, and after about a year, she asked again. She said this: ‘I must do it.’”

Zamperini is thankful for Hillenbrand’s persistence and thoroughness. He describes her as an amazing researcher. “She has such depth in her writing, and she confirms every single thing. The woman is historically accurate on every word. She won’t print a word unless she has confirmation.”

The book is really a history book, says Zamperini. “I get calls from World War II veterans, and they say, ‘I have just finished ‘Unbroken.’ Finally someone has written the truth about the war in the Pacific.’”

Hillenbrand’s graphic descriptions elicited difficult memories for Zamperini. “I found myself back in prison camp when I was reading the book, and had to stop and look away to be sure I was still here. I almost had a nightmare.”

Old Things are Gone

Zamperini did have nightmares in prison and nightmares at home until he received Christ at the Billy Graham Crusade. “That night when I got home from the Crusade, it was unbelievable. I didn’t have a nightmare, and I haven’t had one since,” he says.

One critic of the book found that hard to swallow. “I can’t understand how someone with severe PTSD could get over it in one night,” he wrote.

“The fellow obviously doesn’t know his Bible,” Zamperini says with a laugh. “When you accept Christ, you become a new creation. Old things are gone.”

While secular audiences are eating up Hillenbrand’s captivating descriptions of Zamperini’s track career, World War II experience, and the horrifying prisoner of war account, Christians are finding fresh inspiration in the pages of “Unbroken.”

“I get so many letters from Christians,” says Zamperini, “and some of them are having a tough time. I write back and share Scripture with them.”

He describes a letter he received recently from a man who had been fired from his job. “This man was a Christian and forgave everyone else in his life, but he had a hard time forgiving the boss who fired him. He hated the man. But then he read in ‘Unbroken’ how I forgave the POW prison guard.” Now this man has not only forgiven his boss, he is praying for him.

“‘Unbroken’ has had a tremendous influence, and it has turned into a God-given opportunity to share the Gospel,” Zamperini adds. “The book has yielded an unbelievable ministry.”

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Published on Nov 21, 2014

The personal testimony of Louis Zamperini on how Jesus changed his life after the Japanese were unsuccessful in taking his life during World War II. This talk by Louis Zamperini at Emmanuel Enid, Oklahoma was one of his last public appearances before his fall limited his travel schedule. Louis died July 2, 2014.

The Great Zamperini

What an amazing story. November 12, 2010

The Defiant Ones

In her new book, the author of ‘Seabiscuit’ turns to the unimaginable ordeal of an Olympic athlete and WW II hero. Because of her own debilitating illness, they struck a special bond.

By STEVE ONEY

With a fringe of white hair poking out from under a University of Southern California baseball cap and blue eyes sharp behind bifocals, 93-year-old Louis Zamperini refuses to concede much to old age. He still works a couple of hours each day in the yard of his Hollywood Hills home, bagging leaves, climbing stairs and, on occasion, trimming trees with a chainsaw. His outlook is upbeat, even rambunctious. “I have a cheerful countenance at all times,” he says. “When you have a good attitude your immune system is fortified.” But as he plunged into “Unbroken,” Laura Hillenbrand’s 496-page story of his life, the happy trappings of his current existence fell away.

The Courageous Life of Louis Zamperini

“Unbroken” will be published Nov. 16 with a first printing of 250,000 copies. Its publisher, Random House, hopes to repeat the success it enjoyed with “Seabiscuit,” Ms. Hillenbrand’s 2001 best seller, which has six million books in print and became a hit movie. “We’re positioning it as the big book for the holidays,” says a Barnes & Noble buyer.

One of the many notable aspects of “Unbroken” is that its author has never met her subject. Suffering from a debilitating case of chronic fatigue syndrome, she was unable to travel to Los Angeles from her Washington, D.C., home. She did the bulk of her research by phone and over the Internet, which enabled her to zero in on key collections at such institutions as the National Archives.

Sally Peterson for The Wall Street JournalMr. Zamperini, in his bomber jacket

“Unbroken” details a life that was tumultuous from the beginning. As a blue-collar kid in Southern California, Mr. Zamperini fell in and out of scrapes with the law. By age 19, he’d redirected his energies into sports, becoming a record-breaking distance runner. He competed in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin where he made headlines, not just on the track (Hitler sought him out for a congratulatory handshake), but by stealing a Nazi flag from the well-guarded Reich Chancellery. The heart of the story, however, is about Mr. Zamperini’s experiences while serving in the Pacific during World War II.

A bombardier on a B-24 flying out of Hawaii in May 1943, the Army Air Corps lieutenant was one of only three members of an 11-man crew to survive a crash into a trackless expanse of ocean. For 47 days, Mr. Zamperini and pilot Russell Allen Phillips (tail gunner Francis McNamara died on day 33) huddled aboard a tiny, poorly provisioned raft, subsisting on little more than rain water and the blood of hapless birds they caught and killed bare-handed. All the while sharks circled, often rubbing their backs against the bottom of the raft. The sole aircraft that sighted them was Japanese. It made two strafing runs, missing its human targets both times. After drifting some 2,000 miles west, the bullet-riddled, badly patched raft washed ashore in the Marshall Islands, where Messrs. Zamperini and Phillips were taken prisoner by the Japanese. The war still had more than two years to go.

Eli Meir Kaplan for The Wall Street JournalLaura Hillenbrand at her home in Washington; she rarely leaves the house because of her illness.

For 25 months in such infamous Japanese POW camps as Ofuna, Omori and Naoetsu, Mr. Zamperini was physically tortured and subjected to constant psychological abuse. He was beaten. He was starved. He was denied medical care for maladies that included beriberi and chronic bloody diarrhea. His fellow prisoners—among them Mr. Phillips—were treated almost as badly. But Mr. Zamperini was singled out by a sadistic guard named Mutsuhiro Watanabe, known to prisoners as “the Bird,” a handle picked because it had no negative connotations that might bring down his irrational wrath. The Bird intended to make an example of the famous Olympian. He regularly whipped him across the face with a belt buckle and forced him to perform demeaning acts, among them push-ups atop pits of human excrement. The Bird’s goal was to force Mr. Zamperini to broadcast anti-American propaganda over the radio. Mr. Zamperini refused. Following Japan’s surrender, Mr. Watanabe was ranked seventh among its most wanted war criminals (Tojo was first). Because war-crime prosecutions were suspended in the 1950s, he was never brought to justice.

Associated PressMr. Zamperini, record-setting miler, 1939

This all came rushing back when Mr. Zamperini first sat down with a copy of “Unbroken” last month. “As I was reading,” he says, gesturing with an arm to a peaceful vista of palm trees outside his house, “I had to look out that picture window from time to time to make sure that I wasn’t still in Japan. When I got to the end I called Laura and told her she’d put me back in prison, and she said, ‘I’m sorry.’ ”

“It’s almost unimaginable what Louie went through,” says Ms. Hillenbrand from her home on a late fall afternoon. She discovered Mr. Zamperini’s story while researching “Seabiscuit,” the saga of another individual—in that case, a horse—that confronted long odds. “Louie and Seabiscuit were both Californians and both on the sports pages in the 1930s,” she says. “I was fascinated. When I learned about his World War II experiences, I thought, ‘If this guy is still alive, I want to meet him.’ ”

Following the publication of “Seabiscuit,” Ms. Hillenbrand wrote to Mr. Zamperini. Shortly thereafter they had the first of many long phone conversations. His tale of survival captivated her both on its merits and because she could relate to it personally. “I’m attracted,” she says, “to subjects who overcome tremendous suffering and learn to cope emotionally with it.”

Louis ZamperiniIn basic training, pre-WWII helmet, 1941

The 43-year-old Ms. Hillenbrand contracted chronic fatigue syndrome during her sophomore year at Kenyon College. The bewildering disease, thought to originate from a virus, can be enfeebling and is incurable. Ms. Hillenbrand is today essentially a prisoner in her own home. She is so consistently weak and dizzy (vertigo is a side effect) that she recently installed a chair lift to get to the second floor of her house, where she lives with her husband, G. Borden Flanagan, an assistant professor of political philosophy at American University. What to others might seem simple matters are to her subjects of grave consideration. “I skipped my shower today,” she says, “in order to have the strength to do this interview. My illness is excruciating and difficult to cope with. It takes over your entire life and causes more suffering than I can describe.”

Ms. Hillenbrand’s research was complicated by her disease. But as she likes to remind people, she came down with chronic fatigue syndrome before starting her writing career, and she has learned to work around it. “For ‘Seabiscuit,’ ” she says, “I interviewed 100 people I never met.” For “Unbroken,” Ms. Hillenbrand located not only many of Mr. Zamperini’s fellow POWs and the in-laws of Mr. Phillips, but the most friendly of his Japanese captors. She also interviewed scores of experts on the War in the Pacific (the book is extensively end-noted) and benefited from her subject’s personal files, which he shipped to Washington for her use. “A superlative pack rat,” she writes, “Louie has saved virtually every artifact of his life.”

Louis ZamperiniHis damaged B-24 after a mission:, 1943

During her exploration of Mr. Zamperini’s war years, Ms. Hillenbrand was most intrigued by his capacity to endure hardship. “One of the fascinating things about Louie,” she says, “is that he never allowed himself to be a passive participant in his ordeal. It’s why he survived. When he was being tortured, he wasn’t just lying there and getting hit. He was always figuring out ways to escape emotionally or physically.”

[UNBROKEN_COV] Louis ZamperiniMr. Zamperini with mother at homecoming, 1945

Mr. Zamperini owes this resiliency, Ms. Hillenbrand concluded, to his rebellious nature. “Defiance defines Louie,” she says. “As a boy he was a hell-raiser. He refused to be corralled. When someone pushed him he pushed back. That made him an impossible kid but an unbreakable man.”

Although Mr. Zamperini came back to California in one piece, he was emotionally ruined. At night, his demons descended in the form of vengeful dreams about Mr. Watanabe. He drank heavily. He nearly destroyed his marriage. In 1949, at the urging of his wife, Cynthia, Mr. Zamperini attended a Billy Graham crusade in downtown Los Angeles, where he became a Christian. (The conversion of the war hero helped put the young evangelist on the map.) Ultimately Mr. Zamperini forgave his tormentors and enjoyed a successful career running a center for troubled youth. He even reached out to Mr. Watanabe. “As a result of my prisoner of war experience under your unwarranted and unreasonable punishment,” Mr. Zamperini wrote his former guard in the 1990s, “my post-war life became a nightmare … but thanks to a confrontation with God … I committed my life to Christ. Love replaced the hate I had for you.” A third party promised to deliver the letter to Mr. Watanabe. He did not reply, and it is not known whether he received it. He died in 2003.

Sally Peterson for The Wall Street JournalMr. Zamperini still has his purloined Nazi flag.

Mr. Zamperini’s internal battles and ultimate redemption point to a key difference between “Unbroken” and Ms. Hillenbrand’s previous book. “Seabiscuit’s story is one of accomplishment,” she says. “Louie’s is one of survival. Seabiscuit’s story played out before the whole world. Louie dealt with his ordeal essentially alone. His was a mental struggle.” That struggle, she adds, feels particularly resonant in 2010. “This is a time when people need to be buoyed by something, and Louie blows breath into people by making them realize that they can overcome more than they think.”

Because of Ms. Hillenbrand’s illness, there will be no author tour. In 2007 she sank deeper into chronic fatigue syndrome, and she hasn’t pulled out of it. “This is going to be hard,” she says. “I’m very afraid. I’m not functioning well. I’m going to have to be careful that I don’t slip back to the bottom.” Next week’s “Today” show interview was taped at her home.

Louis ZamperiniA rambunctious youth in Torrance, Calif.

Mr. Zamperini—whose health issues don’t go beyond taking blood-thinning medication following a recent angioplasty—is raring to go. His wife died in 2001, and while he is close to his two children and a grandson, he lives alone. In short, he’s up for an adventure. He has told Random House he will promote the book in Ms. Hillenbrand’s stead. He also has signed with a San Francisco-based speakers’ agency. His goal is to become an inspirational mainstay on cruise ships. He has transformed what he learned as a POW into parables (“Hope has to have a reason. Faith has to have an object”) that he feels can reduce stress and are perfect for an anxiety-filled time.

Louis ZamperiniVisiting a prison camp in Japan in 1950

There is also, not surprisingly, movie interest (the film version of “Seabiscuit” took in $150 million world-wide at the box office). The outlook, however, is uncertain. In the 1950s, Mr. Zamperini published an autobiography titled “Devil at My Heels.” Universal, envisioning a vehicle for Tony Curtis, optioned Mr. Zamperini’s life rights. The project went nowhere. In the 1990s, Universal re-optioned the rights, this time for Nicolas Cage. Again the project faltered. In 2003, Mr, Zamperini and writer David Rensin updated “Devil at My Heels.”

Louis ZamperiniRunning in the Olympic torch relay in Los Angeles, 1984

Andrew Rigrod, an entertainment lawyer representing Mr. Zamperini, believes the rights have now reverted to his client. A Universal spokeswoman says that this is most likely correct, but says the studio still owns the previous project and is developing it. She adds that she expects things to be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. Mr. Zamperini’s hope, Mr. Rigrod says, is that he and Ms. Hillenbrand (who is represented by CAA) will join forces. “He wants the movie to be based on Laura’s book,” says the lawyer, “and he would cooperate and participate.” Says Mr. Zamperini: “For the work she’s done, she deserves the movie. I told her I don’t want anything

Over the course of the seven years Ms. Hillenbrand toiled on “Unbroken,” she and Mr. Zamperini became friends, despite never laying eyes on each other. “I call him a virtuoso of joy,” she says. “When things are going bad, I phone him.” Says Mr. Zamperini, “Every time I say good-bye to her, I tell her I love her and she tells me, ‘I love you.’ I’ve never known a girl like her.

“Laura brought my war buddies back to life,” he says. “The fact that Laura has suffered so much enabled her to put our suffering into words.”

—Steve Oney is the author of “And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank.”

Survival Stories

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Louis Zamperini: American Hero part 3

When my wife Jill and I watched the interview that Louis Zamperini gave to Jay Leno we were not astonished to learn that the strength Louis Zamperini needed to forgive those who tortured him came from his faith in Christ. Louis Zamperini’s Story of Survival and Redemption Former Olympic Star and POW Finds New Ministry […]

Louis Zamperini: American Hero part 2

What an amazing story. November 12, 2010 The Defiant Ones In her new book, the author of ‘Seabiscuit’ turns to the unimaginable ordeal of an Olympic athlete and WW II hero. Because of her own debilitating illness, they struck a special bond. By STEVE ONEY With a fringe of white hair poking out from under a […]

Louis Zamperini: Great American War Hero gave good interview to Jay Leno on Tonight Show last night

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Louis Zamperini: Great American War Hero gave good interview to Jay Leno on Tonight Show last night

Unbroken Official Olympics Preview Trailer (2014) – Angelina Jolie Directed Movie HD

Louis Zamperini – “Unbroken” by Men, Humbled by Jesus

Published on Nov 21, 2014

The personal testimony of Louis Zamperini on how Jesus changed his life after the Japanese were unsuccessful in taking his life during World War II. This talk by Louis Zamperini at Emmanuel Enid, Oklahoma was one of his last public appearances before his fall limited his travel schedule. Louis died July 2, 2014.

The Great Zamperini

Last night on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno I saw this amazing interview of Louis Zamperini. He is truly a great American war hero.

Book review: ‘Devil at My Heels’ by Louis Zamperini and David Rensin

The author, who spent two years during World War II in Japanese POW camps, tells his life story in this crisp yet richly detailed account.

January 10, 2011|By Michael Harris, Special to the Los Angeles Times

First there was Louis Zamperini, then came the Louis Zamperini story.

The man made the story — carved it out of the bedrock of his life, out of high achievement and almost unbelievable suffering — but the story also made the man. It gave him a vocation as evangelist, inspirational speaker and worker with troubled youth; it made him an authority on the toughness of the human spirit. And in the end, perhaps, the story defined and caged him, as our stories tend to do if we repeat them often enough.

Zamperini, 93, has been telling his story for a long time. A first version of “Devil at My Heels” appeared in the 1950s. In 2003, Zamperini, collaborating with David Rensin, produced an updated version that included the discovery by a CBS documentary crew in 1998 that Matsuhiro “The Bird” Watanabe, the most sadistic of the guards who had tortured him during his two years in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps, had escaped prosecution for war crimes and was willing to be interviewed.

Now there is renewed interest in that book, with a foreword by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that rides the slipstream of Laura Hillenbrand’s bestselling “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption.”

Hillenbrand (“Seabiscuit”) takes nearly 200 additional pages to tell the story than Zamperini does in this crisp yet richly detailed account. She wants to probe the mystery of what makes people like Zamperini stronger than the rest of us. He just gives us the facts, which are extraordinary enough:

Zamperini grows up in a working-class Italian American family in Torrance. Whatever he does, he does wholeheartedly. He’s a hell-raising delinquent, then a disciplined runner. He stars in track at USC and competes in the 1936 Olympics. He joins the Army Air Forces as a B-24 bombardier and crash-lands in the mid-Pacific in 1943. He and two other crewmen drift 2,000 miles in 47 days, slowly starving, their raft circled by sharks and strafed by a Japanese plane. One of the men dies. The remaining two are rescued — by the Japanese.

Zamperini’s captors, aware of his athletic fame, beat him almost daily but keep him alive because they hope he will make propaganda broadcasts in return for cushier treatment. He refuses and by the end of the war weighs only 70 pounds.

Back home, consumed by hate and dogged by nightmares of “The Bird,” Zamperini drinks heavily, gets into fights, loses money in get-rich-quick schemes and alienates his wife, Cynthia, who, in desperation, drags him to a Billy Graham crusade. He experiences a conversion to Christianity, changes his ways and never looks back. He forgives the Japanese and in 1950 visits Sugamo Prison in Tokyo to offer the Gospel to the war criminals held there. He devotes the rest of his life to good works.

As a POW, Zamperini saw the “filth, squalor and inhumanity” of prison camp as proof that the Allied cause was right. One wonders what he would say about Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and the CIA’s secret prisons. Would he justify them, as he justifies the “unavoidable horror” ] of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the internment of Japanese Americans? Or would he shake his head, faced with a question that doesn’t belong to the Zamperini story at all? It’s a story that seems to come from a different world — a world of clear-cut good and evil, of unquestionable victory — that we hunger for with palpable nostalgia as we give the World War II generation a last hurrah.

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Louis Zamperini: American Hero part 2

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Last night on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno I saw this amazing interview of Louis Zamperini. He is truly a great American war hero. Book review: ‘Devil at My Heels’ by Louis Zamperini and David Rensin The author, who spent two years during World War II in Japanese POW camps, tells his life story […]