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Students learn World War II history from vets

March 05, 2014 - Clarkston Junior High School's ninth grade history classes hosted veterans of World War II, Feb. 26. The veterans shared their experiences in Europe, Africa, Pacific, and the homefront during the worldwide conflict.

Bill Duthie, first lieutenant with the U.S. Army Air Corps, spoke about flying B-25 bombers in the South Pacific. He and fellow pilots and crews braved sniper fire and air defenses to bomb Japanese air fields in support of the Allied island hopping campaign.

He told the students the determination displayed by Japanese forces left America no choice when it came to ending the war.

"The atomic bombs were horrible, but when you're in it and you want to get home, any way home is good enough," he said. "None of us would be here if we'd had tried to conquer the home islands."

Henry Garavalia spoke about his U.S. Army service with the artillery in North Africa and Italy.

Combat was boring and repetitive, but a shell landing right next to his foxhole was a close call, Garavalia said.

"I've never see anything so bright, all yellow and orange," he said.

His advice to students included taking care of your ears. Loud noise, either from artillery fire or the music you listen to, causes permanent damage.

"Listen to the people who tell you what your ears are all about," he said.

Roy Wheatly, a fellow Army artilleryman who served in Europe, spoke about hearing German V1 buzzbombs flying overhead on their way to targets in England.

"One shut off and landed 100 yards from my position," Wheatly said. "That was as close as I came to a terrific problem. We were very fortunate."

Norm Hunstad, a machine operator in the U.S. Army, talked about his job building and maintaining records for the war effort.

"For every combat soldier, it takes many soldiers in support roles. I was part of the support group," he said. "The machines we used were grossly crude compared to modern computers."

With no computers, they used electro-mechanical punchcard machines to keep track of millions of personnel.


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