Warshaw was born on October 27, 1920. From an early age, he wanted to go to college at The Citadel. When his high school record seemed likely to derail his hope, direct appeal to Gen. Summerall got him in. After overcoming some early problems, Warshaw settled down and graduated in 1942. He received orders on graduation day to report on June 10, 1942, for active duty and soon was assigned to the 433rd automatic weapons battalion, an anti-aircraft unit. Shipped to Casablanca, on the Moroccan Atlantic coast, his unit was assigned a training and support mission until the July-August 1943 invasion of Sicily. After the conquest of Sicily, his unit joined the Allied invasion of Italy and advanced to the Cassino front where the attack stalled. Withdrawn from the Cassino front and sent to the Anzio beachhead, he was able to visit Rome after the breakout for one evening. Withdrawn once again, Warshaw’s unit left Italy to join the invasion of southern France, fighting from there into Germany. Warshaw was promoted to first lieutenant and to captain as the war progressed, but when asked he said that he had absolutely no interest in staying in the Army. The morning after the capture of the Dachau concentration camp, Warshaw’s colonel took him to see the camp. There they found the odor was such that “we could hardly stand it . . . piles and piles of bodies.” He opened one of camp’s four ovens where “Bones were still smoldering,” and the colonel handed him a camera and told him to take pictures, some of which are archived at the Jewish Heritage Collection at the College of Charleston. A retired merchant of men’s clothing, he resides in his home town of Walterboro, SC.
Civil rights leader and community activist William Saunders was born in 1935 and has resided most of his life in Johns Island, South Carolina. In this interview, Saunders reflects on the economic and cultural changes he has witnessed over the years. Many of the changes had a negative impact on the health and life expectancy of the African American community. Regarding land ownership and access to natural resources, he states- both poor white and black landowners lost their properties because of shark loan practices. He criticizes government policies that facilitated city annexations, profuse housing development, and promoted tourism industry without considering their impact in the life of folks residing in rural and urban areas of Charleston. He thinks organic farming is a positive practice but one that does not benefit poor families. Saunders states he keeps working on his community as a member of the Gullah/ Geechee Commission. He also co-chairs with Tommy Legare the organization Concerned Citizens of the Sea Island, which is against the extension of I-526. Saunders states that activism can carry a heavy toll. "If you got the knowledge, and you care, then you have to suffer. You really have to suffer because you’re the one that gets involved."
Clarence A. Renneker Jr. grew up in Orangeburg, SC, and enrolled at The Citadel in 1939. His brother-in-law, a graduate from the school, influenced his decision. He majored in business and graduated from The Citadel in May of 1943. Renneker was sent to Ft. Benning, GA, where he completed OCS and was commissioned. He was then assigned for a time to the 80th Infantry division. After training in the southwest, he was shipped overseas in June 1944 as an “excess officer.” After arriving in England, he was assigned to the 118th Infantry after speaking with the regiment’s executive officer by chance in a barbershop. The Regimental executive officer was Citadel graduate Colonel Caldwell Barron, Jr. As an officer in the 118th division, Renneker helped run training schools around England, and later in France, he helped train replacement troops from other branches as riflemen by teaching them map reading skills, to shoot and care for their rifles, and other basic infantry skills before they were sent to the front lines. After the surrender was signed in Germany, Renneker helped coordinate the post-war return of soldiers to the United States. In June 1946, he returned home to his wife and eventually took over his father’s clothing store in Orangeburg. He is retired and living in Mt. Pleasant with his wife.
Ida Ostendorff was born in Gilbert, South Carolina. At the start of WWII she traveled to Washington D.C. where she passed a typing course and began work as a “government girl” working in the Judge Advocate General’s office. In 1942, upon turning 21 and meeting the minimum age requirement, she jointed the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). She completed her basic training at Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia, where she was trained to use a gas mask. She volunteered for an assignment overseas and traveled to New York City to embark on the Queen Elizabeth. She landed in Scotland on June 6, 1944, having no idea at the time that it was D-Day. She was then transported to her assignment at Stone Staffordshire, England. On her way there she remembers the commotion caused by the Normandy landings: “As we were going along, people were just waving wildly to us because they knew it was D-Day, but we didn’t know it.” She remained in England until the end of the war. She met her husband after the war when they both took the same French class. They were married for 61 years and have five children, several of whom have served in the military.
Philip S. Minges, Jr. was born on December 1, 1923, in Charleston, SC. He reported for active duty in 1942 during his sophomore year at Clemson University. Although he began training in the Corps of Engineers, combat replacement requirements led to Minges’ assignment as an infantryman to the Eleventh Armored Division. Minges reflects on his combat experience during the Battle of the Bulge when he had to try to dig a foxhole under fire in frozen ground. In his first battle, only three men of a 12-man squad, Minges and two others, came through unharmed. All others were wounded or killed. A few battles later, Minges was wounded: “I heard something hit on the side of the track, about waist high. I knew what it was. [If the shot] had been over about a foot [it would have gotten] me in the back…. I heard another pop and dirt flew up around my feet…. I got shot in the foot.” Following World War II, he enrolled at The Citadel in 1946 and graduated in 1948. After the war, Minges worked fifty years for Dupont in Camden, SC, and retired as an Army Reserve colonel with thirty years of service.
Lidia Gabriela Ojeda Ruiz (b. 1997) was born in the town of Jerécuaro in Guanajuato, Mexico and came to the United States in 2006, with her two older brothers to live with her mother and her older sister who were already settled in Johns Island, South Carolina. In this interview, Ojeda remembers growing up in Mexico, the difficulty and confusion of leaving family and friends in Guanajuato to start a new life in the United States, and the challenges she faced adjusting to a foreign environment. She shares her story of adjusting to the school system, learning English and becoming acculturated. Moreover, she discusses her status as a Dreamer and the burdens placed upon DACA students to further their education beyond high school. Ojeda tells about her interest in criminal justice, her work with a local immigration lawyer, and her plans to continue her education in the future. In this interview, Ojeda reflects about how growing up in two different places, Guanajuato and South Carolina, have shaped her life and character.
John Burrows was born in Saginaw, Michigan. An excellent student and athlete he graduated high school and received a full scholarship to go The Citadel. He entered in September of 1936 as a civil engineer major, and quickly became number one in his class academically. He also excelled in football, basketball and track, making all-state for basketball three years in a row, and remains in the Citadel Athletic Hall of Fame. Upon graduation from The Citadel in 1940 he received a regular army commission and joined the 61st Coast Artillery Regiment. From there he was eventually assigned to the air defense division of the Supreme Headquarters under General Eisenhower in London, and oversaw the then top-secret plan codenamed Operation Overlord. Burrows recalls his decision to enter The Citadel and his active duty in WWII. Although never in direct combat, his time on the Supreme Headquarters staff allowed him an insider's perspective on the planning for Operation Overlord and the European Theater. He discusses the US Army's ingenuity when it came to advances in weaponry, which were occurring in front of his eyes. He also discusses in detail the German surrender at Reims and how the US Army so effectively handled the multitude of issues surrounding the details of such an event. Upon returning from his service in the army, Burrows worked for a book publishing company before returning to Charleston take a job as Assistant Commandant at The Citadel. Audio with transcript.
Richard Polite was born in Charleston in 1951 and raised on Strawberry Lane before his family moved to Cannon St. near President St. After attending Burke High School, where he played football, Polite served in the U.S. Army and served one tour in Vietnam. In this interview, Polite recalls growing up in segregated Charleston and later working at the Naval Shipyard. He explains why he enjoys the job he has now held for 12 years driving a truck for the City of Charleston’s environmental services department. The job affords him the opportunity to serve and interact with the public. Hazardous working conditions and mismanagement have nevertheless led Polite and many of his coworkers to establish a union this past year. While there is no shortage of dissatisfaction among his coworkers, fear of losing their jobs in a poor economy has kept many of them on the sidelines.
Vivian Cleary, 64, was born in Dublin, Ireland. He shares stories about life in the Northside of Dublin. Vivian lived in Dublin until he was three years old when his parents moved to Birmingham, England, where he lived until the age of 17. Vivian shares experiences of family holidays in Ireland. Vivian came to Charleston twenty years ago and discusses how different life is in America. He discusses political issues with America during this time along with the process for applying for permanent residency. Vivian is also able to shed light on historical events in Ireland, such as experiences with the IRA, and separation of Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Kristen Lowe (pronouns: She/Her/Hers) was born in Florence, South Carolina, and currently resides in Charleston with her partner, and works professionally as a hand therapist in a sports medicine practice. She discusses growing up in the small-town atmosphere of Florence, and the impacts of her largely conservative and Southern Baptist religious upbringing. She recalls happy childhood memories with her parents and two younger brothers, including spending summers on the lake. Attending a private Baptist high school, she was unaware of her identity and saw no LGBTQ role models anywhere, having her first experience at age twenty. A graduate of the College of Charleston and later the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), she hid her sexual identity at the former institution, afraid of being labelled if she attended Gay Straight Alliance meetings, but at MUSC, she eventually served as Vice President of the Alliance for Equality. Lowe describes the difficulty of arriving at self-acceptance, feeling solitary, and at first being fearful of going to church and educational figures, or even close friends for advice. Becoming more and more open, she searched for a place within the LGBTQ community, finding fulfillment and social acceptance in becoming a board member of Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA). She details the advocacy work AFFA does, achieving, just at the time of the interview, a victory in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina in its passing a non-discrimination ordinance. Being out has given her a freedom to do as she wants, dress as she wants and she also has a variety of reproductive options available to her and her partner, as well. Any harassments received for being perceived as a lesbian were minor, she notes. In answer to queries about the issues facing the LGBTQ community today, she reflects on the number of different identities within it, and although there is much more visibility currently, she reiterates the difficulty of coming out, recalling how she at first had to do it via letters to her parents. If it takes an individual years to come to terms with her identity, she reasons, family members should be given time to adapt as well. She also explains how naturally children will take to the idea of LGBTQ relations among adults since children come into the world unprejudiced and will remain so if their society will allow it.