William Bendt was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1920. As a teenager, he withdrew from Murray Vocational High School to work at the White Swan laundry. He began working at the Naval Shipyard as a classified laborer when he was eighteen years old and soon transferred to an office position that he held for the rest of his civil service career. In this interview, Bendt recalls seeing Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the president’s visit to the shipyard. “I got within thirty feet of President Roosevelt, watching him come down that gangplank, and out of that back seat, projected out where he could sit down, and then went back in. And I really appreciate that I got to see him real close.” Bendt’s supervisors procured two draft deferments on his behalf, but they were unable to secure a third deferment. Upon joining the Army, he attended basic training at Fort Jackson (Columbia, South Carolina), infantry training at Camp Wheeler (Macon, Georgia), reported to Fort Meade (Baltimore, Maryland), and was sent to Camp Shanks (New York) before shipping out of New Jersey. “Before going aboard, the Red Cross came along and gave us all a little green bag with toiletries, what have you,” Bendt recalled. “I have that bag today and a little container of milk.” Assigned to the Second Army Division in France as a replacement, Bendt arrived on the continent on D-Day plus six. Bendt discusses his brief captivity at the hands of the Germans, while in combat along the Rhine River. After the war, Bendt met Russian soldiers in occupied Berlin. Returning to Charleston after the war, he resumed his work at the Naval Shipyard in the Public Works Department, where he accumulated over thirty-six years of service.
James Young was born in Winnsboro, South Carolina in 1921. Young volunteered for the Army Reserves in 1942. After completing basic training in Miami Beach, Florida, he went to Shepherd Field, Texas for munitions training. He was sent to Las Vegas, Nevada, for gunnery school, then Dalhart, Texas, for combat crew training. At gunnery school, Young recalled firing at a target pulled by an airplane: “Each person had a different color of shells, and he could count his hits by whether they were yellow, black, green.” Stationed in Polebrook, England, Young served as a Technical Sergeant, tail gunner in the 8th Air Force, 351st Bomb Group Heavy, 509th Bomb Squadron from the March 6, 1944 to May 2, 1945. He flew 28 missions, the first of which was into Poland on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1944. He later flew missions over Poland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and Belgium. In this interview, he recalls details of several of his missions and discusses the annual reunions he attends with the men with whom he served.