Wilson Thrower was born in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1922. He worked as an electrician at the Charleston Navy Yard before being drafted in 1943 and entering the Navy as an Apprentice Seaman on the USS Jenks. After demonstrating his knowledge of the destroyer escort's communications system, Jenks became an Electrician, Third Class. In this interview, Thrower recounts the capture of the German U-505, which proved vital to Allied code breaking operations. For serving in the submarine task force that captured the German U-boat, Thrower received a Presidential Unit Citation. After the War, he served in law enforcement and ran a series of businesses.
Fleming was born in Charleston, South Carolina on 8 January 1922. To help support his family following the death of his father, Fleming joined the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1939 through which he worked on Bull’s Island. He recalls the Charleston of his childhood: “We didn't have but one street, Spring Street, to go across the old Ashley River Bridge . . . . right back where the stadium is at, all that was the river.” Fleming married and was drafted in 1942. He attended basic training at Camp Sibert, Alabama, where he “learned how to take care of myself through that army life, I learned a lot because when you hit them beach head, there ain’t nobody there to help you, you got to help yourself.” In Hawaii, he received training that prepared him for work as a medic on ship hospitals and in field hospitals in the Pacific. He recalls many harrowing scenes of battle and details life in foxholes during Japanese air attacks. Returning to Charleston after the war, Fleming worked in carpentry and construction, and played baseball for the Avco Corporation team. He concludes by reflecting on the September 2011 death of his wife of 69 years, Dorothy Buckingham Fleming, whose grave he visits weekly: “I go up there and look at the grave, and I got a little clipper, you know, like the stone, and I cut around it and take the brush and brush it all off.”
Herman Stramm was born 8 June 1927, in Charleston, South Carolina. In this interview, Stramm discusses his experiences in the Navy during WWII. He attended signalman school in Bainbridge, Maryland before being assigned to the USS Dale, DD353, at Pearl Harbor. On board, the sailor had limited access to information, according to Stramm. “We didn't have an up-to-date news service like they got now--no television. I read Tokyo Rose a time or two, but all of a sudden, we heard, you know, Japanese surrendered.” He expresses deep pride in having been part of the flotilla that escorted the USS Missouri into Tokyo Bay for the Japanese surrender. Stramm’s last station was at Fort Pierce, Florida, where he helped the underwater demolition team before he was discharged to the Charleston Navy Yard. He returned home and attended The Citadel for a brief period. After his military service, he worked at the United States Post Office and at an airport in Atlanta, Georgia for fifteen years before retiring in 1990, a few months after Hurricane Hugo.
Charles Stockell was born in Washington, DC. Following a family tradition of service, he joined the military when he was twenty years old, attending basic training at Ft. Bragg and Officer Candidate School in Oklahoma. He was assigned to a division that was very aggressive on the battlefield. ÒI liked the way that they acted. I got better targets that way. He also frequently served as an observer on a Piper Cub aircraft flying combat missions over German territory. Stockell recalls the confusion of the Omaha Beach landing during the Normandy Invasion. He and the men in his battery were forced to swim ashore after disembarking from the landing craft prematurely. The chaos continued on the shore. We hadn't left the beach before I found my first two American casualties. They were lying on the beach, and all four feet of these two men had been [blown] off. And they knew that they were bleeding to death, so in their death, their last thing on earth, they wrapped their arms companionly around each other and died that way. It was a very touching sort of thing. Stockell received four Purple Hearts for wounds he received while serving in the artillery, and rose to the rank of colonel. He also served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars and taught at the National War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In 2012, Stockell was inducted into France's National Order of the Legion of Honor.
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.
Vance L. Crouse is a retired Colonel in the United States Air Force. Born in Henderson, Tennessee in 1921, he was home-schooled, then attended a rural public school, and a junior college, Freede Hardeman College, during the Great Depression. His father worked as a carpenter as well as an auto mechanic and his mother was a teacher. His sister, following their mother’s footsteps, pursued a career as a school teacher. A chance to see Charles A. Lindbergh in Louisville, Kentucky, sparked a lifelong interest in airplanes. Crouse describes the experience, “We went up to visit my uncle in Louisville, Kentucky, and Charles A. Lindbergh came and landed there…he recently completed his transatlantic flight, and we got to see him and his Spirit of St. Louis airplane. And that made a lasting impression on me.” In 1932 after the passing of his mother, he and his father moved to Memphis, while his sister taught in rural schools across the country. It was during a Sunday afternoon visit to his three uncles on December 7, 1941 that Crouse heard a radio report of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps shortly after his 21st birthday in 1942. Denied the opportunity for pilot-training due to his poor vision, Crouse was sent to Officer Candidate School at Yale University for basic and technical training. He was transferred to Greenville, South Carolina for the Replacement Training Unit then to Key Field in Meridian, Mississippi, and Mobile, Alabama. Crouse was stationed in Gushkara, in the Assam Valley, India, as part of a reconnaissance squadron. He was pulled out of his medical training and sent to Korea to serve as a doctor at Taegu and Seoul. Crouse was stationed in occupied Germany from 1960-1963.
Arlington Sanford was born on December 21, 1923, in Danbury, Connecticut. He joined the Navy shortly after graduating from high school. After boot camp in Newport, Rhode Island, he went to diesel school in South Richmond, Virginia, and graduated as a Fireman First Class. He was then assigned to landing ship tank (LST-307) in Boston, Massachusetts. He shipped out of New York on St. Patrick's Day in 1943 and took part in the Sicilian Occupation, the Salerno Landings, and the Normandy Invasion. Sanford describes his close relationship with Jack Junior Faughn, Boatswain's Mate Second Class from Peoria, Illinois: We were closer than brothers. We were inseparable; everywhere we went together, all through the war and did the same thing. LST-307 was struck hard by German guns during the Normandy invasion off Sword Beach. Upon impact Sanford sped to the main deck where he found Faughn's badly injured body. I kind of held him and took care of him for a while, until the corpsman came, Sanford recalled. That's the last I ever saw him.
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.
Edward Dear was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and his mother worked for John Wanamaker Department Store. He graduated from Frankfort High before attending Temple University, where he played football with actor Bill Cosby. He was drafted into the Marine Corps and continued to played football on the team at Quantico. He attended Officer Candidate School, the Basic School, and the Military Occupational Specialty School for engineering. While stationed at Camp Pendleton, he was ordered to the 1st Battalion, 26th Marines, 5th Division and sent to the Philippines. He made two landings in Vietnam, first at the Da Nang airbase in an area known as Dodge City. After transferring to the 3rd Marine Division, he was sent to the demilitarized zone at Dang Ha. He describes the personal impact of his experiences as an officer and alludes to the evolution of the media’s war coverage. His leadership style focused on being honest and fair with his men, which carried over into his civilian life as a swimming and football coach. He continues to attend the Marine Corps Birthday Ball every year and brings students from the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program (MECEP) to have “the Old Corps meet the New Corps.”
Carl Roberts was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1929. His father and mother worked in a cotton mill. He was one of seven boys and had one sister. Roberts enlisted in the Navy when he was 17-years old and attended basic training in Maryland. He was assigned to the USS Leyte aircraft carrier as a Seaman First Class in the Pacific at the end of the Second World War. He later joined the Army and was stationed in Seoul during the Korean War where he worked in the motor pool, acquiring mechanical skills and learning to drive various vehicles. He received the Victory Medal for service in World War II, the Good Conduct Medal for service in the Korean War, and the Honorable Service button. After leaving the service, he was a sheet metal worker at Beverage Air in Spartanburg. In the 1960’s, Roberts moved to Charleston to work as an automatic transmission mechanic and to begin a family. He married and had three children.