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Ohio Department of Aging Press Release

March 11, 2013

Third installment of War Era Story Project commemorates final days in Japan

Elders chronicle last days of the war at sea, on the islands and back at home

Victory in Japan - Image Courtesy of U.S. Navy, via Wikimedia Commons

COLUMBUS - Over the past weekend, "Emperor," starring Tommy Lee Jones, opened in theaters nationwide, telling the story of the final days of World War II and the occupation of Japan that followed. To add an Ohio perspective to that story, the Ohio Departments of Aging and Veterans Services released 22 new submissions to their War Era Story Project (www.aging.ohio.gov/news/storyprojects), each sharing the author's unique experience of that time and those events. Stories include:

Ralph Bornhorst, Sidney - Mr. Bornhorst was drafted into the Navy in 1944 and served on the U.S.S. Idaho. He watched the invasion of Iwo Jima, including the iconic flag-raising, from the crow's nest on that ship.

Shacorrah Nicole Crosby, age 25, Twinsburg - For a school project, Ms. Crosby chronicled the World War II experiences of her grandfather, Walter Lewis Brown. Mr. Brown's unit relocated Japanese residents in the U.S. to internment camps. He met boxer Joe Lewis in Italy.

Judy Cupp, age 75, Greenville - Ms. Cupp retells the story of her uncle, Donald Kincaid, who was an M.P. and was on duty the night that the Japanese Premier Hideki Tojo was executed. As a final act, Tojo gave Mr. Kinkaid a very unique and meaningful gift.

Joseph D. Durant, age 89, Cincinnati - Mr. Durant was sent to Australia and was selected to support the "Advanced Echelon." He worked in the office of General Akin, Chief of Operations for the Asian Pacific Theater.

Dorothy Gilbert, Venice, FL - Mrs. Gilbert lived in Cincinnati all her life and remembers life at the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation. She included actual ration stamps from the period.

Ruth Hergenrather, age 86, Brookville - Mrs. Hergenrather tells the story of her husband Bob, who served aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in 1945 and was present when the peace treaty with Japan was signed. She gives details of that event in his words.

Clement Kiener, age 94, Columbus - Mr. Kiener was a commander of 125 men in Okinawa. He witnessed kamikazes flying overhead. He saw Ernie Pyle a day before the journalist was killed.

Ralph W. Lucas, age 88, Houston, TX - Mr. Lucas joined the U.S. Navy in 1943 and served aboard the U.S.S. Sea Owl, a submarine that did three patrols in the East and South China Seas and sunk a destroyer south of Nagasaki.

Sho Maruyama, age 86, Yellow Springs - Mr. Maruyama was the teenaged son of Japanese immigrants in 1942. He and his family, like many others, were interred in an evacuation camp from 1942-44.

Marvin Miller, age 96, Arcanum - Mr. Miller joined the Army, but when he reported for duty, he reported to the wrong company. This led to him being "accidentally" introduced to service as a supply officer with the M.P.s. On a stop for repairs, he "accidentally" wandered into enemy territory.

Wayne Morr, Xenia - Mr. Morr tells the story of the 37th Infantry's liberation of internees in Manilla who were being held by the Japanese at Bilibid Prison, just three days before the prisoners were to be executed.

Betty Odley, age 93, Cincinnati - Ms. Odley writes about her brother Paul, who completed seminary, but then dropped out to enlist. When his parents bought a house, Paul promised to come home and paint it, but fate had other, more tragic plans.

Nancy Ollier, Cincinnati - Ms. Ollier was just four years old when her father served in the Navy. She describes life with her mother and grandparents while her father was away. She also relates some stories her father shared about incidents onboard the U.S.S. Hancock.

Dan Reichard, Jr., age 91, Grove City - Mr. Reichard enlisted in the Navy so he wouldn't be assigned to the Army, but he never saw shipboard duty. Instead, he was assigned to special forces to set up visual communication for invasion operations.

John Ruff, age 90, Cincinnati - Shortly after the Japanese Surrender, Mr. Ruff and his seaplane squadron accepted a Japanese veteran's invitation to dine at his home, much to the disapproval of a passing M.P.

Wayne Shaner, age 86, Columbus - Mr. Shaner joined the Navy in 1944 and served on the U.S.S. Oneida, an amphibious transport. He describes daily routine and the organization of men aboard into divisions.

Kenneth Stryker, age 88, Greenville - Drafted into the Navy in 1944, Mr. Stryker served on a mine layer, the U.S.S. Terror. His ship was hit by kamikazes, just a deck below his.

Dr. Robert Sundin, age 85, Mason - Mr. Sundin tells of the service of Ed Slagle, who served aboard the U.S.S. Franklin and was a member of two Navy bands. When his ship was hit by a kamikaze, Mr. Slagle was not badly hurt, but lost a prized possession.

Joseph Villari, age 85, Cincinnati - Mr. Villari served on the U.S.S. Wasp as a plane captain, prepping planes and pilots for missions. On the day of the Nagasaki bombing, his ship was hit by a single kamikaze. A typhoon prevented his ship from being present at the peace treaty signing.

Frank Wiesner, age 89, Delaware - Mr. Wiesner was sent to the Pacific just before the bombing of Hiroshima in July 1945. In October, his unit went to Okinawa, but an injury sent him home.

Homer Wilson, age 87, Cincinnati - Mr. Wilson served in several European campaigns before being sent to Okinawa as part of the occupation force. There, he had an unexpected reunion with someone he hadn't seen since the war started.

Antony Zifer, age 89, Darbydale - Mr. Zifer was a baker on the U.S.S. Pavo. He witnessed a horrible fate for Japanese women and children who believed their leaders' propaganda. He also describes the celebration on his ship when the war ended.

These stories join 65 others that were posted previously. The agencies received nearly 300 submissions and will continue to release them in small batches until all have been shared.

The War Era Story Project was a follow-up to the Department of Aging's award-winning 2009 Great Depression Story Project. Since this project was intended to explore Ohio's war-time experience, the Department teamed with the Ohio Department of Veterans Services to collect stories from veterans of World War II, as well as the men, women and children who held steady on the home front. The project garnered submissions from 284 individuals, including 21 who currently reside out of state or who did not provide location information. Ohio residents represent 50 different counties. Of the authors who provided an age, the oldest was 100 and the youngest was 25. The average age of the authors was 83.

About ODA - The Ohio Department of Aging works to ensure that Ohio is on the leading edge of innovation and responsiveness to the growing and changing aging population. We work with state agencies, area agencies on aging and other local partners to help integrate aging needs into local plans and ensure that aging Ohioans have access to a wide array of high-quality services and supports that are person-centered in policy and practice. Our programs include the PASSPORT Medicaid waiver, the long-term care ombudsman program, the Golden Buckeye Card and more. Visit www.aging.ohio.gov.


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