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School Kit Honorees

If you donate a Do Your Part School Kit to a school of your choice in honor of a man or woman of the WWII generation, we can create a keepsake flyer for your family with wording that you provide. A copy of the flyer will also be sent to the teacher and students who receive your kit, so they can learn about the real heroes of WWII.

World War II Honorees

Honor a World War II veteran or survivor today by becoming a Do Your Part School Kit sponsor and providing free books and teaching materials to classrooms! To learn more about the program, and how to honor someone from the WWII generation on our wall, please click here.


Freddy Simon

Submitted by Teresa Funke Author Visits for Schools business partner, Mark Siffring, owner of Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers restaurants in Timnath and Loveland, Colorado.

Freddy Simon, co-founder and namesake of Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, was born in 1924 and grew up on a farm near Colwich, Kansas. Freddy is the youngest of nine children and his background is typical for the men and women of his generation; he values service and sacrifice, and believes in the power of hard work.

Pearl Harbor was bombed when Freddy was just a sophomore in high school, but that didn’t stop him from trying to sign up for the military. Freddy was 16 years old, and, of course, was turned away. When he turned 18, Freddy signed up for the infantry in the U.S. Army, and began his career as a Private. He was in the Calvary stationed at Ft. Riley in Kansas and was soon deployed overseas. After years of fighting in places around the Pacific Rim during World War II, Freddy earned the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his service, and returned home safely. In fact, his three brothers all returned home safely, as well.

One year after the repeal of prohibition in Kansas, he joined a start-up distribution company and worked there for 56 years while raising his family. Freddy frequently says, “I’m the luckiest guy in the world.” In between his visits to high school history classes, Freddy, now 91, actively participates in veteran’s groups, and takes part in World War II memorial events across the United States. He still enjoys visiting Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers restaurants as often as he can to surprise guests, sign autographs, and point himself out in the photos that hang on the walls.


Leila Morrison

Our 2017-18 Teresa Funke Author Visits for Schools Program World War II honoree, with special thanks to Veterans Plaza of Northern Colorado.

Leila Morrison knew at an early age she wanted to be a nurse. Her father was initially against it, fearing she was too small for such physical work. Eventually he agreed, and she did so well in nursing school she was asked to stay on as an instructor.

After World War II started, Leila enlisted in the Army Air Corps. Her service took her from Blue Ridge, Georgia to Colorado, California, and Texas. In Texas, Leila met a handsome Army officer named Walt Morrison at a dance hosted by the 13th Armored Division. Walt told her he would marry her someday.

Leila arrived in England as part of the 118th Evacuation Hospital and was sent across the Channel to the front lines. There she treated the wounded from the Battle of the Bulge during one of the coldest winters in 50 years.

Leila worked in the shock and pre-op tent, trying to keep the boys alive until they could get surgery or treatment. Artillery shells exploded overhead or nearby. She was terribly frightened, but kept her senses for the sake of the boys.

Things got worse when the hospital was called upon to help treat the prisoners from Buchenwald concentration camp. She toured the camp and was horrified by what she saw, thousands lying sick and dying. She called the camp a “factory of murder.”

In Europe, Leila twice ran into Walt while he was stationed nearby, and he asked her to marry him. She told him not until the war was over.

Walt and Leila raised three children, and Leila continued working as a nurse. She has a recurring nightmare that the Germans chase and catch her; she sees the faces of the many boys she treated; and to this day she cannot take for granted the comforts of clean sheets or a hot shower.

This information was paraphrased from Reflections of Our Gentle Warriors by Brad Hoopes


Lee Anderson

Our 2017-18 Teresa Funke Author Visits for Schools Program World War II Honoree, with special thanks to the Fort Collins Lions Club.

Lee Anderson was a freshman in college when he heard about Pearl Harbor. He enlisted under the Army’s delayed entry program, which would allow him to finish college at the University of Minnesota, but he was drafted the following semester anyway.

Lee landed in Algeria and road a train across the Sahara Desert. He was assigned to the 45th Infantry Division in Salerno, Italy in 1943 and began advancing north. He remembers being wet in his foxholes that entire fall.

On December 5, Lee was hit in the arm by shrapnel during a heavy artillery barrage and evacuated to a hospital. He’d been carrying a prayer book in his chest pocket, and a piece of shrapnel had lodged in the book, saving his life. Lee rejoined his unit prior to their landing at Anzio.

As Lee’s unit moved forward, they got too far ahead and were surrounded by German troops. They eventually made it back to their lines, but soon after, Lee was wounded for the second time, shrapnel hitting the back of his head.

Lee later rejoined his unit prior to the invasion of southern France. Once again, his unit got too far ahead and were captured by the Germans. Everyone knew the war was almost over, though, and Lee and his fellow captives talked the Germans into surrendering to them instead.

Lee succumbed to a bad case of trench foot. He was transferred to Supreme Headquarters of the American Expeditionary Forces and given the job of securing accommodations for the staff (usually in a hotel or castle) as they advanced. In this position, he interacted with the likes of Generals Eisenhower, Bradley, and Patton.

Lee earned a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. He had a long career in higher education, including 28 years as dean of libraries at Colorado State University.

This information was paraphrased from the book Reflections of Our Gentle Warriors by Brad Hoopes.


William "Bill" Funke

Submitted on behalf of the Fort Collins Lion's Club, a proud partner of the Teresa Funke Author Visits for Schools Program.

William “Bill” Funke was born and raised in Atchison, Kansas, and served in the Army’s 12th Armored Division during World War II. He was a runner for the colonel, taking messages to and from the field headquarters and the various outposts. Bill suspects the Germans never shot at him so they could see where he was going.

In January of 1945, his battalion was fighting the Germans in northeastern France. As the battle grew progressively worse, the colonel’s requests to retreat were refused. Shortly afterward, their position was overrun. Of the approximately 320 men who had moved forward to attack, only 35, including Bill, survived.

Bill was taken prisoner by the Germans and sent to Stalag 11B, one of the worst prisoner-of-war camps in Germany. He would spend three and a half months there, sleeping on plywood bunks, huddling around a single wood stove for warmth, and eating one bowl of watery soup and a two-inch square of bread per day. You can see here a picture of a wooden spoon that Bill carved so he could eat. The men never changed their clothes or showered during their imprisonment.

Shortly before the war ended, in April, 1945, Bill recalls British tanks breaking down the gates of the camp, and he became free. He spent some time in a British hospital and then returned to the United States, where he enjoyed a 35-year career as a beloved music teacher to thousands of students. Though he is of no relation to author Teresa Funke, she is proud to call him her friend.

This information was paraphrased from Reflections of Our Gentle Warriors by Brad Hoopes.


William Graham

Do Your Part School Kit donated by Sandy and Diane Graham, William's daughters, to Needham Elementary in Durango, CO

William M. Graham served in the China-Burma-India Theater. Trained as an engineer, he worked on the Burma Road. He also was a member of Merrill's Marauders, a guerrilla organization that helped the Chinese drive the Japanese out of Burma. After the war, he was chief engineer for American Maize Products Co. in Roby, Ind. He retired in Arizona in 1978 and died in 2000 at the age of 90.


Earl C. Rathke

Do Your Part School Kit donated by Joshua Rathke, Earl's grandson, to University Schools elementary in Greeley, Colorado

Earl C. Rathke was born March 10, 1920 and grew up in Rochester, New York, during the Great Depression. He had a paper route and worked in the family hardware store.

Earl joined the Army Air Corps in November, 1942, when he was 22 years old. He married Doris in March 1943 and then was stationed in Europe. He was a Second Lieutenant and co-pilot of a B-17 bomber.

Earl's plane was shot down by shrapnel in February 1944 while he was on his sixth mission (the target was a ball-bearing factory in Schweinfort, Germany).

He parachuted into enemy territory and was held captive in a POW camp (Stalag Luft 1) for 15 months. He returned home after the war, and he and Doris went on to have two children. He and Doris live in Colorado Springs and have four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.


Henry W. Randall

Do Your Part School Kit donated by Ann Triplett, Hank's daughter, to White Pine Elementary in Boise, Idaho

Henry W. Randall was born June 21, 1918 and grew up in Weiser, Idaho. He attended Boise Junior College and the University of Idaho.

Hank joined the Army Air Corp. in Boise, Idaho, in January, 1942, and was shipped to Shepard Field in Texas for basic training. From there he was sent to Everett, Washington, and then on to Southern California. Hank was promoted to 1st Sgt. in October, 1942. He joined the 434th Fighter Squadron/479th Fighter Group. He was shipped to England via New York on the SS Argentina with 13,000 troops. There was a man who didn't want to go and was trying to abandon ship when the officer of the day shot him in the legs as he was going overboard... He came along. After the ship left New York Harbor, a German submarine was patrolling and the SS Argentina dropped depth charges to blow it up. It took 11 days to cross the Atlantic Ocean to England. On a clear day they counted 76 ships in the crossing.

Hank was stationed at Wattisham Air Base near Ipswich, England. There were many days they could see thousands of bombers and fighter planes heading to Germany. The Germans were bombing England, primarily London. Families were going to the underground at night to sleep with only blankets.

The American bombers bombed during the day, and the English bombers bombed during the night. The Germans laid parts of London flat with their bombs, as well as many other cities. On June 7, 1944, Hank's squadron invaded the continent. Many lives were lost at sea and also while making it over the wall to solid ground.

World War II ended in May, 1945. Hank helped close the bases and turn them back over to the Royal Air Force. He was discharged in July, 1946.

Hank met his wife, Ann, in England. After the war he worked 10 years for the Idaho First National Bank. He and Wayne Lesh were then partners in the mobile home business for another 10 years. He bought the old Barber Townsite east of Boise in 1968 and turned it into a mobile home subdivision. In 1976 he and Ann bought a condo at the Rancho Las Palmas Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California and spent their long winters there. Hank and Ann have visited more than 23 different countries in their 65 years of marriage.

Hank and Ann have one daughter, Ann R. Triplett, two grandchildren, Randy Triplett and Ann Marie Pedersen, and one great-grandson, Tanner Triplett, who attends White Pine Elementary.


Ann Purvis Ross Randall

Do Your Part School Kit donated by Ann Triplett, Ann's daughter, to White Pine Elementary in Boise, Idaho

Ann Purvis Ross (Randall) was born in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England, on the 28th of December, 1923, to George and Ann Ross. Ann joined her three beloved and doting brothers, Walter, Donald and George. Ann's fairytale life came to an end on Sunday the 3rd of September, 1939, when the family enjoyed their last meal together. The war had begun.

Donald rejoined his Royal Navy ship to be killed in action the 23rd of October, 1941. Walter and George reported to their 50th Northumbrian Territorial Army. Ann's Dad, who was a prisoner of war in WWI, became an air-raid warden in WWII, and Ann's mother was in the Women's Volunteer Service.

Ann continued her education at Durham University and worked as a volunteer at the hospital until joining the National Fire Service in the bomb disposal unit. In early 1943, Ann's parents decided that since they had such a large home, they would open it up and welcome the service men. Hank Randall was among the first to arrive on his way to Scotland and came at every opportunity he could to visit Ann. On June 5th, 1944, Hank and Ann were married in a quiet civil ceremony in Newcastle, and in October of 1945, their daughter, Ann Ross Randall was born. In late 1946, Ann, Hank and baby Ann left England for Hank's hometown-Weiser, Idaho-and what a change in all their lives.

"The effects of WWII always remain with you-when you see your home destroyed and your family torn apart by death and not knowing where they were most of the time. I hope our great-grandson, Tanner Triplett, will never have to know such pain and sorrow."


John A. Brady

Do Your Part School Kit donated by Pat Brady, John's son, to St. Joseph's Catholic School in Fort Collins, Colorado

Did you ever make a decision that you really regretted later? Well, John Brady did in 1939, and it changed his life forever.

Born on a farm in eastern Colorado in 1919, John had a pretty uneventful childhood, like many other American farm kids of the time. By the time he went to college to study agriculture and play football at Colorado A&M (now CSU), he was ready for a change of scenery.

After one year of college (and no football-he was kicked off the team for arguing with the coach), John and his friend Paul Alder convinced each other to join the Army Air Corps. They asked the recruiter to send them somewhere exotic and far from Colorado. Before they knew it, they were on a train from Denver headed to basic training in California and then on to Clark Field in Manila, Philippines, by boat. It was pretty liberating and exciting to be living in a beautiful colonial city halfway around the world!

That was true until World War II broke out after the Empire of Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The Philippines were attacked and captured in May 1942. After fighting on the Bataan Peninsula and the Island of Corregidor, John and Paul were captured by the Imperial Army of Japan. Unfortunately, they would remain prisoners until the end of the war in September 1945. Between disease, battle wounds, starvation, torture, slave labor and homesickness, it was a very challenging ordeal. John later told his wife, family and friends that his Catholic faith in God saved him. John received the Purple Heart and other medals of honor after the war for his brave service to his country.

The United States won World War II. John Brady matured a lot and learned to appreciate the simple pleasures of Colorado. He married Irene Brady in 1953, and they had eight children.


Major General (Retired) A.J. Dreiseszun

Do Your Part School Kits donated by Peter Springberg & Lynnette Jung-Springberg to Beattie Elementary in Fort Collins, Colorado.

In December, 1941, when World War II began, twenty-one year-old Abe Dreiseszun was already a flying cadet in the Army Air Corps stationed at Ellington Field, Texas. He soon became an aerial navigator and a Second Lieutenant, and then joined the 97th Bombardment Group in Sarasota, Florida in 1942. The 97th was the very first B-17 bomber group being trained for WWII missions. The B-17 itself was then the world's largest airplane.

Abe's group moved to England, part of the European Theater of Operations, in June of 1942. He flew on the first all-American daytime bombing raid over Nazi-occupied Europe on August 17, 1942, attacking the crucial railroad yards of Rouen, France. After this daring mission, every participating aviator was promoted one rank.

Abe flew fifty bombing missions from bases in Europe and desert bases in North Africa and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and nine Air Medals. He stayed in military service after the war ended and eventually retired from the United States Air Force as a two-star general after thirty-five years of service.

He now lives with Rose, his wife of sixty-five years, in Air Force Village II, a retirement community for military officers and their spouses, a few miles west of San Antonio, Texas. He celebrated his eighty-eighth birthday in 2008.

Abe Dreiseszun is a true World War II hero who served his country during a crucial time in its history.


Jim Wenger

Do Your Part School Kit donated by Jim and Loretta Madden to West Lawn Elementary in Grand Island, Nebraska

A native of Grand Island, Nebraska, Jim was studying at the University of Chicago when he tested for and was accepted into the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) and was assigned to training at Harvard University. The program was established to "train and educate academically-talented enlisted men as a specialized corps of Army officers" during World War II. The men of the ASTP were distinguished by the octagon shoulder patch insignia, which depicts the lamp of knowledge crossed with a sword of valor-an allusion to both the mental and physical capabilities of these specialized officers-in-training.

ASTP soldiers were to serve as Army officers in both the successful prosecution of the war and the restoration of civilian governments in Nazi-occupied Europe after the war's end. However, due to the impending invasion of Normandy and the need for additional manpower, the Army disbanded the program in early 1944. Jim and the others in his training unit were transferred to the 26th Infantry Division (the 'Yankee Division') and within weeks found themselves in France. The Division landed at Cherbourg on the Cotentin Peninsula and joined Patton's III Army.

Jim's ASTP roommate and buddy, Joe "Sully" Sullivan, was seriously wounded and left in a foxhole after receiving initial treatment but was left behind in the heat of battle. After the battle, Jim received permission from his Captain to go back and look for his friend. After searching through the dark, he found him and carried him to an aid station, where he received treatment that saved his life. After treating Sully, the doctor noticed Jim leaving to return to his unit and examined him to confirm his suspicion; Jim was suffering from frostbite and trench foot and was evacuated to England. Jim and Sully lost contact until another ASTP roommate, Bill Weimer, hooked them up for a reunion-62 years later.

After returning to school in Chicago, Jim entered the real estate and insurance business in Grand Island and served several years on the school board. To this day, Jim can feel the results of the cold French winter when he helped push the German Army out of France. He is retired and now lives in Loveland, Colorado.


Harold David Wintheiser

Do Your Part School Kits donated by Sue Wintheiser, Harold's daughter, to Skyview Elementary in Windsor, CO and Eyestone Elementary in Wellington, CO

Harold David Wintheiser was born on September 3, 1919, and was the fourth of seven children in his family in LeCenter, Minnesota. At a very early age, his first job was helping his father in his produce business, which sold chickens, eggs, and milk. While in school he played many sports, doing exceptionally well in baseball. He was awarded the "Best All-Around Athlete" medal during his senior year.

After high school, Harold enrolled in a radio-television course and repaired radios. He became a SWL (Short Wave Listener). He volunteered for the Army-Air Corps in 1940 and was assigned to the radio station because he was quick at Morse Code. An electronic tracking system, known as radar, had been developed, so he joined the newly formed Radar Division. He was sent to Virginia to use radar to monitor the shoreline for enemy activity. Many German submarine sightings were uncovered a short distance from shore. In New Jersey, as Chief of Radar Maintenance, he supervised the building of a powerful radar station, which included a 400-foot-high tower. The power of radar was increased ten times under his leadership. Harold was later sent to Hickam Field in Hawaii to check the radar maintenance and to install the latest radar equipment, some of which was shipped to Okinawa. He was in Hawaii when V-J Day (Victory Over Japan) took place on September 2, 1945; World War II had ended. Harold was honorably discharged from the Army-Air Corps as a Staff Sergeant in December, 1945.

In 1944 Harold married Ardelle C. Weber, whom he had known since grade school. He used the G.I. Bill to earn his B.S. in Electrical Engineering, and went to work for Capehart-Farnsworth in Indiana. Harold and his family relocated to Englewood, Colorado, and for 32 years Harold worked for Martin-Marietta (Lockheed-Martin) in Denver. He worked on the Titan Missile, Skylab, Viking launches, Titan 34D, and top-secret satellites. Harold and Ardelle continue to live in Englewood. They have four children, Dr. Robert Wintheiser, Sue Wintheiser, Karen Michie, and Jan Hockenberry; six grandchildren, Karie Kraemer, Kendra Neal, Ken and Kurt Michie, Nichole and Justin Hockenberry; and five great-grandchildren, Kayleigh and Tyler Neal, and Makayla, Carter, and Hannah Kraemer.


Marthe Barbet Cockburn

Do Your Part School Kit donated by Marilyn Cockburn, Marthe's daughter-in-law, to Wellington Middle School in Wellington, Colorado.

Marthe Barbet Cockburn was born in 1896 and raised in Brest, France. While in college during World War I, she met handsome, young US Captain Harold W. Cockburn, and they married in 1920.

During the next few years, Marthe travelled back and forth with her husband to the U.S. to his home in St. Joseph, Missouri. After ten long years, their only son, Harold B. Cockburn, was born. When Harold was two, Marthe and her son returned to Brest for the winter months. When World War II broke out in France, Harold Sr. was in America and Marthe and Harold Jr. were in Brest. Although they could have returned to the U.S., Marthe felt compelled to stay in France and fight the Germans.

Marthe became a member of the French Resistance. One day, the German Gestapo informed her they would be occupying her house and she had twenty-four hours to get out. When she responded that she was an American citizen, the German captain replied, “Who is going to protect you . . . your baseball team?” So Marthe and her son moved to Gourin, a smaller town outside the city. Marthe continued to work for the French Resistance as an interpreter.

The Resistance rescued American and British pilots who had been shot down over the countryside. Marthe’s outfit safely returned 297 Americans and 100 British pilots to England! “Mother’s job was to question the fliers as they came in, checking their identification and verifying it through radio contact with Britain,” Harold Jr. once wrote. “This was necessary because Germans often tried to crack the underground by posing as American fliers.”

Here you’ll see a picture of a pillow where Marthe pinned several of her tokens from the war. Many were medals and pins given to her by the pilots she helped rescue. Marthe and Harold Jr. celebrated with the whole town when the U.S. Army came marching into Brest in 1945, raising the French and American flags. Later, the French National Resistance recognized Marthe for her brave efforts during the war.

Marthe Cockburn's Victory Pins pillow


Dick Amman

Do Your Part School Kit donated by Loretta and Jim Madden, to the Beulah School in Beulah, Colorado.

Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, 18-year-old Richard V. “Dick” Amman volunteered to join the elite paratroopers school of the 101st Airborne Division. He became part of the newly formed I (Item) Company of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) in November 1942 at Camp Toccoa, Georgia. For the next five months, the company underwent vigorous basic training in preparation for Jump School. Every day the Company ran to the top of Currahee Mountain, as seen in the TV movie Band of Brothers. Dick survived this grueling training and moved on to Fort Benning for Jump School.

In January 1944, the entire Division moved to Camp Miles Standish in Boston, and 11 days later shipped out to Glasgow, Scotland. From there they were moved to House of Rothschild stables in Lamboume, England, where they would remain for six months preparing for the invasion of Europe. The 501st PIR, part of the 101st Airborne, was dropped north and east of Carentan, behind Utah Beach, with a mission to seize canal locks at La Barquette and destroy bridges over the Douve River.

The Item Company roster for DDay contains 146 names. Dick is listed as a T-4, Radioman. A total of 6,928 men of the 101st Division were dropped from 443 C-47s and engaged in combat for 22 days, at a cost of 868 men killed, 2,303 wounded, and 665 captured or missing; these figures include 213 killed, 490 wounded, and 195 captured or missing from the 501st.

Following another airdrop into Holland, the 501st was relieved and withdrawn to a rest area in France. In December 1944, the Germans launched an offensive throughout the Ardennes forest in Belgium, which would become known as the Battle of the Bulge. The entire 101st Division was rushed to Bastogne in trucks normally used to haul cattle, and the 501st was the first unit to arrive. Item Company met the Germans in the small village of Ward and initially stopped their advance but eventually had to withdraw. Losses were heavy, with 49 men killed, 12 captured, and the remaining 83 rejoining the main body in Bastogne. Completely surrounded by a superior German force, they held their position until the siege was busted by General Patton after eight days.

Surviving two combat jumps, major battles in France and Holland, the Battle of the Bulge and reaching the rank of First Sergeant, Dick Amman lost his life in a jeep accident in France on April 19, 1945. He was the youngest brother of H.A. “Phonse” Amman and uncle to Larry, Loretta, Lorraine, Leonard (Dick), Linda, and Laura Amman.


Masaji Inoshita

Do Your Part School Kits donated by the Arizona JACL, to Greenway Middle School in Phoenix, Arizona.

Mas Inoshita was born in Fresno, California, on December 9th, 1919 to Maruji and Sen Inoshita. He left college to work in 1939 after his father had a stroke and could no longer run the 55-acre family farm in Santa Maria, California. In August of 1942, the family was relocated to the Gila River Detainment Center in Sacaton, Arizona, on the Gila Indian Reservation, where they would remain until 1946.

After the war, the family decided to stay in Arizona. Mas enlisted in the US Army. He attended Army Intelligence School and went through basic training with Company S of the 442 Infantry Regiment in the fall of 1943. He was selected to work with British Intelligence in India, Burma, China, and Japan, and in October, 1946, was sent to assess the damage at Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped.

After being discharged from the Army in 1946, he returned to farming in Arizona, which continued to be his line of work until his retirement in 1998. Mas was married in 1948 to Betty Kuwahara and had three children, Dr. Art Inoshita, Marilyn Inoshita-Tang, and Paul Inoshita. Mas and Betty have five grandchildren, Allison, Beth, Mike, Kimberly, and Tracey.

Mas has been active in civic affairs throughout his life. He is known as an historian, civil rights advocate, and lecturer and has received numerous awards for his community service. He has visited many elementary schools, high schools, universities, conventions, and churches to teach others the important lessons of the Japanese-American internment camp experience as well as emphasize the benefits of diversity in our society.


Lee Bashore

Do Your Part School Kit donated by Sarah Bashore, to Mountain View High School in Loveland, Colorado.

Lee Bashore heard about the bombing of Pearl Harbor while driving to the library at Pomona College, in Claremont, California, on that Sunday afternoon in December 1941. “Things changed rapidly after that. The campus was filled with soldiers, members of the weather forecasting units, who were attending classes. I took eye exercises until I was able to pass the Navy physical without glasses and then signed up for the Navy,” said Lee.

Lee then attended officer training school in Chicago and graduated in August, 1943. He reported for duty to the LST (Landing Ship Tank) 264 and set sail for the war in Europe.

“After many false rumors of D-Day, we loaded British troops and DUKWs (amphibious vehicles) on 2 June, 1944 and anchored off Southampton, England near the Isle of Wight to await the real thing,” said Lee. “On 5 June, 1944 at noon, we received a go signal and hoisted anchor to form up a convoy of LSTs and escort craft outside the harbor. The beach was relatively flat—no cliffs to scale. The only obstacles were the steel invasion traps in the water and the gun emplacements on the high ground. En route, two of our sister ships strayed outside the cleared channel and were struck by mines. We left them behind as we were under orders to stop for no one. As the afternoon wore on we were joined by ships of every description coming from every port and harbor in all of England and Scotland. As dawn broke on the invasion beach, we were looking for our assigned anchorage while shells from the battle wagons roared over our heads and hundreds of allied planes continued to bomb and strafe the beachheads. Bodies of unfortunate soldiers and sailors floated by in the relatively calm sea.”

Lee Bashore survived this famous WWII battle and many others and was discharged from the Navy on the 5th of January, 1946. He served on the LST 264 for 27 months. He received several medals of valor, including the European Theater Op. 1 Star, African Area, and World War II Victory.


Al Oesterle

Do Your Part School Kit donated by the Oesterle siblings in honor of their dad, to Cross Timbers Elementary School in Edmond, Oklahoma.

Twenty-two-year-old Albert Reed Oesterle was commissioned an Ensign in the United States Naval Reserve on 6 June, 1941. Six months later, on 7 December, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked an ill-prepared and unsuspecting U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, precipitating America's official entry into World War II.

In December, 1943, after duty at Great Lakes Naval Training Station and Bethesda Naval Hospital, and upon completion of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in dentistry, Lieutenant (junior grade) Oesterle reported to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington for duty in USS Princeton (CVL-23), an Independence Class Light Aircraft Carrier.

On 3 January, 1944, Princeton departed Bremerton for the western Pacific, where she would see ten months of almost constant combat during the final push to the Japanese homeland. At 0938 hours on 24 October, 1944, during “The Battle of Leyte Gulf,” a lone Japanese dive bomber scored a direct hit on Princeton, causing fires and explosions that would ultimately doom the ship. For the next eight hours, Al treated wounded shipmates, fought fires and assisted in manning the ship’s antiaircraft guns.

At approximately 1600 hours, Princeton’s Captain, assessing her damage and the tactical situation, ordered all hands to abandon ship. At 1749 hours, USS Princeton slipped beneath the waves, the last American aircraft carrier sunk in World War II.

Al returned stateside and was awaiting orders to his next ship in anticipation of the expected invasion of Japan, and whatever personal fate that operation might hold, when President Truman ordered the dropping of atomic weapons on Japan—a decision that ended the war and is credited by many with saving millions of American and Japanese lives. After the war, Al remained in the Navy until retiring at the rank of Captain in 1965.

Settling in Fort Collins, Colorado, he practiced oral surgery for 25 years before retiring in 1990. He and his wife, Joan, raised three daughters and one son. Most importantly, he has lived a life of honor, courage and commitment—core values he learned during service in the United States Navy.


Ed Runyan

Do Your Part School Kits donated by Myra Monfort to Sacred Heart Elementary School in Boise, ID and Powers-Ginsberg Elementary in Fresno, CA.

On December 7, 1941, Ed Runyan was lying on an Army bunk listening to jazz on the radio when the news came of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. That terrible calamity started World War II. Ed, who had been drafted into the Army as a private, was quickly promoted twice and then picked to go to Officer Candidate School. Ed became a highly skilled personnel officer, choosing which soldiers best fit essential military jobs. He later joined a group of psychiatrists and other medical personnel who decided the fates of Army prisoners.

In 1944 he was deployed to Europe and promoted to captain as a company commander leading 250 troops! One of his platoons, a group of 50 G.I.s, was comprised entirely of black soldiers. Ed’s company was the first unit where blacks and whites served together, and his leadership skills overcame prejudice and made this new “experiment” a smashing success.

Ed’s boss, a colonel, then said, “Ed, you’re the ideal man to fix a real problem. There’s a 5,000 man Prisoner of War (POW) camp where most of the men sleep on the floor or on straw. A lot of them have gotten sick and some have died. I want you to command the camp. Your deputy and interpreter will be the most senior POW, a German Army full colonel.”

Ed and his high-ranking German assistant found prisoners with carpentry skills to build bunks for the 5,000 men. They found POWs who had been tailors to make clothes for the prisoners. The sickness rate plummeted and the camp soon became a model institution for the entire Army.

Ed was called back to active duty in the Army twice during difficult times, the Occupation of Japan and the Berlin Airlift. He retired from the Army Reserves in 1964. He and Dell, his wife of sixty-six years, have two sons and live in Colorado.

For his distinguished service, Ed was awarded the Bronze Star medal, a major award given for heroic or meritorious achievement during military operations against an armed enemy. He’s living proof that you don’t have to fire a rifle to be a great wartime soldier.


Eugene C. Viera

Do Your Part School Kit donated by Eugene Hogan to St. Therese Catholic School in Aurora, CO

Technical Sergeant Eugene C. Viera was my instructor in Military Strategy and Infantry Tactics at Christian Brothers Military High School in St. Louis, Missouri, from 1941 to 1945.

T/Sgt. Viera served in the U.S Army for many years in many assignments, including the American Expeditionary Force in Russia fighting the Bolsheviks after the 1917 Communist Revolution.

Eugene S. Hogan U.S. Air, Retired