Approximately 20 million people have served in our armed forces. And today we honor the thousands of Oklahomans who served their country. Voices of Oklahoma has collected many veterans’ voices and stories that would otherwise be lost to history.
Paul Andert was an 18 year old platoon leader in 1942. He talks about his first invasion experience in Safi, France:
“Then when we landed on shore, I definitely remember taking the town of Safi. We were fired on and I hit the ground and the first bullet that went past my ear, I said to myself, what the hell are you doing here? You didn’t have to be here, you volunteered, you know. But right away it came to me, because of all the training we had. The part of the training that helped the most was the discipline you got as a leader. You had been told and told and told that your men are what are important to you. So it made you think about them instead of yourself and you knew the rule was MOVE so you moved. But I remember the first bullet and saying to myself what in the hell are you doing here? I did think, I wonder how many more bullets there are going to be?” Listen now.
Shawnee Stewart served in the Army Air Corp during WWII and was a gunner on a B26 bomber. He was on his twentieth mission when his plane was shot down over Germany.
“And I’m going to say something here that I haven’t said. I haven’t told a soul. I’m not sure that I want to say it but it’s true, I checked it out. Our flight leader turned left off the target. We had been briefed that “There’s a gun over there, don’t turn left, turn right.” So he turned left, and pow! they got our plane. That’s the only plane they got. He was a colonel.”
Shawnee goes on to tell his story of parachuting from that plane with a broken arm and became a POW. Listen now.
In 1944 Catharine Kingsley was a code breaker for the FBI in Washington D.C. Catharine talks about a doll-hospital: “Well, you know, if you have a doll and it’s one you want to have repaired and it’s a real expensive doll and everything, you’d be willing to pay to get it fixed. And they called it a hospital. I guess there are people now who do antique things, they fix them back up. It would be that sort of thing but they called it a doll hospital. That doll represented a ship and they would say, “Well, this doll’s arm was broken and we had to do this.”
Then when the Japanese got that, what was supposedly fixing a doll, was actually passing information of what had happened to the ships that were in the dry dock. Listen now.
We honor the other veterans who have shared their stories with Voices of Oklahoma, such as Rex Calvert, Robert Norman, Kenneth Renberg, Bob Borlase, and while they were career military personnel, many of our story tellers served our country and returned to civilian life. Take time to listen to these brave people. We are grateful for their service!
Thank you for listening to Voices of Oklahoma and for sharing with your friends. Remember to record the oral history of your family, you will be glad you did!
John Erling, Founder of Voices of Oklahoma