Holt Oral History Program

More than 200 veterans have trusted their story to the Museum & Library.  If you are a veteran and are ready to talk about your experience, please contact us. Sponsored by the Seedlings Foundation and in memory of Tuskegee Airman Coleman Thompson Holt, the Holt Oral History Program is dedicated to conserving the unique Stories of Service of the Citizen Soldier—not just high ranking officers, recognizable faces from history, or soldiers who have had their stories told already—but every man and woman, from all walks of life, who has served and sacrificed for our country. Share your story.

Donald Watanabe, Airman First Class, US Air Force

Don Watanabe will never forget Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 7, 1941, although he was only five years old.  After picking up a newspaper for his foster mother, he went to visit his friend, only to have the door shut in his face by her mother, and to be told to go back to Japan.

Captain Leonard Wass

In this fascinating oral history, Captain Wass, not only recounts his career in the submarine forces but also discusses everything from “Crazy Ivans,” to the chemistry, from diesel submarines to drones.

John H. Perry Jr. , PFC, US Army

In John H. Perry’s interview, one sees a clash between frost and fire on the Korean peninsula in the early 1950s.

Betty Bonwell Paps, Colonel, US Air Force

Many are attracted to the US Air Force for its fundamental yet exciting prospect of flight. But not all imagine a life as a pilot or operations specialist. The idea of doing something different—traveling somewhere new or even just leaving the ground alone—presents a real outlet for this desire to a wide variety of occupations. Thus becoming both a professor of nursing and an Air Force colonel became the reality for one tenacious nurse. After Betty Bonwell Paps realized that she didn't want to pursue traditional hospital nursing, she seized the opportunity to become a member of the Air Force reserves, kickstarting an impressive twenty-year career of flight nursing, education, and military leadership.

Bette Horstman, 1st Lieutenant, U.S. Army Medical Corps

When you imagine any of the many jobs shouldered by enlisted women throughout World War II, pioneers of the then-young profession of physical therapy may not immediately come to mind. Bette Horstman was one such pioneer. In facilitating the physical recoveries of both international prisoners of war and American GIs, Horstman also witnessed the juxtaposition of conflict in the Pacific Theater: the horrors of modern warfare set against the flourishing beauty of the Northern Mariana Islands.

 

ISCM Mary Arvidson

Mary Arvidson, Master Chief, US Naval Reserve

For many former members of the US military, their time spent as a member of one of the branches was an experience that yielded them the time and space to both contribute what they had and to develop new strengths. But for some veterans, their service evolved from the short term into a lifelong career, and in some cases, they may even dedicate their service to more than one branch. For Master Chief Mary Arvidson, this meant being a leader and an advocate for her fellow servicemen and women within both the US Army and Navy. But after retiring from an impressive thirty-year career in intelligence, Arvidson would still have wanted to give more, declaring: “When people thank me for my service, I tell them I'd still be doing it if they would have let me.”

Josephine Bogdanich

What was it like for women to be “pioneers” in the US Army? The patriotic, Josephine Bogdanich, at 104 years of age recounts her story of service in the Women’s Army Corps – WACs during WWII.

PFC Timuel K. Black

At 101 years of age at the time of the interview, activist, historian, WWII veteran, Timuel Black, is an ongoing example of service to the American people. He continues to share his stories generously without either nostalgia or bitterness, in order to impart a message of hope to the young. For Mr. Black, the past should be recognized as well as the hard-won civil rights that were gained, while understanding the racial problems of the present day. As Black quotes in the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident”.

Gerald Goodman, Captain US Army

At a mere seventeen years of age, Gerald Goodman started his military career in 1938 as part of the 110th Engineers 35th Division of the National Guard. He continued in his US Army service from December 1940 until January 1946 as a member of the 20th Combat Engineer Regiment 2nd Battalion and finally of the 20th Engineer Battalion. He participated in campaigns in Africa, Sicily, and Europe, including D-day.

Lieutenant Armiger Jagoe

Armiger Jagoe, Lieutenant

He remembers the beauty of the places and the people more than the deadly battles that took place in the air. Lieutenant Armiger Jagoe grew up amid the Great Depression in Gulfport, Mississippi with his mother, father, and older sister.

Edward Bales, Lieutenant

Oftentimes great danger lurks just under the surface, just out of sight, on knife’s edge teetering with potentiality of tremendous disaster. In Lieutenant Bales' case, this was in a literal sense, as the danger he faced was the very real, predatory threat of Russian sub-marines during his Naval service at the height of the Cold War.  

Elizabeth Anne Belzer Rowe, Commander US Navy

Being a pioneer is not an easy endeavor. Elizabeth Anne Belzer was one of the first group of eighty-one female midshipmen inducted at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, in 1976. Neither harassment nor questionable media attention prevented her from achieving an accomplished twenty-five-year career in the US Navy. In this two-part interview, Rowe offers an overview of her naval career in the first interview with Leah Cohen. She further discusses women in the armed forces in the second interview with Operation HerStory coordinator and veteran Ginny Narsete.

Earl Printy Arthur, US Navy, Petty Officer, 3rd Class

Whether treating injured Marines under heavy fire at the Battle of Saipan or whether performing in military musical troupes, Petty Officer 3rd class Earl Printy Arthur always mustered all his efforts. In this interview, Arthur also a glimpse not only of orchestras but also of the orchestration the amphibious invasions on the Pacific front during World War II.

Seymour Nussenbaum, PFC

As Private Nussenbaum (ret.)  used to say of his WWII service, “I blew up tanks”.  Indeed, as part of the 603rd Camouflage Engineer Battalion, 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, known as “The Ghost Army,” Nussenbaum blew up inflatable rubber tanks, intended to deceive the enemy.

Ruel Lehman Jr., First Lieutenant, US Air Force

“No one alive flew or went through the military training program for the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress” chuckles Ruel Lehman, a veteran of this aircraft, as he reads from a newspaper article, published in 2019.

Norton Diamond, Tech 5

Norton Diamond, Tech 5

Tech Corporal Norton Diamond served in the 1897th Aviation Engineering Battalion in the Pacific theatre from 1943-1946. Diamond’s service brought him to the New Guinea, the Island of Leyte, Palawan Island, Okinawa, and Osaka. While the 1897th were responsible…

Gordon Goldman, Yeoman, US Navy, 1946

Gordon Goldman, Seaman 1st Class

Whether serving in the US Navy after WWII or teaching high school in the civilian world, music and math; camaraderie and culture; tours and travel have been golden threads of Gordon Goldman’s life.

Eugenie Fisher Olsen, 1LT, US Army. Women's Medical Specialist Corps

How could have the affable college student, Eugenie, imagine how a sociology course would change the course of her life? Rather than accept a plum teaching position upon graduation, Eugenie enlisted in the pioneering occupational therapy program of the Women’s Army Specialist Corps, largely intended to treat injured veterans of the Korean War. Olsen’s interview reflects on the social mores of American military and civil society during the 1950s - its possibilities and its limitations.

 

Portrait of SGT Krause in Vietnam

Alan 'Al' E. Krause, Sergeant

Growing up in the tranquil suburb of Oak Park, Al Krause was a mere twenty-four-years-old sergeant when he was deployed to Vietnam.

Carver McGriff at American Cemetery, Omaha Beach

Carver McGriff

We never stop learning throughout our lives but there are experiences which propel our growth further than others. There is no other event that fits this bill more than fighting in a war. Carver McGriff learned this when serving with the 90th Infantry Division during World War II.

Micah Merrill, USA Staff Sergeant

Invited as a panelist for the White Sox Pride Night 2019, in Chicago, Staff Sergeant Micah Merrill, graciously shared his ongoing journey in the military with the Holt Oral History Program at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library when he was in town.

Myron "Mike" Eberle, 1st Lieutenant

Myron "Mike" Eberle, 1st Lieutenant

After only having been in Europe for a few weeks, Mike Eberle and his men would find themselves fighting for ninety days at the Battle of the Bulge. Through much of this fighting, Eberle’s company would take severe casualties, leaving his 180-man…

Carved wood frame by Hans Finkle, German POW, friend of John Fenzel

John Fenzel, 1st Lieutenant, US Army

As a boy, John Fenzel, was in the unique situation of having ongoing contact with the German prisoners of war in the Hampshire Prison Camp, Illinois, during 1944-45. Yet his connection to the military was far from happenstance and through his life experience we are reminded how quickly the Cold War followed World War II.

Bernie Bluestein, PFC

Bernie Bluestein, PFC

Bernie Bluestein had to keep a secret for fifty years. His family knew he served in the US Army during World War II but much, if not all of his efforts there were kept classified until the 1990s. An aspiring artist from Cleveland, Ohio, Bluestein would…

Richard “Dick” Andrew Dolejs, Special Agent

As a special agent in the Counterintelligence Corps in Occupied Japan, Richard Dolejs admits that his time there was not a glamorous James Bond experience. Yet, he easily developed a rapport with informants in addition to personal friendships with the local Japanese. More importantly, Dolejs' work contributed to the “community accumulation of information” intended to counter communism.

Mildred Dost, Nurse, US Army, and Marian Boyer, Nurse, US Navy

From one twin sister surviving a serious car accident as a child to both sisters celebrating V-J Day at their different deployments, First Lieutenant Mildred Dost and Lieutenant Marian Boyer reflect upon their lives.

Marvin Sussman, Corporal

From scouting the St. Marcouf Island, across from Utah Beach hours before the D-Day invasion to help securing the town of Bogheim, Germany, Sussman discovered that being part of the 4th Cavalry Squadron was nothing like his World War I image of infantry charging with fixed bayonets

Ray Wagner, PFC

The ever-present sense of duty is common with military veterans, especially with World War II veterans like Ray Wagner. His experience with the 111th Field Artillery Battalion led to multiple medals and a still-present injury that prove it.

Erin Solaro riding Shimshon, the Horse

Erin Solaro

Through her insightful comments on women in the military, former First Lieutenant Erin Solaro shares a perspective on the military that can be hard to hear but is impossible to ignore.

SGT Harold Hoss

Harold Hoss, SGT, 101st Airborne

The Vietnam War is one of the longest and bloodiest wars in American history, and no division’s combat record during the war can match the 101st Airborne’s.

Portrait of PFC John Storcel

John Storcel, PFC, Military Police

From the chaotic amphibious Invasion of Normandy to the grueling Battle of the Bulge, John Storcel has seen a magnitude of the horrors of war during his service in the 783rd Military Police Battalion.

Nimrod "Rod" Frazer, First Lieutenant

Following service in the Alabama State Guard and a post-war enlistment in the Alabama National Guard, Rod Frazer earned his commission as an armor officer at Fort Knox’ Officer Candidate School. Following an assignment with the 82nd Airborne Division…

Betty Cranmer and her father

Betty Cranmer, UK Royal Air Force Nurse

As a mere teenager during the Second World War, Betty Cranmer would aid in the recovery of severely burned patients, typically pilots, but not exclusively.

Ralph Olsen, COL & Army Surgeon

Equally at home as a military man and as a medical man, COL Ralph Olsen parachuted the skies with the same aplomb as he provided pediatric care to his patients.

Manuel "Marty" R. Martinez, 1st Sergeant, US Marine Corps

Combatants are bombarded with challenges throughout a campaign. Yet Manuel “Marty” Martinez’s mind and body were already conditioned for this, having grown up quickly during the Depression. His maturity allowed him to withstand the trenches of war and the tormenting losses post-war. 

Captain Hui-Jen (Jen) Shiau

Hui-Jen Shiau, Captain

Hui-Jen Shiau’s military service is one of fascinating contrasts. He operated mid-range ground launched cruise missiles [GLCMs] in Comiso, Italy, as a deterrent against the Former Soviet Union, yet he was the last one on alert before the missiles were dismantled. He relished the independence required in operating the recently developed GLCMs yet complied with the by-the-book approach needed for the established regulations of ICBM [Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles] in North Dakota. A man with a strong sense of camaraderie, he also had the ability to do focused, solo work, such as mastering his knowledge on databases for his subsequent assignment in Information Technology [IT] in the Pentagon. In this two part interview, Shiau describes his experiences, in particular, operating GLCM, and shares his reflections on the meaning of the military in the US, today in his two part interview.

Mark Zarecki, Ethiopian Rescue

Mark Zarecki enjoyed a pleasant childhood growing up in Montréal, yet as a child of a Holocaust survivor father, he was motivated to dedicate his life to service.

Ben Nicks, Captain

Captain Ben Nicks enlisted in the US Army in 1941, with the understanding that he would serve for one year. Soon after, he was asked to join the Army Air Force. For training, he would travel from Arkansas to Missouri, and to Texas, where he would meet…

Warren Marik, Signals Intelligence Specialist & CIA Case Officer

Marching to his own drummer, yet inexplicably drawn to the military, a football jock with his nose in  a history book, a seeker of hierarchy but not one who could suffer fools in authority, gladly, the young Warren’s career path was not evident.

C. Paul Barker

In a fascinating two-part interview, Lieutenant Paul Barker recounts growing up as an artistic kid and Tarzan wannabe in New Orleans until donning the Marine Corps camouflage “tree suit” and hearing the enemy personally threaten him by name on his own radio during combat in Vietnam.

Melvin Collins, Radarman 3rd Class

Dr. Melvin Collins served aboard the USS Franks DD554, a destroyer ship, in the Pacific from 1943-1945. In addition to his "day-job" as Radarman 3rd Class, he was a pioneer in using his swimming and lifesaving skills to rescue downed pilots from planes…

Dom Errichiello

Landing on Omaha beach, Normandy, on D-Day, June 7, 1944, firing in enemy pillboxes, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and in the major offensive of Berlin, the teenage Dom Errichiello, of the US Army 1st Infantry Division, 18th Regiment was no stranger…

Richard C. Rung, Motor Machinist's Mate 2nd Class

Born in Buffalo, New York, Rung was drafted to the United States Navy, in 1943 when he was eighteen years old. He had done his basic training at the Sampson Naval Training Base in Geneva, New York. But once his superiors discovered his auto-mechanics…

Captain Neal Morgan

Captain Neal Morgan, 1st Infantry Division

From playing baseball in the local park to dodging bullets zipping past one’s head in the jungle, each and every Vietnam serviceman experienced a reversal of life as he had known it.

Howell Malham, PFC

PFC Howell Malham served in the US Marine Corps, 22nd Regiment during World War II. He was a combatant in the Battle of Okinawa, in April, 1945. Shortly after the island was "secured", he was hit with a bullet from a Japanese sniper during a "mopping…

Jeffrey Woodward, SPC4

Jeffrey Woodward, author of "Last of the Glow Worms", was a specialized technician, handling nuclear warheads in the US Pershing II and the Lance missile systems, in Germany, during the late 1980's. After the US signed the INF [Intermediate-Range Nuclear…

Laurence Willborn, PFC & Protester

Laurence Willborn did not want to join the military. In fact, during the conflict in Vietnam, Willborn would advocate against the presence and involvement of American forces. Already with a wife and child, as well as a job and attending school, Willborn would be drafted in 1970. Willborn would never see combat, but he would fight his own battles in the army against a system he saw as oppressive and dangerously unconstitutional. Though strongly anti-war, Willborn’s experience in martial arts and eastern philosophy kept him from becoming a conscientious objector. He would serve for only two years, but his experience in those two years gives us an insight into the difficulties of dissent in the United States Armed Forces during the Vietnam War.

John "Bill" Petrisko, Petty Officer, 3rd Class

John Petrisko recounts his volunteering to the Navy during World War II, at age seventeen, due to his sense of patriotism. He was assigned to the USS Steady, a minesweeper, charged to clear the East China Sea of mines prior to the amphibious assault in…

Chuck Meyers, First Lieutenant, Military Intelligence

From entering the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps to foreseeing the Tet Offensive to teaching history in middle and high school, Chuck Meyers’ life has been filled with a multitude of exciting and tormenting experiences.

Meyer Widrevitz, Sergeant and Outspoken Patriot

Meyer Widrevitz was born in 1920 to plucky, immigrant Jewish parents, who met as young adults in Chicago.

LTC Bruce Peterson, US Army helicopter pilot

Bruce Peterson, Army Helicopter Pilot

There’s a select few who once they get into the military, they never leave. There may be brief moments when they contemplate leaving, but always find reasons to reenlist. Bruce Peterson is one of these lifers, and the highlight of his career was as a Bell UH-1 Iroquois “Huey” helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War.

Jesse Iwuji, LT USNR

Jesse Iwuji realized that he could fulfill his dream of playing football while serving his country, at the same, by joining the US Naval Academy. After his graduation he chose to accept a commission and became a surface warfare officer. He spent ten…

John "Bud" George Domagata, 1LT

1st Lieutenant John “Bud” Domagata began his service in Vietnam in January of 1968 as a transportation specialist, at the civilian port, at Saigon.

Scott Walker

The conversation between 45th Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, with LTG. Roger Schultz (Ret) opens a window on the unique nature of the institution of the National Guard which straddles both state and federal jurisdiction.  Walker was commander-in-chief…

Sargent Walter Sabo

Walter Sabo, Staff Sargeant

Walter Sabo enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force after high school in March of 1943, flying twenty-nine combat missions as a B-17 ball-turret gunner in the European theater in the 353th Squadron of the 301st Bombardment Group. 

Gunter Nitsch

Gunter Nitsch shares his memories as a small boy, and his extended family, living under Soviet occupation in East Prussia from 1945 to 1948. This was followed by his years in a refugee camp in West Germany, and his family's reunification with the reluctant…

Lieutenant Andrew Hoyle, US Navy Chaplain Corps

Lieutenant Andrew Hoyle, US Navy Chaplain Corps

Chaplain Andrew Hoyle’s innate compassion and morality made him a natural for the ministry both in civilian and in military life.

Lindsay, James J, General

General James Lindsay enlisted in the army in 1952. He joined the 82nd airborne division, the following year and went on to serve nine assignments in the 82nd and commanded the division from 1982-83. He served two tours in vietnam, and was the first…

Robert "Bob" Maroney, Merchant Marine

Robert Maroney served in the U.S. Merchant Marine, a link in the vital support chain for American troops and their allies during World War II, from 1942-1946. He largely worked as Fireman-Water Tender and Oiler in the engine rooms of thirteen different…

Dominic Ruggerio, Colonel

Enamored by the military from an early age, Ruggerio, attended the Bordentown Military Institute as a teen. His ROTC at Norwich University proved to be decisive for his career and he graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant of Armor in the US Army Reserves. His…

Bonnell Langford, Seaman (E3)

Although Bonnel Langford did not appear to be a military type, his sense of adventure spurred him to volunteer to the US Navy. He successful completed his basic training at the Great Lakes Naval Base and the ensuring requirements at A School, such that…

Wallace Alcorn, Chaplain & Army Officer

Wallace Alcorn began his military service in the Naval Reserve in 1947 but would finish it forty-three years later as a United States Army chaplain.

Kenneth “Rock” Merritt, Command Sergeant Major

Kenneth “Rock” Merritt was the second parachutist to jump from his plane, at the Normandy invasion, in 1944, as part of the 1st Battalion 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), in the 82nd Airborne Division.  Though his chain of command was killed,…

Richard “Dick” Duchossois, Major, United States Army

Lieutenant Duchossois is a native of Chicagoland, Illinois, born on October 7th, 1921. He attended Morgan Park Military Academy in Chicago for his high school education. He began his undergraduate degree in Virginia, when he was called to duty in World…

Everett H. Pratt, Lieutenant General

Trained to fly the F-4 Phantom II, Pratt volunteered to go to Vietnam, serving tours at both Da Nang Air Base, in Vietnam and Takhli Air Force Base in Thailand. He distinguished himself as a “Stormy” Fast FAC [Forward Air Controller]., directing close…

Senator Elizabeth Dole

Coming from a military family, marrying a WWII veteran, and serving on such committees as the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, Senator Elizabeth Dole understands many of the issues that surrounds the U.S. military—an understanding that she has…

Senator Robert “Bob” Dole, 2nd Lieutenant

There is no doubt that Senator Bob Dole will always be known for his service to his country; however, most only consider the work he has done through various levels of Government, not realizing that Senator Dole also served in the U.S. Army during WWII,…

Aniceto “Al” Rivera, Sergeant (E-5)

Encapsulating the familiar story of those that immigrate to the U.S. and then turn around and give back by serving in our military, Sgt. Aniceto “Al” Rivera’s Cuban origins lead him to want to serve with the 82nd Airborne Division, knowing that…

Keith Nightingale, Colonel

Knowing that he’d join the Army after college, Col. Keith Nightingale built a storied career in the military, beginning with two tours in Vietnam, and going through Grenada, and Iran, to a position in the Department of Defense Interagency Counterdrug…

James “Maggie” Megellas, Lt. Colonel

Looking for the opportunity to face the Germans head on, James “Maggie” Megellas requested a transfer to the paratroopers during WWII, where he would go on to face heavy fighting across Europe—including while crossing the Waal River and at the Battle…

Dr. Malcolm Ekstrand, Private 1st Class

Going from working kitchen duty with the Yankee Division in France to enduring seven days of German captivity while wounded, Dr. Malcolm Ekstrand’s story of service shows the dangers that can befall anyone, at a moment’s notice, during war.

John Borling, Major General

Major General John Borling, a career Air Force officer who spent over six and a half years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam and once released, had a long and distinguished Air Force career, was interviewed on the dates listed below as a joint venture…

Jean Tretter, Communications Technician Interpretive (CTI) First Class

After joining the Navy to escape small town Minnesota, Jean Tretter’s service would take him from the Gulf of Tonkin at the beginning of the Vietnam War serving as an undesignated sailor to listening in on Russian Cosmonauts during the breakup of Interceptio, the “Impossible” Russian Space Shot. As a high value linguist fluent in Russian, Turkish, Hindi, Urdu and Norwegian, Tretter experienced the Cold War first hand as both a US Navy and National Security Agent linguist.

Hal Bergen, Technician Fifth Grade

As a sound technician for Nuremberg trials, the international multi-lingual hearings of major Nazi criminals in the aftermath of World War II, Hal Bergen was essential for recording history in the making. Beginning in April, 1946, Bergen's responsibilities…

Edwin Fizer, Montford Point Marine

Fizer was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1925 where he experienced racial prejudice. When he heard about the Marine Corps accepting blacks’ enlistment during World War II, he took that opportunity, at the age of seventeen. The commanders at Montford…

Arthur Koblish, V-12, Navy Reserve

As a volunteer for the US Navy Reserve, in late 1942, Arthur Koblish never saw warfare, but, instead, found himself part of the V-12 program, studying at Northwestern University and Columbia University before being shipped to Pearl Harbor, in late 1945.…

Joseph Baar Topinka, Major US Army

While one might imagine an attorney a US Army sitting sedately behind a screen, Major Joseph Baar Topinka’s service, from storming buildings as part of an exercise to establish rules of engagement to offering legal medical counsel to transgendered people at a time when they did not officially “exist”, is nothing short of remarkable for its boldness, breadth, and benevolence.

Lawrence F. Kirby, Sergeant

Like so many others that felt it was a matter of duty to enlist in the military during WWII, Larry Kirby joined the Marine Corps, becoming a Communications/Scout with the 3rd Marine Division as it island hopped its way through such places as Guam to ultimately…

Gregory L. "Greg" Adams, Motion Picture Camera Operator

Gregory Adams, Motion Picture Camera Operator – Specialist 5

Armed with a camera, sound equipment, and no weaponry, Gregory Adams served a different purpose than the stereotypical soldier in the Vietnam War. Instead of engaging in combat with the North Vietnamese, Adams captured visual documentation for many US government agencies. He operated much like a civilian journalist, but with a privilege they could only dream of—unlimited access.

SFC Kit Kramer Filming the Vietnam War

Sergeant First Class Kit Kramer, SFC, DASPO (Department of the Army Special Photographic Office)

We all come in different shapes, sizes, and builds. At 5’9” and 130 pounds, Kit Kramer was turned away when he requested to join the Military Police, so he applied a skill that he’d been developing since childhood to document the Vietnam War: photography.

Specialist 5 Richard "Dick" Durrance

Richard A. "Dick" Durrance - Specialist 5, DASPO (Department of the Army Special Photographic Office)

With a photographer/documentary filmmaker for a father and a photojournalist for a mother, photography flows through Dick Durrance’s blood. Although he did not grab a camera until his sophomore year at college, inspired by a chance encounter with Ansel Adams’ “Eloquent Life,” since then, he has not put it down.

Peter “Rupy” Ruplenas, Sergeant

Through three consecutive conflicts (World War II, Korea, and Vietnam), Peter “Rupy” Ruplenas took photographs for the U.S. military so that intelligence would understand what was going on—first as a part of the Signal Corps. and then later as a…

Robert Lafoon, SGT

Robert Lafoon, SGT

After graduating the Still Photography School at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, in 1965, he he received orders to report to the Department of Army Special Photographic Office (DASPO)-Pacific. The detachment headquarters’ was located at Fort Shafter Hawaii.…

Specialist 5 Charles "Chuck" Abbott

Charles "Chuck" Abbott, MoPic (Motion Picture Camera Operator) Specialist 5

Abbott never predicted that his early interest in film, sparked by his father's and grandfather's work as projectionists, would one day take him to Vietnam to cover the war as a MoPic, a motion picture camera operator. Charles Abbott was born in Hammond, Indiana in 1941. His family moved to Illinois in 1944, and he grew up in Lansing. Abbott’s interest in photography continued to grow as he matured, and he eventually began to take advanced courses in photography and lighting at Columbia College in Chicago. In 1965, his father suggested that he consider a career in the military to take advantage of the photographic schools that were offered.

SP5 Carl Hansen

Carl C. Hansen, SGT

Every summer growing up, Carl Hansen and his family would pile into a car for a two-week vacation. The six of them would drive from Montana to Nebraska, to Canada or to California -- to name a few destinations. The trips which involved visiting relatives or supporting Hansen’s father’s military career, cemented in Carl a love for travel that would help support his future career in photography. Hansen served in the Department of the Army Special Photographic Office (DASPO) from 1967 to 1970, and eventually became the Director of Photography for the Smithsonian. Hansen’s photographic work speaks for itself and is a testament to the talent and skill of the men that served with DASPO Pacific during the Vietnam War.

Sergeant Samuel Lee Swain

Samuel "Lee" Swain, Sergeant First Class

Imagine sitting a Bell UH-1 Iroquois "Huey" military helicopter in the middle of an assault mission in the Vietnam War. But instead of shooting bullets, your job is to shoot photographs. That was Samuel “Lee” Swain’s job when he served as a US Army photographer. 

Nils R. [Ron] Thunman, Vice Admiral

With a storied career in the U.S. Navy, which even included being mentored and developed by Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, Vice Admiral Nils Ronald Thunman uses his oral history interview to discuss everything from being a witness of the nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll to playing a role in the early days of Nuclear Propulsion; from becoming a Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Submarine Warfare to finishing out his career as the Chief of Naval Education and Training in Pensacola, Florida.

SP5 Theodore "Ted" Acheson

Theodore “Ted” Acheson, DASPO (Department of the Army Special Photographic Office)

The rush of adrenaline spiraling through one’s body while photographing a battle is so powerful, it’s the equivalent of an aphrodisiac, says Theodore Acheson.

William San Hamel, Captain

A native of Chicago, Captain William San Hamel was a member of the Department of the Army Special Photographic Office (DASPO), serving as an Officer with the Pacific Unit from 1967-1969 where he acted as a producer and director, approving the photographs…

Eric Blaustein, Lieutenant (IDF)

While most of Eric Blaustein’s lectures focus on his time in the Buchenwald Concentration Camp during WWII, for his oral history with the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, he discusses the years after being liberated and, in 1948, joining the Israeli…

John Zanzucchi, Tech Sergeant

Serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, John Zanzucchi braved many battles in France and Germany as a Tech Sergeant for the infantry.

Jerome William Adler, Combat Infantryman

Jerome William Adler was born on March 26, 1931 to Mr. and Mrs. William H. Adler in Jersey City, New Jersey. He entered into active service with the United States Army on July 24, 1951.

Marie L. Davidson, Donut Dolly/Army Special Services

Volunteering with the Red Cross in order to entertain and bring a touch of “home” to the men serving their country overseas, Marie Davidson was one of the many Donut Dollies during the Korean War that helped not only supply a warm cup of coffee and…

Commissioning of Dr. Flint, then a Medical Student, as a Second Lieutenant in 1962

Dr. Lewis Flint, US Army Surgeon

As a doctor in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, Dr. Lewis Flint participated in more than 400 operations, learning and healing as a member of the 71st EVAC [Evacuation] as well as Alpha Company, 4th Medical Battalion, and Bravo Infantry, 1st Medical Battalion. 

Stewart Barbee, Mopic, Specialist 5

Stewart Barbee, Mopic, Specialist 5

Stewart Barbee’s career in the film has stretched from the Vietnam War to Star Wars. His work with the Department of the Army Special Photographic Office [DASPO] prepared him for a long and established career in Hollywood. Yet Barbee was not blinded…

Emilio Hidalgo, United States Army Forces in the Far East

If the attack on Pearl Harbor was a shock to Americans, imagine hearing the news as a soldier in the Philippines serving with the US Armed Forces in the Far East.

Captain Steve York

Captain Steven York, Air Force

Growing up during the tail-end of the Vietnam War, Steven York’s dreams of flying and military service were realized when he enlisted in the Air Force.

Elinor Otto, Riveter (A Home Front Story)

During World War II, Ms. Elinor Otto became a Riveter for the Ryan Aeronautical Company , stepping up, alongside many other women on the home front, to fill a role held by men now fighting overseas—and, in the process, helped plant the seed for women…

Major Thomas Downs

Thomas A. Downs, Major, US Air Force

From parachuting out of an attacked B-24 plane into Russian occupied Hungary during WWII to serving as a bombardier on a B-50, carrying nuclear weapons, during the Cold War, Thomas Downs’ military service offered him a lifelong education. He learned the necessity of observing problems from different perspectives, staying alert to the unexpected, both of which was infused with a deep sense of gratitude.

Toni Simovski, Interpreter

Toni Simovski used his Macedonian heritage to become an interpreter for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Karen T. Meter, HM2 (E-5)

Karen Thompson Meter served as a US Navy Corpsman during the Viet Nam War in hospitals on both the East Coast and in the Midwest. Her love of her job and of veterans is a testament of her commitment to her country and her fellow service members.

Genevieve Bowen image

Genevieve Bowen, US Marine Corps Women's Reserve

Drawn to a large cutout of a woman Marine in her winter uniform, Genevieve Bowen walked into an office only to pick up a brochure while at the U.S. Federal Building in Rochester, New York.I looked at it and I thought, ‘Oh, I'm gonna get a brochure.’ I didn't know it was a recruiting office. I was totally naive about the whole thing,” she recalls. Shortly after, she walked out as an enlisted marine.

James Capers, Jr., Major

An extraordinary story of overcoming both institutional prejudice and extreme personal injury, Major James Capers, Jr.—of the 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company—discusses his history leading up to being Commissioned by the United States Marines Corps…

Glenda Dugar, Sergeant First Class

An African-American woman, joining the US Army just as the WAAC [Women's Army Auxiliary Corps] was being phased out, in 1978, Glenda Dugar was always excited about life.

Officer Charles Sid Bergh, Aviation Radioman, US Navy

Charles Sid Bergh, Aviation Radioman Petty Officer 3rd Class

Charles Sid Bergh enlisted in the United States Navy Reserves in 1943 and served as the radioman in a TBF torpedo bomber crew during World War II over the Atlantic.

Bernard Bossov, Sergeant 1st Class

Serving as a part of 2nd Infantry Division in the 23rd Regimental Combat Team during the Korean War, Bossov recalls many stories from his position as Chief of Fire Direction, including fierce fighting at Kunu-ri and the beginnings of the May Massacre.

Lieutenant Harris Kohn in the Oral History Room at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library

Harris Kohn, Lieutenant

Coming of age in the immediate aftermath of World War II, Harris Kohn found it difficult to relate to the many veterans that filled his college campus.

Diana J. Ramsey, 1st Lieutenant

Diana J. Ramsey served in the U. S. Army Nurse Corps as an Operating Room Nurse with the 67th EVAC in Qui Nhon, Vietnam, from 1967 to 1968--including during the Tet Offensive.

Emanuel L. Bud, Sergeant

Mr. Emanuel Bud, who served from 1941 to 1946 in a variety of unique roles during his time in the Marines—as a Photo lithographer, an experimental Pioneer Platoon member, and as an Infantryman—fought in multiple campaigns of the Pacific Theater in…

Ken Rodgers, E-4

Corporal Ken Rodgers tells of the miserable conditions patrolling in Vietnam, where he served as a part of the Marine Corps’ Bravo Company, and what he witnessed as a part of the 77 day siege on Khe Sanh and retaliatory Payback Patrol—and how that…

Satsuki "Fred" Tanakatsubo, Private

Satsuki "Fred" Tanakatsubo, enlisted in the U.S. Army prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, but as a Japanese-American, dealt with serve racism as a result of that attack; still, Mr. Tanakatsubo was able to use his background to become a front line interrogator…

Enoch Kanaya, Sergeant

From being placed into an internment camp, to receiving the Congressional Gold Medal, Enoch Kanaya’s Oral History Interview discusses a wide-range of topics centered around his experience in the mountains breaking the Gothic Line with the 442nd—an…

Steve Mahoney, Colonel, Airfield Commander

Col. Steve Mahoney served as Command Inspector General, Pennsylvania National Guard; Director of Operations at Army Aviation Support Facility Pennsylvania National Guard; Installation Commander as Base Operations Commander in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Leonardo Lucio, E-6

Leonardo Lucio did not join the U.S. Navy knowing that he would serve during wartime—being sent to the Gulf during Desert Storm; nor did he think he’d see such historical changes to policies like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell during his lifetime. And yet…

Leroy Steinke, 1st Lieutenant

A decision to enroll Leroy Steinke in Saint Joseph Military Academy (Hays, Kansas) during high school lead to a lifetime of military experiences, including leading a platoon through Italy, France, and North Africa during WWII, eight years with the Army…

Burton J. Johnson, Major

Burt Johnson worked his way through the ranks to become the youngest commanding officer under General MacArthur in the Pacific—only 25 years old when he reached the rank of Major—while also having the responsibility of all POW camps in the Philippines…

Capt. Stephen Fitzgerald, USN (SEAL)

Longtime Navy SEAL Steve Fitzgerald—whose personal artifacts are on display as part of the Museum & Library's SEAL The Unspoken Sacrifice exhibit—discusses his experiences from a 24-year career in Naval Special Warfare, sharing insights on the notoriously…

Sidney Stein, E-4

During the start of the Gulf War, Sidney Stein’s appreciation for military history inspired him to enlist in the U.S. Army, leading him to serve in the DMZ between North and South Korea.

Robert Schnaith, Ensign O-1

Serving in the U.S. Navy right after World War II, Robert Schnaith used his knack for chemistry to become an engineering officer for a ship of 60 men in the South Pacific, where he and his men aided the victims of Iwo Jima.

Bobby E. Southard, Sergeant

Bobby Southard initially served with the U.S. Air Force during World War II, as a Bomb Site Operator and Mechanic, before becoming part of the Army’s 66th Infantry Division, where he guarded a War Criminal stockade in Austria.

Michael D. Ryan, E-5

In support of the Museum & Library’s SEAL The Unspoken Sacrifice exhibit, Mike Ryan shares his experiences over the course of 40 years in the military—including training and graduating with the first BUD/S class to receive the SEAL Trident, operations…

John Betzold, CDR

Serving in the Reserve for 26 years—and on active duty assignment from 1965 – 1967-- John Betzold committed his life to the strict regimen of the U.S. Navy, and has committed his retired life to seeing the fulfillment of the lives of fellow veterans.

Howard Levinson, Captain

Serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Howard Levinson’s love of flight pushed him to succeed in his training and become the pilot of a team whose job it was to fly over and photograph uncharted areas in the South Pacific.

James Darby, Communications Technician, 2nd Class

Serving in the United Sates Navy at the end of the Korean War, James Darby used his love of languages to serve his country, learning to be a Communications Technician and deciphering Russian radio communications during the Cold War.

Gerard Radice, Lieutenant Colonel

Gerard Radice used boyhood dream of handling horses as a reason to begin his career as a wheel horse driver for the U.S. Army’s artillery just prior to World War II, and then, as the War broke out, he used his natural talent for handling artillery gunfire…

Edwin Steven, Signalman, US Navy

Edwin Stevens, Signalman

Quenching his thirst for adventure, Edwin Stevens enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Arthur Grotto, Shipfitter, 2nd Class

Serving in both Theaters of World War II, Arthur Grotto used his three-years of experience as a welder for the Chicago Bridge and Iron Works to support his country, enlisting into the United Sates Navy during World War II as a part of the 29th Construction…

Lieutenant Paul Oppenheim, US Army, Transportation Corps

Paul Oppenheim, US Army Lieutenant, Transportation Corps

Using the experience he gained in the Peace Corps, Paul Oppenheim applied his broad understanding of culture while serving in the United States Army in Thailand during the peak of the Vietnam War.

Dr. Craig Leman, 2nd Lieutenant, and David Greene, Corporal

The Pritzker Military Museum & Library's Holt Oral History program was able to bring together Dr. Leman and Mr. Greene in order to discuss their individual actions at Iwo Jima, and share with an audience of family and friends the different perspectives…

Sidney “Courtney” Wright, Lieutenant

Serving for the Canadian Navy during World War II, Courtney became a radar officer, and later used his physics brilliance to advise the U.S. government during the Vietnam War, as part of a group of scientists called the JASONs.

Robert McLeod

Robert McLeod, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate, 1st Class

After twenty years of service for the U.S. Navy, Robert McLeod faced several challenges at sea—including the attacks on Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War. 

Curtis Morrow, Private 1st Class

A former Buffalo Soldier who served with the U.S. Army's last all-Black unit during the Korean War, Chicago native Curtis Morrow is an artist, a jewelry maker, and an author of two books, including What's a Commie Ever Done to Black People? — exploring…

Paul Baffico, 1st Lieutenant

Vietnam veteran Paul Baffico flew more than 200 combat missions with the 101st Airborne Division during the war, and returned home to a community that couldn't--or wouldn't--understand what the military's sacrifice had been about.

Bruno Kwapis, Army Oral Surgeon

Serving during the Korean War, Bruno Kwapis utilized his love for medicine and his surgical talents to become an oral surgeon for the medical department of the United States Army.

Seymour Levy, SP-5

As he neared graduation with a MBA from Northern Illinois University, Seymour Levy was drafted into the Vietnam War by the United States Army, going on to serve as a medic in a MASH unit set up in Tay Ninh, close to the Cambodian Border.

Robert D. Kemp, Major

Serving in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, Robert Kemp used his natural leadership ability to serve in Nha Trang and along the Cambodian Border with the 5th Special Forces.

Arthur Sheridan, Private First Class

PFC Arthur Sheridan, as a part of the 20th Armored Division, didn’t experience much direct fighting since by the time they got to Europe, the war was starting to wind down, but did witness many historical moments, including the liberation of the Dachau…

Walter Sobel, Lieutenant

Walter Sobel, despite already being an accomplished architect from Chicago, signed up for the Navy prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, experiencing attacks by kamikaze pilots on the deck of the USS New Mexico in Lingayen Gulf.

David Greene, Corporal

After graduating high school, David Greene enlisted in the Marine Corps., training as a Radio Operator for the 5th Marine Division, before being sent to the Pacific Theater of Operations, specifically Iwo Jima.

Anthony LaFalce, E-7, and Paul LaFalce PFC E-3

A unique opportunity to hear two stories about serving in the army, a generation apart, between a father and a son—one that was able to use his talents to help entertain the troops during WWII, and the other who found talents he didn’t know he had…

Stephen Wolf, Captain

Like many of his generation, Stephen Wolf's decision to join the Army came from the terrible events of September 11th, 2001, as well as his time in ROTC during college; he deployed to Afghanistan in 2009, and as a platoon leader, he patrolled the Kunar…

Jeremiah Crise, Sgt. Major

Serving the military for over 10 years, Jeremiah Crise first enlisted in the Nation Guard, before moving his service to the Air Force, and volunteering to go to Korea; there, he was assigned as a Staff Sergeant to a F-86 crew, as a part of the 51st Fighter…

Emile Bataille, Major General (Ret.)

Retired Major General Emile Bataille, former Director for Combat Support at the United States Strategic Command in Omaha, NE, had a long Army career that found him at the front of big-picture policy decisions with everything from commanding 10,000 Guardsmen…

Dr. Lee H. Strohl, Captain

A graduate of Yale Medical School, Dr. Lee H. Strohl was drafted into the army during the Vietnam war, where he served as a Battalion Surgeon near the DMZ.

Kimberly Mitchell, Lieutenant Commander, US Navy

Kimberly Mitchell is a living example of the blessings that can come from tragedy.

Samuel Gevirtz, Private First Class

Samuel Gevirtz, who grew up on the West Coast during the Depression, enlisted at the age of 18, ending up on the USS Bunker Hill, where he witnessed intense fighting and the horrors of war during the invasion of Okinawa.

Eugene Narsete, Captain

Dr. Eugene Narsete enlisted in the Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor and went to basic training at Fort Custer. He was stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska as a flight surgeon during WWII.

John Swiderski, Specialist 5

John Swiderski was drafted into the Army after completing an accounting degree at Loyola University; he served in Long Binh, Vietnam, as a part of the Vietnam

Yolanda Imhoff, Radio Operator, WAAC

Yolanda Imhoff, Radio Operator, WAAC

Serving in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Core at the end of WWII, Yolanda Imhoff used her discerning sense of hearing to transcribe coded messages.

Glenn E. Kersten, Petty Officer 1st Class

Glenn E. Kersten enlisted in the U.S. Navy, and served on a ballistic missle submarine in the late 70s.

Louis E. Celli, Tech-5

Drafted into the 104th Engineering Battalion at the age of 21, Louis E. Celli was quickly reassigned to the 50th Engineering Battalion in the Pacific, attached to the 50th Infantry Division, as a replacement for the heavy causalities that group had taken—and…

Robert L. Hoffman, Sergeant First Class

SFC Robert L. Hoffman pulled double service: first in the Merchant Marines, during WWII; and then he was drafted into the Army during the Korean War.

Louis LiCastro, Master Sergeant

Joining the military in order to gain diesel engine experience for life in the private sector, Louis LiCastro found himself in the middle of World War II—first at the attack on Pearl Harbor, and then in the jungles of the Pacific Campaign.

David Markow, Chief Warrant Officer

World War II veteran David Markow enlisted in the Army just before the U.S. entered the war; he helped to prepare artillery weapons by testing them at Aberdeen Proving Grounds before ultimately deploying to Europe in support of the troops already fighting…

Wayne L. Fischer, Captain

A Marine aviator and veteran of the 1968 Tet Offensive, Wayne Fischer completed nearly 700 combat missions during the Vietnam War, piloting helicopters for insertions, extractions, and MEDEVAC operations.

Kent Bubel, Lieutenant O-3

Kent Bubel worked his way up from Navy ROTC recruit at the University of Illinois, to a commissioned officer stationed in the Persian Gulf during the Iraq war, planning trips for high visibility VIPs, including General Petraeus, President Barak Obama,…

James H. Mukoyama, Major General

Major General James H. Mukoyama, has had a long and illustrious military career, which includes combat patrols in Korea, commanding an infantry company and advising South Vietnamese Army units in the Vietnam War, and being the youngest general in the…

Ronald Grafstrom, Airman 1st Class

Ronald Grafstrom enlisted in the Air Force at age 20 and ended up supporting the 428th Fighter Bomber Squadron during the Korean War.

Ruth Berger, 1st Lieutenant

Ruth Berger, who longed for adventures beyond her Evanston, IL home, enlisted in the Army in the summer of 1944, and was sent to the European Theater of Operations as a 1st Lieutenant and assigned to the 34th Hospital Train based out of Paris, France.…

James Mulvaney, Lieutenant

James Mulvaney, who joined the Infantry as an officer after graduating from DePaul University's ROTC program, was stationed at a camp on the Korean DMZ in 1957.

Lawrence J. Littel, Private First Class

Lawrence Littel was drafted into the Army (160th Infantry Regiment, 40th Division) during World War II , given eight weeks of heavy training as a rifleman, and sent to the Pacific Theater of Operations.

Jack Herman, Sergeant

In addition to being a part of "Operation Nordwind" in France's Vosges Mountains, Jack Herman also served as a messenger, a translator for German POW's and civilians, and a rifleman, as a part the 70th Infantry Division--rising to the rank of Sergeant…

John Mikos, Lieutenant Colonel

Colonel John Mikos, who joined the army through his university's ROTC program in 1985, witnessed the fall of the Berlin wall during his first overseas deployment, and was involved with Corps level logistics planning for the invasion of Iraq during the…

William J. Reed, Staff Sergeant

Staff Sergeant William J. Reed served as a cook for a Combat Engineering Unit stationed in Europe during World War II.

Donald E. Casey, 2nd Lieutenant

After enlisting in the US Army Air Corps Aviation Cadet Program in 1942, Donald Casey flew combat missions over Europe, where, on his 28th mission, he was shot down and taken as a P.O.W. to Stalag Luft III.

Richard T. Lockhart, Corporal

Richard T. Lockhart, who enlisted in the army from Purdue University's ROTC program in 1942, was captured by the German Army when his unit was forced to surrender during the Battle of the Bulge.

George J. Havelka, Military Police

George Havelka, who served as a Military Police Officer (MP) from 1966 - 1968, experienced heavy combat during his service in Viet Nam, including with the Tet Offensive.

Irving Ellis, Major

Irving Ellis fought as an infantryman throughout the European Theater of Operations of World War II and served as a training officer during the Korean Conflict.

John McNalis, Chaplain

Father John McNalis served as a military Chaplain on Air Force bases between 1973 and 1997, completing brief assignments on bases in Germany and Japan.

Daniel Devine, Sergeant

Daniel Devine, served with the U.S. Marine Corps from September, 1968 to March, 1975, facing communist insurgents around the world.

Stetson M. Siler, Colonel

Colonel Stetson M. Siler served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force from July 8, 1976 to July 31, 2006.

James C. Lanz, Quartermaster 2/C

World War II veteran James Lanz served in the U.S. Navy departing from Pearl Harbor 2 years after that infamous attack to serve in the Pacific Theater of Operations on an LST-34.

Lawrence Westerman, 1st Lieutenant

World War I veteran, Purple Heart recipient, and former Illinois National Guardsman Lawrence Westerman's oral history is among the earliest in our catalog, serving as the foundation for the Holt Oral History Program.

Lieutenant John Mateyko

John Mateyko, LTC

LTC Mateyko may facetiously attribute his desire to train as a helicopter pilot to the sleep deprivation that he experienced in artillery Officer Candidate School. Yet rescuing an artillery unit that got hit badly in Vietnam War, and co-piloting a helicopter that took a bullet, are certainly not for the faint of heart. LTC Mateyko vividly and frankly recounts his deployment to Vietnam, his ensuring deployment to Germany during the Cold War, as well as his twenty-three year US Army Reserves, in Traffic Management Command. His interview also reflects upon questions such as, "What makes a good leader?"