War stories

Local volunteers gather compelling memories from the Greatest Generation

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Fred Gehle and his wife haven’t had a meal in their dining room in six years.

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Mementoes of area resident Roderick Turnbull - a World War II veteran and participant in the D-Day invasion - are gathered in this 2004 photo. Turnbull died in 1999, but many surviving World War II veterans also have fascinating stories to tell.  FILE/STAFF
FILE/STAFF
Mementoes of area resident Roderick Turnbull - a World War II veteran and participant in the D-Day invasion - are gathered in this 2004 photo. Turnbull died in 1999, but many surviving World War II veterans also have fascinating stories to tell.



World War II keeps getting in the way.

The Augustans’ dining room table is a veritable battlefield of stacks and stacks of memories from the area’s aging veterans of the Second World War – some 800 of them, as a matter of fact. The retired Gehle, the Augusta-Richmond County Historical Society and dozens of volunteers have been interviewing the vets on camera since 2007 to get their stories told and compiled as part of a national effort by the Library of Congress to preserve this national treasure of untapped experiences.

The memories are emotional enough that, almost three-quarters of a century later, some vets can’t even talk about them. Or if they can, they may have to stop the interview to compose themselves.

And sometimes, their spouses admit to having heard the life-and-death tales for the first time.

You couldn’t ask for a better man to head the effort locally than Fred Gehle. Although just 8 years old on Pearl Harbor Day, Gehle is so consumed with the heroism and cohesion of America in those difficult years – both abroad and at home – that he owns some 4,000 books on the subject. That would be more than most libraries.

He picked up three more, on a recent trip to Ireland.

“Everywhere I go, I’m looking for another story,” he says.

His passion for the sacrifices of the Greatest Generation was further stoked by a trip to see the National World War II Museum in New Orleans a few years back. When asked to join this area’s historical society board, he took that passion with him. It spread like the flu.

Now an active 80, the former track star and professional recruiter has been recruiting veterans to tell long-private stories for posterity. It has become a seven-day-a-week mission.

The veterans have to meet three basic criteria: 1) they have strong ties to the Augusta area; 2) they have compelling stories; and 3) they have to be willing to tell it.

The videos will be sent to the Library of Congress, to Reese Library at the former Augusta State University and, of course, to the veterans themselves.

Why? Gehle has the best reason we’ve ever heard: Those veterans “literally saved the world, in my opinion.” It’s in the world’s best interests to know how.

Another great reason comes from a veteran: These stories are living proof of the need to end war.

And yet another reason: We’re quickly losing the vets themselves, and it would be inexcusable if their stories of harrowing heroism went untold. Gehle figures that just since the start of the Veterans’ History Project we’ve lost about a third of the 800 featured veterans.

The best 200 stories are in the process of being transcribed for an upcoming book, on which one University of South Carolina Aiken and two Georgia Regents University professors are collaborating. Gehle and the group need about $20,000 to get that done, and have raised about $12,000 of it – meaning they need another $8,000, which they’ll take in any increments. Contributions, which are made through the Augusta-Richmond County Historical Society, are tax-deductible.

May history record that the sons and daughters of the Augusta area helped save the world from tyranny and darkness.

This group is recording how.

(Contributions may be made to ARCHS -Publication Project, Reese Library, Georgia Regents University Augusta, 2500 Walton Way, Augusta, GA 30904.)

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deestafford
48845
Points
deestafford 08/25/13 - 08:24 am
2
2
It's a shame people don't know more about the history, bravery,

and sacrificies made by those who fought to make and keep a country free. My hat is off to the people who are working on this project and hopefully the fruits of this labor of love will was away the crust of ignorance upon many of our children who are not taught history in school.

History is a fascinating subject and it seems the older I get the more fascinating it becomes and how more ignorant I become because I discover more that I don't know. For example, last night I watched a short video about how the Israelis had only four planes when it declared it independence in 1948 because there was an international embargo on against Israel and countries, including the US refused to give them any aid of any sort. It seems they had acquired four planes from the Checs and had to put them together in secret the night before they were to fly into battle. They were flown by four American WWII pilots who slipped pass the FBI and the embargo to get to Israel and fly those planes which turn the course of the war. There were 600,000 Israelis against 15,000,000 Arabs of five countries. The won there freedom because of a desire that only the oppressed can have and they won it with no help from American government led by Truman and the democrats.

This is another example of how the democrats cared more about what the international community thought than they did about freedom and liberty. It seems nothing has change since then.

dahreese
5038
Points
dahreese 08/25/13 - 11:39 am
2
3
"This is another example of
Unpublished

"This is another example of how the democrats cared more about what the international community thought than they did about freedom and liberty."

History is indeed a fascinating subject nor are you the only one still learning it.

However, one fact of your history above needs a little bit of factuality; it was Truman, a democrat, who signed off on this country's ok of 'taking' Palestinian land and 'giving' it to "Israel."

Additionally, a little further history, the second world war was begun out of the seeds of the first world war by the overly heavy reparations required of that country before anyone ever heard of Adolph Hitler or the Nazis.

As to your swipe about democrats and the international community, let any republican who is without sin cast the first stone.

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