Recently, “Emperor,” starring Tommy Lee Jones, opened in theaters nationwide, telling the story of the final days of World War II and the occupation of Japan that followed. To add an Ohio perspective to that story, the Ohio Departments of Aging and Veterans Services released 22 new submissions to their War Era Story Project (www.aging.ohio.gov/news/storyprojects), each sharing the author’s unique experience of that time and those events. Highlights include:
Judy Cupp, age 75, Greenville retells the story of her uncle, Donald Kincaid, who was an M.P. and was on duty the night that the Japanese Premier Hideki Tojo was executed. As a final act, Tojo gave Mr. Kinkaid a very unique and meaningful gift.
Ralph Bornhorst, Sidney was drafted into the Navy in 1944 and served on the U.S.S. Idaho. He watched the invasion of Iwo Jima, including the iconic flag-raising, from the crow’s nest on that ship.
Shacorrah Nicole Crosby, age 25, Twinsburg chronicled the World War II experiences of her grandfather, Walter Lewis Brown. Mr. Brown’s unit relocated Japanese residents in the U.S. to internment camps. He met boxer Joe Lewis in Italy.
Ruth Hergenrather, age 86, Brookville, tells the story of her husband Bob, who served aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in 1945 and was present when the peace treaty with Japan was signed. She gives details of that event in his words.
Clement Kiener, age 94, Columbus, was a commander of 125 men in Okinawa. He witnessed kamikazes flying overhead. He saw Ernie Pyle a day before the journalist was killed.
Sho Maruyama, age 86, Yellow Springs, was the teenaged son of Japanese immigrants in 1942. He and his family, like many others, were interred in an evacuation camp from 1942-44.
Betty Odley, age 93, Cincinnati writes about her brother Paul, who completed seminary, but then dropped out to enlist. When his parents bought a house, Paul promised to come home and paint it, but fate had other, more tragic plans.
John Ruff, age 90, Cincinnati. Shortly after the Japanese Surrender, Ruff and his seaplane squadron accepted a Japanese veteran’s invitation to dine at his home, much to the disapproval of a passing M.P.
Wayne Shaner, age 86, Columbus, joined the Navy in 1944 and served on the U.S.S. Oneida, an amphibious transport. He describes daily routine and the organization of men aboard into divisions.
Homer Wilson, age 87, Cincinnati served in several European campaigns before being sent to Okinawa as part of the occupation force. There, he had an unexpected reunion with someone he hadn’t seen since the war started.
Antony Zifer, age 89, Darbydale - was a baker on the U.S.S. Pavo. He witnessed a horrible fate for Japanese women and children who believed their leaders’ propaganda. He also describes the celebration on his ship when the war ended.
These stories join 65 others that were posted previously. The agencies received nearly 300 submissions and will continue to release them in small batches until all have been shared.
The War Era Story Project was a follow-up to the Department of Aging’s award-winning 2009 Great Depression Story Project. Since this project was intended to explore Ohio’s war-time experience, the Department teamed with the Ohio Department of Veterans Services to collect stories from veterans of World War II, as well as the men, women and children who held steady on the home front.
The project garnered submissions from 284 individuals, including 21 who currently reside out of state or who did not provide location information. Ohio residents represent 50 different counties. Of the authors who provided an age, the oldest was 100 and the youngest was 25. The average age of the authors was 83.