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Honoring Our World War II Veterans

Original Air date 05/30/2011

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In commemoration of Memorial Day, we present recorded audio clips of veterans sharing their moving stories of fighting for our nation during World War II.

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Episode Transcript


John Fuller: Without a doubt, one of the defining moments of World War II occurred on June 6, 1944.


Robert St. John: This is Robert St. John in the NBC newsroom in New York. Ladies and gentlemen, we may be approaching a fateful hour. All night long, bulletins have been pouring in from Berlin, claiming that D-Day is here, claiming that the invasion of Western Europe has begun.

End of Clip

John: Well, today, we're gonna be taking a unique look at some of the most dramatic moments in world history. This is FOF with Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller and, Jim, we have a special Memorial Day broadcast here.

Jim Daly: John, first and foremost, Memorial Day, so many have forgotten what it actually represents. And it's a moment to stop and reflect on the men and women who have given their lives to the effort of defending our freedoms.

John: Hm.

Jim: And that's first and foremost what we want to remember today. Not only those who fought these wars, but also their families, who sacrificed a great deal. World War II, as we heard in that clip, had a devastating impact right around the globe. It was a crucial battle, D-Day. I was not born yet, but I could imagine what the emotion and the energy of that moment was like. Many things hung in the balance.

110 million people were mobilized for service during World War II. That's within the Soviet Union, Germany, the United States. Over 60 countries participated in that battle. The financial cost was something around $1 trillion--a lot of money then and still a lot of money today.

More sobering is the loss of human life. There were more than 60 million people who died during that conflict. Today, I want to look back through the voices of the servicemen who lived through this ordeal. And we want to honor all of our armed forces around the world today, remembering the lives that were lost to pay for our freedoms.

John: Well, we do have a special program here to honor the World War II vets. And so, for the next 25 minutes, as you indicated, we're gonna hear from the servicemen and imagine what it was like for their families while their young men and women served in our military to defend our freedoms.


John: December 7th, 1941 is a date forever etched in the memory of most older Americans. Much like the emotions now triggered by the mention of September 11th, men and women from that Greatest Generation can usually recall exactly where they were when they heard the news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and they remember exactly how they responded.

Tom Hughes: I had been with my scout troop and our scout master at a winter camp, up at the Boy Scout camp up in mountains. It was a very cold blustery night. We got very little sleep. And the next morning we left to go back home and we had the radio on in the car and we heard the message on the radio that Pearl Harbor had been bombed.


Announcer: From the NBC Newsroom in New York, President Roosevelt said in a statement today that the Japanese had attacked the Pearl Harbor, Hawaii from the air. I'll repeat that. President Roosevelt says that the Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii from the air. This bulletin came to you from the NBC newsroom in New York.

End of Clip

Tom: I had friends in high school that left high school and joined the army or joined the navy before they graduated.


Announcer: Sacramento, the state capitol reports that the recruiting picture has changed overnight. And from border to border, from Canada to Mexico, draftees who once sought exemption now are clamoring to get into uniform.

End of Clip


Announcer: America in step for victory, America marshaling its energies for war, American soldiers at the front, a great civilian army lending them support from behind the lines. Yes, the American people are determined that nothing shall stand in the way of total victory.

End of Clip

Tom: Well, we were very patriotic. We all wanted to go into the service. We all wanted to get involved. And we wanted to go out and take care of those people that had done us dirt.


Announcer: Remember folks, put your fighting dollars beside your fighting men and save for victory. Music, Man Singing: "Buy more stamps and bonds; they are really swell, 'cause they buy the bombs to blow the axis to well, you know what we meant to say, so buy bonds today and we'll keep our country free."

End of Clip

Tom: I discussed with it my mom and dad and I said, "I want to join the navy and do I have your permission?". My dad went with me and we went to a recruiting station and they said "We want you to finish high school, and then we'll call you up." So, I went back and finished high school and graduation day I got my orders to report to navy recruiting station in one week.


MaleAnnouncer: Ladies and gentlemen, there are some shows you can't buy your way out of, except at the price of blood, sweat, and tears. There's a show like that going on in Pacific right now, and it's up to us to buy an end to it.

FemaleAnnouncer: We can do it with our purchases of war bonds in this mighty seventh war loan.

End of Clip

Tom: I got off at the recruiting station and they put us together and put us in a bus and took us down to Union Station. Put us on a troop train. And I looked out the window and right across on the next track to me was my father standing by his train. And he was a conductor and he had a train going out. So, I asked the man in charge of my car, "Can I go and say goodbye to my dad?" And he said yes, so I did. I went across the tracks, and said goodbye to dad and he had a tear in his eye and so did I. But I had to run back and get on my train, 'cause they were ready to leave. And I even wondered if I'd ever see him again, you know.

John: That scene occurred thousands of times across the country as young men bravely accepted their assignments, hugged their families one last time, and headed off to war.

What they would face there would test the strongest of hearts. Soldiers, airmen and sailors vividly recall the gruesome realities of the battle and they quickly recognized that God's providence was the only thing they could rely on.

Dick Korthals: Probably the most, the clearest was on dropping the paratroopers on Corregidor. And uh ... and I was the second ship that was dropping. And because our target area was so small, we'd dropped on the freight ground in the center of a quadrangle of destroyed buildings. So, we had to come in very low and very slow and we could only drop six paratroopers on a stick. And the first ... the guy ahead of me got hit and was going down. And he was saying, "I'm going down! I'm going down!" And I knew that I would be over that in about 15 more seconds and I became so frightened that my mind clouded up. I couldn't think. The perspiration started running from under my armpits and my hands were trembling. And I just knew that possibly in 15 seconds I'd be gone.

And at that instant, all of my Christian background came up and I just said, "Lord, if I die, take me to be with You in Heaven." And I'll never forget that instant after that. It felt like there was God's presence in the cockpit. And instantly my perspiration stopped; my trembling stopped. My mind cleared up and I lost every sense of fear that I had. And I have never in my whole life forgotten that feeling of warmth and comfort that I had in that second.

Jack Paulton: We were one of the ships that was supposed to be on "ready duty" with our steam power in good shape. And no one could leave the ship, except the captain went ashore and got stone-dead drunk. And he came back in the whale boat. I mean, the crew took him back and we tied a rope around him, hoisted him up and dropped him in his bunk.

Then, the flashing light from shore sent word to us: "Stand out. Get ready to take a convoy." The executive officer said, "I refuse to take the ship out with the captain in that shape. I'm not gonna take that responsibility." Flash back [to] my answer that we're having a little trouble with our steam pressure. The ship next to us read all of the language going on, on the flashing light.

Well, that was the USS Underhill and they took our place. And that night the news came back that the Underhill had taken a torpedo and sunk and lost half their men. So, they took our place as Jesus did. They died for us.

Clayton Rasmussen: We were right by our foxhole. There was another man and I that were on duty at the shop in middle of the night. And I had my foxhole dug underneath a bunch of pipes. And so I figured that if I got a bomb anywhere near me, it would knock the pipes down over my foxhole and it'd be all protected.

But anyway, I dove in there and then this bomber, dive bomber, dropped the bombs, and he had four bombs. And the first two were down in the island a little bit and then kept getting closer. So the second one was not very far and the third one I knew was gonna be right on top of us. And just went thud and the fourth one went off down on the reef.

And it had gone right across us and that one that was a dud landed right in our ammunition and dynamite dump, which was right next door to us. And if that had gone off, it would've just killed all of us in that area. And I thank the Lord. In fact, I can plainly remember when I dove in that foxhole, "The Lord save me!" And it was just an instant, I knew it was Lord watching over me all the time, but those times there's nothing you can do yourself at all. It's all up to the Lord.

Richard Favinger: As we came over a rise, and a bend in the trail, there was a bunker, probably 10 to 12 feet down off the trail. And as the doctor and I and the communications officer and his corporal topped this rise, a screaming Jap came running out of that bunker with a grenade in each hand. And of course, the screaming attracted the attention of every marine within 50 feet. And he was literally cut in half with automatic rifle fire.

One of the grenades was in the process of throwing and landed not more than 10 feet from us. And the corporal without hesitation threw himself on that grenade, thereby saving the life of his officer, the doctor, [and] myself. Of course, he was ripped open in the abdomen. And the doctor turned to me and said, "You go back to the beach and pick up two cases of our blood plasma and get back here." So I left my rifle there and I ran back this trail to the beach. And as I came out of the jungle onto the edge of the beach, and I see little pops of sand pop up – about four of them just in front of my feet. And I'm saying, "This is kinda far from the ocean for sand crabs."

And just about that time, a little Australian coast watcher stepped out from behind a tree. And he said, "Stop right here. I saw where that sniper was." And he disappeared into that underbrush in the jungle. And I'm peeking around that tree and I hear a pistol shot and then I see a rifle fall out of that tree. And then I went on and I found my two cases of blood plasma. And we took as best care of him as we could.

And that night about half hour before sunset, you have to make a place to bivouac for night. And in our training, one of the things that was stressed: when you're on a jungle patrol of any kind and you have to dig in, make sure you're at least 20 feet off that trail. Well, we had been assigned a jeep driver, ambulance driver from the motor pool. And even though I cautioned him and re-cautioned him about digging his foxhole too close to that trail, he ignored me. And about two o'clock in the morning, an artillery shell landed and it landed about 20 feet from where I was. So, my foxhole partner and myself were tossed in air, twisted like pretzels with this concussion and then slammed back down into this foxhole. And we couldn't do anything more until sunrise.

Sunrise, [we] crawled out of our foxhole, and I crawled over to Tony Ralls' foxhole, and the shell had landed at the head of his foxhole, and just literally cut off the top half of his head. And it was at that point that I felt I was enclosed with a force that was protecting me. I could just feel it. And that force stayed with me almost the whole operation. And we were on the front lines of that operation for 60 straight days. But there were many times when it was very, very evident to me that I was being protected. It's a known fact that you don't go through combat and not know naught about God. And many, many of us who already knew, helped others find Him or at least find their way to Him.

Program Note

John: Probably more than anything else that we can encounter, the horror of war brings us to our knees. And while these men that we've heard from today so far, made it home safely, it's estimated that over 500,000 U.S. and Canadian soldiers did not.

I'm John Fuller and this is a special Memorial Day Focus on the Family today, remembering specifically the sacrifices our World War II veterans made for our freedom.

And after five years of war involving over 60 different countries, the entire world breathed a sigh of relief. And the first signs of victory began to emerge in France In 1944.

End of Program Note

Sam Kennedy: Our outfit was asked to stop a German flank movement and was successful in doing so. And shortly thereafter we were able to motor up to Paris to be there for the liberation of Paris and to go down that famous avenue called the Champs-Élysées and go into the Eiffel Tower as newly minted heroes.


Announcer: This is Matthew Holte of the CBC speaking from Paris. Speaking from Paris, I am telling you today about the liberation of Paris, about our entry into the town yesterday, and I don't know how to do it. Though there was still fighting in the streets, Paris went absolutely mad. Paris and ourselves (sic) were in a delirium of happiness yesterday and all last night and today. Yesterday was the most glorious and splendid thing I've ever seen.

End of Clip

Sam: People were jumping higher than they knew how to jump, and yelling louder than they knew how to yell. And every time the cavalcade would slow down or stop, French girls would come running out and grab some GI and kiss the skin off of him. Trouble was, I was too tall and they couldn't reach me!

Duke Boswell: Toward the end we could see that the Germans we were meeting, and capturing and killing were very young, and very old. We could see they were sorta scrapping the bottom of the barrel. And we were hoping it was gonna end soon, but we didn't know. We were just hoping we could last a little bit longer until it did end.


Announcer: From April 1st to 6th, a total of 189,611 German prisoners were marched into our prison pens here. And approximately another 25,000 were killed or wounded. No army can lose 200,000 men a week for very long.

End of Clip

Sam: We fought our way across Germany and made a right hand turn and went south to Nuremberg. And were told to wait there, and then sent south of Nuremberg to go over the hump to Linz, Austria, when the word came that it was a cease fire.


Announcer: The National Broadcasting Company delays the start of all its programs to bring you a special bulletin: It was announced in San Francisco half an hour ago by a high American official, not identified, saying that Germany has surrendered unconditionally to the Allies, no strings attached and that the announcement is to be made formally by General Eisenhower. I'll repeat that the formal announcement not yet made, but the official says that Germany has surrendered unconditionally to America, Britain and Russia.

End of Clip

Sam: And we all screamed like idiots and had a great old time rejoicing over the fact that we didn't have to fight anymore.


Announcer: A very great crowd has collected already. Thousands upon thousands of people are gathered to share this historic day with the king and queen.

End of Clip


King George VI: Today we give thanks to Almighty God for our great deliverance. I ask you to join with me in that act of thanksgiving.

End of Clip


British Officer B.L. Montgomery: What I have to say is very simple and quite short. I would ask you all to remember those of our comrades who fell in the struggle. They gave their lives that others might have freedom. And no man can do more than that. And we who remain have seen the thing through to the end. We all have a feeling of great joy and thankfulness that we have been preserved to see this day. We must remember to give the praise and thankfulness where it is due. This is the Lord's doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.

End of Clip

Dick Korthals: When I look back at my growing up in the depression and my participation in World War II, you don't want to say it about war, but I think in a way it was one of great times of my life. Not because of the sacrificing so much as the unity of purpose that we were all striving for one thing and the country was united about one purpose. And you were side by side with your friends and your buddies and you were willing to die, to defend your country. That was just a tremendous feeling. And I wish somehow that we could impart to them, this feeling of commitment and loyalty. That's what I think this generation is missing, that I wish that they could look back on our generation and say, "They had something, and I wish we could get it back."


John: Hm. That's just one of the dozen or so men that we interviewed a few years ago about their experiences during World War II. And, in fact, many of them have passed away since we originally aired their remarks.

This is "FOF." Jim Daly is our host. I'm John Fuller and we've had a special radio program today, acknowledging Memorial Day and the sacrifice of so many.

Jim: Think of the men and women who sacrificed back then John, that we might have freedom that we enjoy today. Many were separated from their loved ones for up to five to six years during that conflict. When they came home, they were different. We know today that PTSD exists--Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many of them never did recover.

Former NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw wrote a book about people who participated in World War II. It was titled The Greatest Generation. And it is true. They did something unique--

John: Hm.

Jim: --something that they were called to do to liberate this world from tyranny. World War II was horrible, as I said at the top of the show. Over 60 million people died and I just pray that free people will not have to go through that kind of pain again.

If you see a military family today or this week or for that matter, any time, thank them for their sacrifice that they're making--not just the servicemen, but their families, as well.

You know, John, one of the things I like to do, if I'm standing in line for coffee, you can probably guess where that might be--

John: Uh-hm.

Jim: --but oftentimes if there's a serviceman in line, I will offer to pay for his cup of coffee. That's the least I could do.

John: You know, I think one of the most memorable moments I had around military men and women was at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. I was havin' lunch and I heard applause.

Jim: Hm.

John: And it kept going, just you know, people in the foot court started applauding. And we looked and up on the second story was a walkway with a glass wall so we could see who was on there. It was a bunch of military men and women getting off a plane, transferring. And as they went by, it felt like a couple of hundred of 'em, but as they walked by, we all stood and applauded. And it went on for four or five minutes. It was emotionally moving to me, as I thought about these dear people who had given so much and the families they represented. It was the least I could do, was to stand up and say, "Thank you."

Jim: Hm. It reminds me of a story. If you fly a lot, I think during the time of war, you do encounter servicemen. In our case, I was on a flight where a dead serviceman was being returned--

John: Oh, my.

Jim: --to his family. And the pilot came on at the end of the flight and simply said, "Will you remain seated to honor this man (with emotion)." And I was surprised; everybody did. Everybody sat very quietly while they opened that plane up and pulled his body out.

John: Hm.

Jim: And that's the kind of honor we need to share with these people.

Closing Voice Track:

John: Well, I do so appreciate what you're saying, Jim, and I'm not sure I've ever heard that that story and it moves me, as well, it illustrates the need that we have and why we're airing this program today. We want to bring honor to those who have given so much. For those who have given their lives for our freedom.

And I would only turn to you as a listener and invite you to say thank you to a veteran in your neighborhood, at church or in the store. Just appreciate them today and of course, in the days ahead.

And here at Focus we're keenly aware of the strains and stresses on families of soldiers who are deployed around the world or perhaps on their third or fourth deployment. Let us reach out to you and say, thank you for allowing that family member to be serving.

And I'll encourage you, if you have a heart for our military to learn more about life on the battlefield. I'd suggest the book, Stories of Faith and Courage from World War II. It's a daily devotional, actually, with stories from that great battle for good. And it offers relevant scripture, 365 entries with maps and photos and background. And you'll find that at

Our program was provided by FOF and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller and we'll end our special program today with this performance here at FOF recently, by the Azusa Pacific Men's Chorale. (Singing God Bless America).


Azusa Pacific Men's Choral (Singing):

God bless America, land that I love.

Stand beside her and guide her through the night with a light from above.

From the mountains to the prairies to the oceans white with foam.

God bless America, my home, sweet home.

God bless America, my home, sweet home.

End of Song

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Jim Daly

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Jim Daly is President and Chief Executive Officer of Focus on the Family, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families thrive, where he also serves as host of the daily radio program. Daly and his wife, Jean, have two sons and live in Colorado Springs, Colo.


John Fuller

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John Fuller is vice president of the Audio division and co-host of the daily "Focus on the Family" radio program. He speaks and writes about family, faith, media and business. John and his wife, Dena, reside in Colorado Springs, Colo., and have six children.