[ Silence ]
>> Good afternoon everyone, and thank you
for joining us the Rockefeller Center as we celebrate Veterans Day.
My name is Jack Boger and I'll be serving as a moderator for our discussion this afternoon
on World War II Remembered: Then and Now.
I'm a senior Dartmouth and I was asked by Sadhana Hall, the deputy director
of the Rockefeller Center to help out today through my work
as a Rockefeller Leadership Fellow and because upon graduation, I'll be commissioning
as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps along with my buddy Joe Malkin [phonetic] up there.
When Sadhana Hall reached out, I was humbled and it truly is my privilege and honor to be here
with our wonderful panelists this afternoon.
The man on my left is Clinton Gardner, Class of '44.
He served for four years in the army as an officer in the anti-aircraft artillery.
He was wounded in the D-Day Invasion of Normandy and again in the Battle of the Bulge.
Shortly before the war in Europe ended, he was put in charge
of recently liberated Buchenwald Concentration camp.
He'd reach the rank of captain when he returned to finish Dartmouth in 1946 to 1947.
In 1956, he and his wife Libby founded a national mail order company called Shopping
International, a venture based in Norwich, Vermont,
that sent them on buying trips to more than 40 countries.
To his left is Mary Mecklin Jenkins.
The daughter of a Dartmouth professor, Mary grew up in Hanover.
wTwo months after graduating from college,
she married freshly minted Second Lieutenant John Jenkins,
and went with him to a B-29 Air Force base in Victoria, Kansas where he was
in service as an intelligence officer.
After the war, while raising four children, Mary was president of a local League of Woman Voters
in Connecticut, the first woman moderator of Westport's Representative Town Meeting,
and served on the town's Planning and Zoning Commission, as well as the Board of Finance.
She was recipient of a grant from the West German government to study German women
in politics, and also went to the Soviet Union twice on exchanges sponsored
by Bridges for Peace: US and USSR.
Finally, we have Dr. Robert Christie who, at the tender age of 16,
matriculated at Norwich University, the Military College of Vermont
and the oldest private military college in the nation.
He enlisted in the US Army immediately after Pearl Harbor, and after being called
to up active duty, he spent a year as an enlisted man before eventually graduating
from Officer Candidate School at Fort Knox as a second lieutenant serving in Armor.
His military service was in Europe as a tank unit commander in Germany from the onset
of the Battle of the Bulge until the war's end in 1945.
Bob was separated from service in 1946 as a company commander.
Forty months later, he returned to Norwich to get his BS, and with the help of the GI Bill,
graduated from State University of New York College of Medicine at New York City.
Dr. Christie interned and had residencies at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center,
and for three years, practiced general medicine in Northfield, Vermont.
He later specialized in pathology and laboratory medicine, directed eight hospital laboratories
in New Hampshire and Vermont, and served on the Dartmouth Medical School faculty.
His memoir in World War II Remembered reflects his combat experiences and their after effects.
So this evening, each of our panelists will speak for roughly ten minutes followed
by another ten minutes of facilitated conversation.
And then at the very end, we'll open the floor up to general discussions.
But before our panelists begin speaking, I'd like to open with a short video
from Brian Williams on MSNBC Nightly News from early this year when the book,
World War II Remembered that our three panelists help edit at Kendal
at Hanover Retirement Community when that aired earlier this year.
>> Finally tonight, it might be the greatest slow-motion tragedy
of our times, and we can't stop it.
The greatest generation is fading from the scene.
World War II veterans are dying at the rate of 740 a day, along with everybody else
who contributed to the war effort and then worked so hard
to build a better country here at home.
Some members of that generation are getting their memories
down on paper so we'll all have them.
An increasing number of retirement communities are doing it in book form,
including a place called Kendal at Hanover in Hanover, New Hampshire.
Fifty-six residents have put their stories into a book.
They tell the story of World War II at home and away, and some of them they shared with us.
>> D-Day, June 6th, 1944.
>> Long ago, he was a young man, brave, scared, proud to be a part of a fighting force
on a foreign shore trying to save the world.
Clint Gardner was an Army first lieutenant on Omaha Beach.
He's now 89.
>> Suddenly I heard a sharp explosion just in front of me.
My head snapped back as if hit by a sledge hammer, and a curtain of warm blood poured
over my forehead, closing my eyes.
>> His helmet still survives from that day, so did he.
Though his skull was nearly split apart, his deepest wounds came later in the war,
when he witnessed the liberation of the concentration camp at Buchenwald.
>> We were instantly surrounded by this swarm of skeletons draped in yellowing flesh.
We saw hundreds of bodies piled outside the crematorium.
I realized that I had been changed by this experience.
>> Home was changing, too, as a young newlywed Mary Jenkins found herself
on an Air Force base in Kansas.
>> It was 1944 when I, as a New Englander and a brand-new bride,
found myself in the heart of Kansas.
Our one goal was to win this war and it was a period that was quite remarkable to live
through because-- and it was uplifting, this feeling of unity.
>> Everyone experienced the war differently, and yet the most unique story
in the book may be that of Kesa Noda.
As Japanese-Americans, her family spent World War II in an internment camp
and she tells her father's story.
>> I went to a bus depot as ordered.
Army soldiers who were there herded us into buses.
They took us to the Santa Anita race track and told us to get off.
There were guard towers and barbed wire around the entire site.
We were given one horse stall with horse manure on the walls.
When I heard the story from my father, I said, "Did you ever give up hope?"
And he looked at me as if that was the strangest question.
"No, we never gave up hope," he said, "never."
>> Robert Christie came home from the war a decorated combat veteran,
an experience he translated into powerful verse.
>> I am not a hunter, I am a killer.
I hunted people, women, kids, old people, enemy soldiers, who knows?
They never could lay it on me, 2,000 yards away, right?
I did it not because I enjoyed doing it, but it was what I did.
>> Christie became a physician when he came home
and never fully got over his scars from over there.
>> I'm emotional right now just talking about it.
>> From one place, 56 stories, 56 different memories of the same war.
>> Certain kinds of stories you kind of know in your gut aren't just individual stories.
There's something more to them that makes them important beyond an individual
or even an individual family.
>> And if these things are not put down on paper very shortly,
they're not going to get down on paper.
All of us are in our 80's and 90's and time is getting short.
>> Our thanks to the authors, the 56 seniors in Hanover, New Hampshire,
and all the rest who have left their stories of an era that changed the world.
That is our broadcast on a Monday night.
Thank you for being here with us as we start off a new week.
I'm Brian Williams.
We hope to see you right back here tomorrow evening.
[ NBC Nightly News Music ]
[ Pause ]
>> All right, well after that wonderful introduction,
I'd like to invite Clint Gardner to speak.
>> It's a pleasure to be here.
I'm going to read a few sections from my book in preparation for a subsequent discussion.
I'll try to think of a few issues that I consider questions that I'd
like to address in the course of our discussion.
Some of the words I read, you will have already heard on that on Brian Williams' excellent film.
My memoir is titled Three Unlikely Wounds.
I was wounded twice physically, once on D-day when the mortar segment went through my--
mortar fragment, I should say, went through my helmet and made this hole
which the Imperial War Museum told me was the largest hole
of a living survivor in either World War I or II.
They wanted the helmet.
So I said, "If that's interesting, I'd like to save it for my grandchildren."
[Laughter] So it's now in Rauner Library, and Rauner kindly released it so that it could here.
If you'd like to come down and see my blood still inside the helmet, it's there.
So I'll start with 9 a.m. on D-day June 6th.
Now it was our turn.
Only a half-mile away, the 100 foot cliff above the beach suddenly emerged from mist
of low clouds and smoke of gunfire.
Machine-gun bullets splash the water around us and clanked on our ship's metal sides.
We maneuver between two still-mined obstacles, then grated to a halt on the sand.
Our commander shouted, "The ramp is down!"
and we jumped off into two feet of water, lowered our heads, and waded 40 feet to shore,
with the ammo trucks unloading behind us.
The beach was strewn with hundreds of bodies.
With its camouflage net still neatly in place, that pillbox, which we knew would be
to the right of the beach exit road, was spitting fire on us,
and that huge concrete barrier that stretched across the exit road was equally untouched.
What we'd been told would be "the most concentrated air bombardment
in history" had completely missed its target.
When we come to our discussion period, I'd like to get into some questions or so,
why in the world that could've happened in what was invasion planned
for many, many months in advance.
Now, I'll skip on a bit.
5 p.m. As I started to enlarge my foxhole, I heard a thundering blast and realized
that the engineers might finally have blown
up that concrete barrier which blocked the exit road.
Crouching above my foxhole, I looked through the rising dust and saw that they'd succeeded.
The barrier was gone!
We might soon be off Omaha Dog Green.
Suddenly I heard a sharp explosion just in front of me.
My head snapped back as if hit by a sledgehammer, and a curtain of warm blood poured
over my forehead, closing my eyes.
My whole body shivered into shock.
My God, I thought, what's happened?
There was a loud ringing sound in my head, and I felt unsteady.
Not knowing whether I'd last another minute, I found myself standing up.
Then, ever so slowly, raising my right arm, my right hand found a gaping hole in my helmet.
Feeling past sharp metal curls, my fingers continued downward, through sticky remnants
of hair, to touch the soft, wet surface of my brain.
I'm not going continue on, but I will comment that the--
what I felt was a half-inch of flesh that we have above our skull
but I didn't know there was such a half-inch there.
It was only 24 hours later when I first received medical attention at an army field hospital set
up about a half-mile inland that I learned that this was not my brain, but that mush.
I think I may go rather quickly on the second wound.
It was in the city of-- in the town, I should say, large town of Malmedy, Belgium.
December 30th, Malmedy.
Around 12:45 p.m., as Corporal Cohen, Corporal Stein, Private Reinart,
and I were getting chow already, we heard bombs dropping.
I looked out the window and saw that it was our own bombers, B-24s.
The windows shook and the house rocked.
We put on our helmets.
I rang the phone to our main command post and reported, "We are being bombed at Red 3."
Sergeant Loftus of the infantry had just stepped out of the room and-- see, I'm--
had step into the room, but hearing the bombs, he left again, following Private Reinart,
who was on his way out to see what want to happening.
I had just finished saying, "Red 3, "and Loftus and Reinart had been
out of the room only a second or so,
when a terrific explosion flattened the house to the ground.
The ceiling and walls feel in on us.
The bomb had fallen squarely on the center of the house, about 15 feet from us.
Again, I will skip on the interest of time, but the almost--
more than half of the people that were in the house were killed by the explosion.
The Belgian Family, the mother and father and their two or three children were all killed.
So it was a devastating experience.
And it was, of course, amazing that we had lived.
I think it was largely because a large beam had come to rest on the dining room table,
we were all near that table, and we were--
let's say, the beam was here and we were pushed just below the table, and this--
the table held worst of the weight the thing from crushing us completely.
The two men buried below me were hurt considerably worse than I was.
Still, I earned a second purple heart [laughs] through--
I didn't think you would get a purple heart if your own troops kill-- wounded you, but you do.
Now, what I call the third wound was the experience at Buchenwald concentration camp.
I volunteered for military government about a month before the war was over.
And I describe arriving at Buchenwald as follows.
April 23, 1945.
As our jeep pulled up to the concentration camp's main gate,
we were startled by the scene in front of us.
Clustering around the gate, like young animals testing their ability to leave their place
of birth, were hundreds of humanlike apparitions.
Scraps of dirty clothing failed to conceal the condition of their bodies.
We were instantly surrounded by this swarm of skeletons draped in yellowing flesh.
They shuffled, hobbled, and stumbled toward us, trying to smile,
but their lips would not turn up.
Their eyes were glassy and bulbous, buried beneath--
buried deep behind cheekbones that almost broke through tight-stretched parchment skin.
Their voices cackled as they introduced themselves to us in German, Russian,
French, and countless other languages.
Again, I will skip on in the interest of time, but I soon learned that my knowledge
of German made me the point person in our military government team to talk
with the prisoners 'cause they all had learned German and many of them were German.
What I was able to do in the first few days was to concentrate on having the bodies picked
up from all over the camp and then instead of having the prisoners do that,
we arranged to have 500 people, civilians come up from the city of Weimar
which was only a few miles a way.
And those civilians picked up the bodies and helped clean up the camp.
And we had them come up daily, a different 500 each day.
So the reason I call this Three Unlikely Wounds is that I felt no--
I've never suffered any shell shock from D-day or the being buried at Malmedy,
but I do think that Buchenwald left the permanent wound with me.
I described it in the book, but I think you can see why an experience like that might leave you
with certain psychological bones.
One of the questions when we come
to the question period is whether everybody understands the difference between a camp
like Buchenwald and the camp like Auschwitz.
Buchenwald was a work camp, and Auschwitz was an extermination camp,
a "vernichtungslager" as opposed to "arbeitslager."
And the difference of course was tremendous.
I think many people would be surprised with what I wrote in the book
that Buchenwald was probably the best of the concentration camps to be in.
And again, I will say for the question
and answer period my reasons for putting it that way.
>> Well, thank you very much Clint for sharing those experiences with us.
So now, we have a couple of minutes to take any questions from the audience for Clint,
but I'd like to start one of that I have for you.
As you were getting ready for the D-Day Invasion,
which was one of the greatest undertakings in human history, how did you feel?
And I was really struck by something that Mary said about this feeling
of unity and this massive undertaking.
How did you feel, and it sounded like during the invasion,
there was a sense of things going arise, so could you maybe comment
on how it felt during the build up and maybe how somethings went wrong during the fog
of war and the landings.
And then we'd love to take any comments or questions from the audience as well.
>> Well, the-- my elaborate on the being-- I had not known that we would be--
that I would be selected along with three other officers from my battalion to be advance scouts.
It was quite a surprised.
I thought it was fascinating and, needless to say, being locked up for two weeks
in a barbed wire camp with maybe a thousand other soldiers,
mostly officers, it was an unusual experience.
I remember many of us went to church services every other evening or so.
And although I was a Protestant, I recall that with several other Protestants,
we went to Catholic services as well as we put it just in case.
[ Laughter ]
The preparation was very well done seems to me for the invasion.
We knew exactly where we'd be going.
For a Dartmouth man, the fact that the thing that we're looking
for as we got off the boat was a big green D on canvas.
It would be 6'5" or 6 feet high, this big green D. But, when we landed,
the canvas was not there, everything was in disarray.
And it's-- the difference between the very careful preparation and the complete fiasco
on D-Day when it-- at noon, they were even considering making no further landings
on our beach and stopping the invasion, at least in that area.
That was, by far, the worst section to be in.
If you've seen-- let me ask how many of you saw the film Saving Private Ryan.
Oh, considerably, more than half.
Well, that was based entire-- exactly on what we saw on our beach.
That was based on Omaha Dog Green.
It was a shot in Ireland, but it very carefully reproduced what the clip like,
what the killings were, what the deaths were like in the water
in the first hour or so of the landing.
If I had landed with the engineers, [inaudible] blame,
more than half of the engineers were killed in the landing as was portrayed in that film.
What was your second question?
>> Just-- you pretty much answered it, just--
>> Maybe I've already come to it.
Maybe we should move on to questions which you may have.
[ Pause ]
>> What was the reaction of the Germans that you brought into the camp to clean up?
Had they been aware of what was going on and were they reluctant to do the work?
>> There was no reluctant to do the work.
And I can-- I can't speak that I can't say that I know in any first hand way what their opinion
or views were, but I picked it up indirectly from a variety of sources of from visiting--
from going down in Weimar, from talking to the acting mayor who was-- we put in--
we found an anti-Nazi, non-member of the party person to be mayor of Weimar.
In talking to them, I learned that they knew
that there was a huge camp there with a lot going on.
I think they knew there was brutality.
There were 50,000 who died at Buchenwald in ways that were not natural.
There were normal deaths, of course, with 20,000 people.
But I think that-- I don't think that they knew quite how cruel the SS were.
It was almost unimaginable to imagine people who would just-- if a person--
if a prisoner was working in the quarry and was not carrying a full load of stone,
he might be pushed over the edge of the quarry just to see in fall to his death.
So the SS were extremely brutal people.
It's amazing that only 50,000 died at Buchenwald.
There were 7,000 Russians that were shot in two days.
The camp was all were national groups.
There were Poles, Russians, Germans, Czechs, and so on and so on.
There were a thousand French.
If you were in an active work detail and maintained your health,
the camp was really a place you could survive, but brutality
and killing would be-- occur all around you.
But at the camp's-- at the-- at a camp like Auschwitz, there were very a few work details.
The main work details were hurling the prisoners into the gas chambers and picking
up the bodies after they were gassed.
So over a million people were gassed at Auschwitz alone,
I don't know if they know the precise figure.
But the work camps-- the reason I said Buchenwald was probably the best camp to be
in is that the SS delegated the operation of the work details and the food distribution
and so on to the prisoners' on sub-administration.
And the sub-administration was run by German communists who had persuaded the SS
that they should take over from a group of criminal prisoners, people who'd gotten
in because-- to the camp because of crimes.
And for the five or six years before we arrived the, the SS--
I'm sorry, the communists had very effectively run the work details
and actually operated the camp.
All the SS had to do was to make sure that nobody got in or out of the barbed wire.
It was a security issue for them.
>> Well, thank you very much.
We're going to now turn it over to Dr. Christie, if you don't mind.
>> Certainly, good afternoon.
My experience was quite different from Clint's, but I chose to write some poetry as my part
of the World War II Remembered book.
My own memoir, Fate's Finger which had been published a couple of years before.
It was in detail what my own experience was and I didn't want to repeat any part of that.
And I thought perhaps writing a couple of poems might express my inner feelings.
So, I might just make a footnote.
I also experienced one of the concentration camps.
The Third Armored Division in which I served was called the Spearhead Division.
And we were the first Division to come upon the Nordhausen concentration camp,
which was another work camp.
And I spent only 24 hours there and then we moved
on because our objective was well down the road to another town.
But I must say that I had the same initial experience that Clint had
in seeing this bodies piled up and the stench was unbelievable.
And I was delighted to get out of there
and leave this behind us no matter what was coming up front.
I was walking my [inaudible] collie around a hay field at my home up in Coos County, Lancaster,
New Hampshire and one-half the way around that field, all of a sudden, I had a feeling that I
to write something and that was something inside me that had to come out.
And I couldn't wait to get back to my home and sit down at my computer
to write the first poem that I'm going to read to you.
I think what I was experiencing and led me to my computer was what now is recognized
as posttraumatic stress disorder.
It wasn't called that.
This is an aphorism in medicine that you can't diagnose a disease
that hasn't been invented yet.
And so, it was called, in the First World War, shell shock.
And in our war, if you ever saw the film Patton, you get a pretty good idea of how people
who had the equivalent of shell shock were treated.
So that having been said, I would just like to read these two poems.
I'm not a professional poet.
I'm a recreational poet, belong to a poetry group up at Kendal and we share our poetry,
but the poem that I'm going to read you is one in the memoir that I put together.
And the second one I'm going to read is the epilogue for the book.
First poem, Hunter.
I'm not a hunter, I'm a killer.
Once you have killed, you're a killer, not a hunter.
I hunted bull frog with BB gun.
I got them.
I once shot at a dragonfly in fight.
A big one.
When a got at .22, I went with squirrels and chipmunks.
Got a lot of them.
Skun a red squirrel out once.
Stretched it on a frame of sticks I made myself and stretch the pelt tight with fishing line.
I was proud.
I kept it for years.
Caught fish too.
Sunfish to salmon.
That is not called hunting.
It has a different name, fishing.
Why? Because you catch by deception and then you kill it?
I bought a shotgun, good for partridge.
At least I ate them.
The US Army gave me a Garand, Government Issue M-1.
I was good shot.
Expert marksman the metal said.
Then they gave me the 76 millimeter canon and three machine guns attached
to "Fate's Finger": Medium tank, an M4A3.
I hunted people with it.
Some of them I never saw.
Shot them with HEs, high explosive shells, in houses and bleak wrecked towns 2,000 yards away.
Women, kids, old people, enemy soldiers?
They could never lay it on me 2,000 yards away, right?
I hunted big cats, panzers, tigers and panthers while they were hunting me.
The hunter-killer game.
I got all of them first.
APs, armor peircing.
Expert marksman right?
Wrong, lucky bastard.
I brought a thirty-ought-six, bolt-action, an old friend.
Still hunted white-tail deer.
Not only-- but only bucks, one shot neck or heart.
Their antlers hang in my camp.
Thank God, they couldn't hunt me.
I'm not a hunter, I'm a killer.
I always will be.
I was only a hunter until that first frog.
Now, I hunt only for truth.
I can't kill that.
The second poem as I mentioned was chosen as the epilogue for World War II remembered.
It was a poem inspired by Andrew Carroll's book, War Letters.
It describes the letters home of the GIs in World War II.
It's entitled Hawks.
Hawks, read the letters, the war letters.
How can you read them and not cringe or weep?
Choose a war, any war, but then focus on ours, World War II.
Do you want to read the carnage of the water's edge?
Try a marine's letter home about the first wave on Iwo Jima
where he lost an eye and part of this face.
Do you want to know the view from a B-24 over Ploesti?
Savor Bubba Young's letter before he died describing death
in the skies and devastation on the ground.
Or let nurse June Wandrey describe death in a field hospital.
Hawks, have you forgotten, or may be never knew of the GIs' terror during the shelling
at Monte Cassino and the agony at Anzio?
Read about Nagasaki.
Once again you can hear the silences of the dead in a dead city,
hand in a letter by Fireman First-Class Keith Lynch.
Enough of their letters have been saved to tell the anguished stories, the notes to Mom,
to Suzie, a wife about to bear a child.
The last letter home scratched out in a blessed interval in a battle's fury.
Words penciled and penned by an infantryman, lonely, terrified of death, in a foxhole laden
with his own excrement, courageous words of phony optimisms to calm the fears of those
at home, misspelled words from one who knew it was about to die and didn't,
but lived to see his buddy dropped by as a sniper's bullet through the head.
Read, Hawks, the letters of death and dying.
Death, so merciful and sudden and total.
Or death of a man, his belly ripped open by shrapnel,
trying to hold in his spilling guts plaintively sobbing to anyone, asking if he is going to die.
And read, Hawks, accounts of the agony of a not yet dead GI lying
on the battlefield calling for his mother.
Read details of men starving and rotting in a prison camp or a Japanese hell ship dying
of thirst, dehydration, and cholera.
Read about the men wantonly bayoneted or beheaded on a death march.
How many good and precious lives need to be traded for the death of one mad man,
of one Hitler, of one Mussolini, of one Hideki Tojo, of one Saddam Hussein?
Consider the cynical words of a Joseph Stalin that one death as a tragedy.
A million deaths, merely a statistic.
Read the letters.
Listen to the cautions of the generals who have been there and through it all.
They know, but will only get-- you will only get to the answer you asked for, the numbers.
You want to another war, oh kings, presidents prime ministers, dictators,
secretaries of defense, senators, congressman, and stand up oh hawks.
You super patriots.
You, who some have called chicken hawks, so sure that you will never have to see battle.
Hawks, stand up, enlist.
Be the first to enter into harms way.
Offer your own blood as did kings and princes of old,
the likes of Henry IV leading their armies into battle.
Take your turn, have your chance to write a letter from some far off land lying
to your best friend's mother about how courageously her son
or daughter died suffering no pain.
But Hawks, first read the war letters.
Perhaps then you can think of another way.
A way other than the shedding of someone else's blood.
[ Pause ]
>> Thank you very much Dr. Christie for sharing those poems with us.
I know one thing that-- the first question that came to my mind is why poetry?
Has that been a medium that you had experimented with and written with throughout your life
or is that something that only after the war and those experiences
that you felt called to work with?
>> That's was almost the first poem I ever wrote, Hunter.
I'd never thought of writing poetry before.
It just came out of me as I walking around that hay field.
I just couldn't wait to get back in-- to get in print.
And it just poured out.
It was virtually unedited.
Just came out that way.
The time before that I written poetry was in the fourth grade.
[Laughter] My father had been a World War I pilot.
And he was the one who encouraged me to go to Norwich University
because he knew a war was coming.
And he told me that officers had a better life than enlisted men in the service.
But the same father went to my fourth grade teacher and berated her
for having her-- having his son write poetry.
It just wasn't manly.
So that was my first poem and my second one was Hunter.
[ Pause ]
>> A friend of mine who's actually in your age group went
to your war and he was probably 18, at most.
And the first week that he was there, he captured by the Germans.
And being, what we call, as stubborn as [phonetic] was, the second day, he escaped.
And he remember very vivid details and he could tell me about walking, looking for Americans.
And eventually, of course, found some.
But his-- the way that he tells it, he can see it in his eyes and I can see it,
the way that he explains it, which tells me it was so dramatic
for him that he will never forget it.
And listening to your poems and listening to you talk,
how much of it have you purposely forgotten?
>> Well, you know, I went back Norwich to complete my senior year.
And I, Norwich being a military university, was in uniform
and lived a military life for my senior in college.
And it wasn't like the military life out in the service.
So I swapped a lot of war stories with my comrades, those who had survived.
I think, almost 15 percent of my classmates were killed in the war.
But after that, I got involved in medical school and my medical career.
And I just never thought about the war after that.
It just was completely sublimated.
And why it popped up that afternoon 55 years later, I have no idea.
But what it told me was that these stories never disappear.
They're inside, they may never come out.
But I think that's one of the reasons I had decided
to write the poems that I did in the book.
>> Dr. Christie, I was a small child during World War II,
in London, right the path of the bombers.
And towards the end of the war, I had a very, very horrific experience involving a flying bomb
which fell on the house next door.
And then the war finished and I had a very lovely childhood and all the rest of it.
And 65 years later, a war plane, Vermont National Guard,
a couple of planes came over very low.
And I found myself reliving that incident.
I think a bit like you were visited in the hay field.
And I'm wondering whether you feel as frustrated as I do that we are still at it.
We are still damaging children, particularly.
There are millions of children out there who just are never going to get over this.
It's not just when it happens.
It lasts a lifetime.
And I just feel we don't ever seem to learn our lesson and it's--
I don't know what to do about it.
>> Well, I couldn't agree with you more about that.
But you know, it isn't just war that damages young kids.
>> Yes, I know.
There are all sorts of different traumas about thinking about war timelines.
>> Right. And, you know, we don't hear much about the story you just told
because people assume pretty much, I guess,
that civilians didn't really go through this kind of stress.
But when you know about the bombing of London and the devastation of the--
of the cities in England during that war from the [inaudible].
I mean there's got to be the same kind of trauma within people your age as people our age too.
>> Thank you so much Dr. Christie.
Mary, would you mind to finish this up?
>> Good afternoon.
I have a feeling that I should have preceded Bob.
I think he just gave you all the last word on war, absolutely.
And I go back now to another time, another thought.
I'm not veteran.
I was not a WAVE, a WAAC, or a WASP.
These interesting acronyms were the names of the Women's Military Organization.
The WAVEs were the women's-- Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.
That was the navy.
And it's a good thing they had name WAVES.
Can you imagine dealing with that other mouthful?
The WAACs were the women's army corp. That's pretty obviously.
And the WASPS were Women Air Force Pilots, Service Pilots were to be correct.
This last group was used to ferry planes from their point of production
to the various airfields around the country.
Some 25,000 of them volunteered and when all was said and done,
only about a thousand finished training.
We have one of these women at Kendal and a-- kind of remarkable experiences.
One gain from the war came to women.
Because of the shortage of men, there were a lot of jobs that opened up for women.
And this was one of the small pluses of the day.
When Pearl Harbor became a frightening reality, I was a sophomore in college.
By a year later, our college lives had become very different.
We didn't have boys coming to see us every weekend although it was in an all female school,
and the few boys that showed up were all uniform.
The atmosphere became considerably more serious as we learned death
of young men we had known and dated.
That young sense of immortality and of certainty
that our lives would last almost forever disappeared.
And as adjusted to this life, we clung to the radio and the newspaper for the news.
We wrote V-mail letters to friends overseas.
We knit socks.
We became used to gas rationing and the shortage of foods.
For example, butter was hard to find and you had to substitute oleo.
So oleo manufacturers came up with a little kernel in the package that you broke and mixed
with this horrible white oleo to make you think or to tease yourself
into thinking it was almost like butter.
We turned in cans and all kinds of metals that we could find.
And pots and pans in the stores were all Pyrex glass.
I had a Pyrex pot explode one night spewing bits of glass, boiling water and fragments
of cauliflower all over my kitchen.
But luckily, I wasn't standing beside the stove.
But the most unique aspect of the nation was the nation's mood
and an extraordinary feeling of unity.
Everyone was united in wanting to fight and win this war.
World War II was very unlike the wars that came later.
This was a war everyone approved of, not like Vietnam,
and Korea and Iraq that sort of split the country.
The draft made it everybody's war.
All levels of society were equally called to military service.
Men wanted to enlist.
There are stories of men memorizing an eye chart so they could cheat in their physical
and be accepted into the service.
And the veterans of World War II came home as heroes.
Not like the later veterans, some of whom were ignored when they came back and others whom
so unfairly but almost held responsible for having fought in an unpopular war.
Politics still went on in election time.
Those who hated Roosevelt continued to hate Roosevelt were very [inaudible] aloud
about how he was destroying the country.
I saw quite another side of the Roosevelt story in Louisiana
where my husband was then station at an air base.
When Roosevelt died in the March of '45, the men and women in Alexandria,
Louisiana were crying openly on the streets.
They were stopping strangers to commiserate about the loss.
For some, of course, Roosevelt was the only president they had ever known.
But for others, it was like losing their father.
Another unique amazing thing was going on through those war years.
And that was the phenomenal growth of our production of war material.
Statistics really give testimonies to what a nation can accomplish.
Luckily, in around 1938, the US started to enlarge
and expand their production of ships, planes and other arms.
And this was largely done 'cause we were trying to help Britain.
And when Pearl Harbor came then, therefore, because of this,
we had already built some new plants and expanded others, but we were nowhere
up to the all out production that was needed.
What happened from December of '41 on is stunning.
During the course of the war, the US produced 304,000 airplanes of all types.
By the end of 1942, we were producing 170 planes a day.
US in '41 produced about 4,000 tanks.
And by the end of '42, we had produced 24,000 tanks.
And during the course of the war, we produced 28 aircraft carriers, eight battleships,
807 cruisers and destroyers, and 203 submarines.
Consider this was happening in period of four to five years, it was remarkable.
The US produced two-thirds of all the military equipment used by Allies in World War II.
We were truly the arsenal of democracy.
I want to inject a footnote right now.
If any of you are interested in this really phenomenal production and how it evolved
as the world-- as the war continued, there's a wonderful book called Freedom's Forge
by a man called Arthur Herman, and it's just quite a remarkable story to read.
I got some of my facts from that.
I married two months after graduation from college and traveled with my husband
who was a brand new second lieutenant in Air Force Intelligence out to Kansas
where it was one of the first groups B-29s were based.
The pilots had all been brought back from the European-- there to fly these brand new planes.
So there was rank all over the base, captains, majors and usual number of colonels.
My poor second lieutenant husband was just saluting all day long.
The 29s had been rushed into action because of the need
for a long range bomber in the Asian theater.
The older B-17s which were the plane we had
with the longest range could only fly 2,000 miles without refueling.
The B-29s could fly 5,250 miles, but they had tremendous problems.
Of the first one hundred 29s delivered at the end of 1943, only five--
excuse me, 15, that's almost as bad, only 15 were air worthy.
As one wit said, it's a great plane except for its engines.
[Laughter] And the engines-- and the engines continually caught on fire.
A pilot we knew said, "How can we trust this plane
when it can't even handle friendly skies over Kansas?"
The pilot's long for the 17s and 24s that they had flown so reliably
in their missions over France and Germany.
It was chilly to visit the air bases, I did one day, and see a huge smoldering mass
of a 29 at the end of the runway.
We spent poignant evenings at the local officer's club listening
to the concerns of the pilots and their crews.
They were frustrated and worried about the 29s and all their problems.
They were sure they'd never make it to Asia.
And even more sure, they'd never make it back home after the war.
Memorable night, just days before the group left for Asia, we watched a group
with a man standing together, arms around each other's shoulder,
singing mairzy doats and dozy doats.
They were very serious and nostalgic, and they were singing to and for each other.
One could really feel their tensions and fears.
A few days later, our group swooped into the air at dawn in a roar that could be heard
from miles around, they joined other groups of nearby bases and set off for Asia by way
of the East Coast, apparently, to confuse the enemy.
Most of our group made it to the Marianas where the B-29s were based,
but three planes of our group went down with a mechanical problem before they even reached the
The B-29, of course, was the plane that dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Looking back, it was a time that jarred us into an early maturity.
It was also a time that marked our generation.
It marked us with a pride for our country and also a very strong sense of patriotism
that has stayed with us ever since.
[ Pause ]
>> Thank you so much Mary.
One question I had in regards to sort of the zeitgeist to be here on the home front.
You spoke a lot about a sense of unity, but I wonder, now, looking back,
it seems almost inevitable that the United States and the Allies would have won the war,
but was there ever-- what was the general sense?
Was it always very optimistic?
Was there a sense of worry?
Did it seemed like it might go on forever?
What was the general thought about the--
>> No, looking back at-- it's really, I look back in two parts.
I look back on some very interesting experiences, friends we made,
meeting people from all around the country.
But I also look back on a war and there were all full of sad memories.
I had a quite a fair number of good friends who died in the war.
And I come back really to where Bob is and I think that's a feeling
that came out of that war as well.
Yes, this was the right war.
We fought it, we won it.
But the feeling that war should be entered into so cautiously,
and we should be so sure is the right word and hopefully there won't be one those.
But a feeling of trying to avoid forever again the things we have messed with, like Vietnam,
like Korea, like Iraq who fell into-- these wars had fell into a different category all together.
[ Pause ]
>> Can you give a sense of the losses in the air,
not only Europe but in the Far East, losses?
>> I'm sorry, I can't--
>> Aircraft losses and crew.
>> I'm sorry, I couldn't hear it.
>> What were the losses in the--
>> Yeah, of the aircraft and of crew in the air.
>> What were the losses--
>> Of the people?
>> I don't actually know.
You mean of the group that we were there and knew
so well there in Kansas, you speaking of them?
>> No, just generally speaking, through the war.
>> I suspect, I think I read somewhere, for instance in Europe, the B-17 and 24,
their losses were something like 24,000 air men and crew members and planes.
>> Did you just say-- did you hear anything?
>> He's asking for how many people were killed in the Air Force in Europe and in Asia.
>> I don't have that figure.
>> I believe it was much larger number than that.
I just read the figures and I've forgotten them.
But it was a very substantial number.
I do know that the number-- total number of deaths of Americans was about 440,000.
And I think that about, if I recollect properly,
about 15 to 20 percent of those were in the air corps.
>> The bigger though, the bigger number would've been on the ground troops I'm sure.
>> Oh, yes, of course.
[ Pause ]
>> Because you began your remarks talking about the women and the WAVES and the WAACs
and the WASPs, and then focus so much on flying the B-29 and how dangerous the pilots found
that plane, I thought I would ask if you've heard of or seen a film called Fly Girls
because it focuses in a very short segment on Commander Paul Tibbets who had
to train the crews that flew over Hiroshima and dropped the atomic bomb, but how he choose
and trained some WASPs to fly the B-29
and basically persuade the men that it could be flown.
Are you familiar with that story at all?
>> I'm not, but I do have stories from Louise Brown at Kendal.
She-- the thing-- the one thing that struck me in her stories was that initially,
the army or the Air Force, I guess it would have been, whoever was in charge
of the WASP were not really accepting them as and arm of the military.
When planes, of course, as you understand, were coming off the lines, production lines untested
and untried, even if they were standard plane, they had never--
nobody had taken them up before these women got in them to fly them to the bases.
And so, a number went down with mechanicals.
And initially, the US refused to pay the cost of sending the body
of that women home when her plane went down.
Well, about the middle of the war, somebody got wise to the fact that this was utterly absurd
and they did-- but she said they use take up collections among themselves to pay the costs.
>> I think they also pulled banners
so that anti-aircraft cruise could practice shooting at the banners.
>> Yes they did.
They did do that.
You're absolutely right.
>> And they sometimes missed the banners.
>> Yeah, and they also have to clear on each plane, each type of plane.
You know, one person flew only fighters and other only bombers,
and the very few would fly them all.
But they were quite an adventurous wonderful bunch of women.
>> Mary, I am particularly interested in the issues
of the home front testing of airplanes and alike.
The school I went to has-- lists all the people who were killed in World War II.
And I would say a good healthy-- not healthy, it's the wrong word.
A good percentage of them were died-- died in accidents, in training accidents and the alike,
and they were given the same full--
or a recognition there as people who died in D-Day or in Okinawa or others.
I just mentioned this that there was a man in my fraternity in Middlebury who was killed
in a training accident in the Vietnam War.
And his name isn't down on the list in the--
of the list of those who were killed in-- on-- in Washington there.
And I think that this is something which I think your generation, you know, did better.
I don't know if there are other examples of people or institutions
who would recognize people who died in training accidents
or died state-side as opposed to enemy fire.
>> Certainly, should be included.
>> We were there.
We went to se the war memorial too long ago, the new one in Washington.
And my husband being in the Air Force, he wanted to see the Air Force Memorial.
And we walked around and find it and we're looking at it.
And this man, young man, by our standards, probably in his 50's came up and he said
to my husband, "Are you a veteran of the Air Force?"
And he said, "Yes."
He said, "Stand there I want your picture."
[Laughter] Made us feel kind of old.
[ Pause ]
>> Brian Williams, at the beginning of this,
pointed out what a unique generation you people represent.
And you are unique to this day when you are compared even with other military
or combat veterans starting with Korea, if we all know, and going through Vietnam,
the Gulf Wars and Iraq and Afghanistan, there's one big difference between what you people did
and what people done subsequently.
And that is that when you enlisted or when you were drafted,
you were there for there for the duration.
I spent a year of my life with an infantry battalion in Vietnam.
I received letters from my uncle periodically.
And my uncle had departed in 1942 for the Pacific and returned
in January of 1946 for the first time.
I like everybody who served since your time knew on the day that I arrived exactly
to the day how long I would be there.
And I could tell you, there was 364 or 111.
Or if you are 100 and 100, you are short, and that's been true subsequently ever since.
So that if, as Brian Williams pointed out, what a unique generation you here are,
I think this just further exemplifies what-- how truly remarkable you people all were.
[ Pause ]
>> So now, why don't we just open it up for general Q and A. We've got
about 20 minutes or so, so ask away.
[ Pause ]
>> You said this was a group from Kendal, were there members of Kendal
for whom this was too painful, they did not join in, yet, who had been part of World War II?
>> Yes. There were people who chose not to do a memoir because they couldn't handle it.
>> I was in charge of collecting all the memoirs and I served as managing editor of the book.
So I was well aware of good friends of mine who decided that it was too painful to do it.
I knew, and at least two cases that they'd seen, vastly more combat
than the average infantry person does see.
Many of you who-- certainly I, before I was in the army,
had not realized what a huge percentage of those in the military do not see active combat.
Bob may know the figure.
But I'd say it's-- it at least-- it's in the range of half of the people
in the military that do not see combat.
>> No, that was quite more traumatic than that.
There were 16 million people who somehow, rather, were in uniform during World War II.
Only 10 percent of them actually saw combat.
>> The remainder was support and, as they said, otherwise engaged.
So one wondered-- I wondered at the time why I had happen
to be selected to be one of that 10 percent.
>> So what?
>> So the answer is about 1.6 million, I guess.
>> Of course, it's necessary to have so many in the training.
You mean, there's so much goes into the whole thing beyond the actual volume
of the training and all the rest, you know.
>> It's also important to remember that the United States had a relatively small number
of people killed in who were in uniform.
The large-- the largest number of them, of course, were Russians.
And it's unknown how many Russian civilians, let alone, Germans and--
>> The Russians think it was about 20 million killed in the war.
>> So we often forget about that and remembering about the number of Americans service people
who actually lost most of their lives.
>> Mr. Gardner, you had mentioned earlier that you are hoping to cover the issue of why
that access road hadn't been cleared by air support before you got to the beach.
Would you like to explain that now?
>> Yes, the-- it seems to me that that huge concrete barrier
that there should have been a back up plan if the bombers, B-17s that bombed it about,
I don't know, just a few hours before the invasion began,
I think they bombed between 2 and 4 in the morning.
I'm not sure about that.
But something like a couple of hours before the invasion began.
If they bombed it much earlier than that, it would have made it easier for the Germans
to start moving divisions into that area
but making it just a few hours before the Germans couldn't
yet increase the man power and the defenses.
But, they should have anticipated that the bombers might fail.
And the fact that they brought the Bangalore torpedoes in at 5 p.m. seems to me way too late.
I don't know the details as to why they couldn't have gotten those Bangalore torpedoes
in place at the base of the cliff.
That wasn't too hard to reach.
I mean I was only a few hundred feet from the base myself most of the day.
And I could've-- if I wanted to go in with the infantry, which I did not,
I could've helped them put the Bangalore torpedoes into place.
So I think that back up plans were not made in sufficient depth.
The-- all of those of bombs were dropped by the B-17s by mistake on orchards
of about half a mile or a mile inland from the beach.
And they might have had a system where if that--
to be sure that they dropped them on the German defenses, they could have had--
seems to me, flares could have been dropped.
Flares that would stayed a light a flame for 20 or 30 minutes which would have--
they could have been dropped by a smaller plane than the B-17s.
Planes that could go in below the fog and see what they were doing.
The fog was a merit-- a major problem though.
It was very difficult to see what was going on.
>> I want to remind Clint of my--
of my sweatshirt that have at Kendal that says "manure occureth."
[ Laughter ]
[ Pause ]
>> I got a question.
One thing that I've always wondered about is this label
of the greatest generation and I wonder what you all think.
Do you feel that there truly was something special and unique about your generation
that enabled you to over come this incredible-- adversity and how-- when the Second World War?
Or do you feel like you were a generation of Americans much like those past,
present and future who seized the moment wand did what it took?
I've always been curious as to what you think is in terms of positions,
you [inaudible] was it [inaudible]
or was it just a generation that did what needed to be done?
>> Well, the idea of greatest generation never occurred to me
until Tom Brokaw wrote his book, The Greatest Generation.
>> I never thought we were special either.
I was amazed by that greatest generation.
And I don't think we were special.
We were thrown into a situation, we responded to it.
I think any generation would do the same.
And I think if there's anything great about it is the fact that some of us are still around.
[Laughter] And that's absolute--
>> I agree-- I agree with both of my friends here.
I thought it was a good promotional term for a book and a good focus for an idea.
But it did not strike me that we were uniquely more loyal or devoted to the country
or to good causes than other generations.
>> I have a question.
I don't know if you have any grand kids or children yourselves, but would you want them
or have they enlisted in served in wars themselves?
>> What was that?
I didn't hear it.
>> I'm not sure we could use-- say it a little more slowly.
>> Do you have any children or grandchildren who have served in wars themselves
or would you want them to or not?
>> I have a grand son who wants to be a navy seal.
I had done everything I could to try dissuade him otherwise.
I don't know what he will finally decide to do.
But I can't think of any harder, tougher duty than being a navy seal.
And I would not like to see my grandchildren fighting a war.
My brother who is no longer living but didn't die in the war couldn't wait
to be a paratrooper simply because it was a great adventure in his mind.
And war is a lot of-- is a great adventure to a lot of young people.
And that, I think, is why it's so easy for the military and particularly the marines
which is an all volunteer organization to recruit people to become marines
because there's an element of opportunity to prove yourself, to--
you can't imagine that you yourself are going to die and so the next guys that's going to die.
You're always going to survive.
I think that's sort of inherent in that age group.
And that's the reason I try to persuade my grandchildren not to follow this course.
On the other hand, I don't mind saying that if the situation was the way it was
with World War II, even at my tender age of 89, I would put up my hand to volunteer
if there's anything that I thought I could do
because there are some things that you just can't put aside.
[ Pause ]
>> Hi-- can you hear me?
Can you hear me?
>> Yes. I am wondering what parts of your human experience in these stories you are hoping
that other generations might be able to be inspired by?
Anything that after having gone through these very traumatic experiences in life,
like you've come to know camaraderie in a way that perhaps other generations won't know,
anything else that inspires you in that way for future generations?
>> I-- Clint do you want to--
>> No, [inaudible].
>> I don't think we went at the book with a thought of inspiring people.
I think we went at the book with a thought that we were a generation that's disappearing.
We had a set of experiences that no one else has had and we thought we just get these on paper.
And in fact, we had another hope which was even our book itself would inspire some people
to do the same kind of thing because, you know, pretty soon,
it's going to be the historians describing what happened then.
It won't be people who were there.
And there is a difference.
>> I think that there-- if you put something down as we did,
maybe inspiring others is a little too dramatic.
But I think of the act of communication, if you would hope it will be effective,
you are hoping that your readers will learn something other than just the facts.
And that when I referred to Buchenwald as a third wound, I was trying to get across the fact
that there was something extremely important in the--
in realizing what Hitler was up to with the extermination of the Jews
and many other-- and many others.
Of course, there were gypsies and homosexuals and others that were all being exterminated.
I think one of the stories I haven't touched on adequately in my memoir is to emphasize
that if Buchenwald and throughout the camp system, there were huge numbers,
millions that were not Jews that were-- who being exterminated for a variety of reasons,
just being homosexual was one of them.
>> I think my answer to your question is I said it all in the epilogue.
[ Pause ]
>> So I mean it takes me back to what I said about I have a difficulty with the word inspire.
I'm not trying to downgrade anything that you folks did.
But would you not want to have-- to put people off?
I mean to all the stories you have told are pretty awful and terrifying.
And so, that was the point I was trying to make is to get
over the people especially the younger generations that war is terrible and horrible
to many, many people and don't let's-- no, let's stop it.
Do you see what I am saying?
>> Well, certainly.
It does seem to me that there's an inability on certain portions of the US leadership
at certain times to think that you can have sort of an optional war.
Iraq comes to mind particularly, but there are-- case of Vietnam, if you look at the history,
it was the notion that China was about take over the rest of the East--
East Asia seems to have been largely blown up but not a real likelihood.
So there are huge errors of judgment that are made by political leadership.
[ Pause ]
>> Can you describe your own personal experience of getting on and being stuck on the beach
for an extended period and then breaking though that barrier and what you did
because you obviously had the German soldiers firing on you even
as the concrete barrier was blown up?
>> You were wounded.
>> Well, I was-- I was largely in a semi-- I was conscious, but I was--
I was in such bad shape from loss of blood and so on that I don't think that--
all I could imagine was trying to survive.
I do recall wondering whether we would--
you know, what would happen in the morning whether we would be able continue the invasion.
But I think I just remember living one moment to the next and not being able to figure out much
of what to do except to try and keep alive.
>> What was your rank?
>> I was a first lieutenant then.
I ended my-- but I conventionally became captain.
I have an amusing story about why I became a first lieutenant ahead of several
of the officers in our battalion who-- we were all started out as second lieutenants, not all,
but there were captains in charge of batteries.
But the additional officers in the battery were-- started out as second lieutenants.
While teaching anti-aircraft identification,
it occurred to me that I would build a projector, a magic lantern.
I went into some town on the cape and bought a-- the materials to make the lantern,
a magnifying glass and some wood to build it out of.
And I built this thing and I have made it into a very effective tool because the--
we did have not pictures of German planes as they came out.
It took the army some months to get out new manuals.
But there were monthly magazines about air--
in the field of air craft and they showed the German planes
and our planes in very good pictures.
So with this magic lantern, I was able to take the magazine pictures and project them
and I increased the speed of identification and the skill of our men in learning anti-air--
in learning how to identify different planes.
So that little thing, that little project of mine came to the attention of the colonel
in charge of our-- well, we had a colonel,
but we had a lieutenant colonel who's in charge of a battalion.
There was colonel in charge of the group of battalions.
Colonel Mumford [phonetic] learned about Lieutenant Gardner's little magic lantern
and I became a first lieutenant several months ahead of numerous other guys in the--
other officers who were a few years older than I.
I found that rather heartening.
>> Got it.
>> All right, well, everyone--
>> One last-- I'm Peter Hotelin [phonetic].
>> Ah Peter.
>> And I want to thank Clint, Mary, Dr. Christie,
thank you very much for doing this for me.
It means awful a lot.
My father, there is a chapter in there on my father
which Mary and I went back and forth on it.
If he was here, I don't know if he'd want to be in the book but we took off at [inaudible].
He was captured at the Battle of the Bulge.
And it does Hotelin family very proud in the work that she did.
And I want to say, on behalf of the entire Hotelin family, thank you very, very much.
>> Well, thank you Peter.
I'm delighted that you are able to be here this evening.
>> That's one of the-- my favorite stories is your father.
It's mostly about his time as a prisoner of war, yeah.
>> And please get the book folks.
If you don't have it, get it.
It's interesting, interesting reading the chapter on my father,
the opening line as Mary know so well just epitomizes [inaudible], my dad.
>> That's the perfect segway.
We do have a book signing.
Books available up in the lobby.
We also have some refreshments.
So please help yourselves and you can further your conservations with the panelists.
Thank you all.
[ Applause & Inaudible Remarks ]