World War II

Bundesarchiv Bild | Wikimedia Commons

Lithuanian-American young adult author Ruta Sepetys has known her whole life of the trials faced by refugees fleeing war. Her father fled from Lithuania when the Soviets occupied the country following World War II and spent nine years in refugee camps before he was able to come to the United States.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

Lou Baczewski joined “St. Louis on the Air” last year to discuss his plans to document his grandfather’s World War II service to benefit veterans’ organizations. Now, he’s returned from a bicycle tour in Europe, where he retraced the route of his grandfather’s division during the war. He biked over 400 miles and raised $5000 for veterans’ organizations during the process.

Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

We’ve talked with the local storytelling project, Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration, extensively for a number of years, but 2015 marks something special: the tenth anniversary of the organization. For that birthday, the project partnered with students all over the world to anthologize stories of an important era in international history—World War II—from previous editions of Grannie Annie books.

Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum

Defeat is not one of the primary words associated with Sir Winston Churchill’s career. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953, he gave the prophetic “Iron Curtain Speech” at Westminster College in 1946, and, most importantly, he emerged victorious during World War II as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. What many people don’t know is that Churchill did in fact experience the agony of defeat…and that’s what fueled his second life as a painter.

Alex Heuer

During World War II, a St. Louis-based company took on a project that turned out to be detrimental to the health of its employees.

Mallinckrodt Chemical Company was responsible for refining massive amounts of uranium for the Manhattan Project. As a result, some of Mallinckrodt’s employees succumbed to various illnesses caused by exposure to nuclear waste.

Author, historian and public speaker Lou Baczewski
Alex Heuer / St. Louis Public Radio

Lou Baczewski, historian and author, joined “St. Louis on the Air” to talk about his efforts to document and honor his grandfather's World War II service to benefit three veterans organizations. Baczewski is the author of "Louch: A Simple Man's True Story of War, Survival, Life and Legacy.” The book chronicles his grandfather’s time growing up impoverished in rural Illinois, fighting several major battles in World War II and then returning to civilian life.

Amanda Honigfort

During World War II, thousands of B-17 Flying Fortress bombers took to the skies daily. The planes were a crucial part of campaigns, from the bombing of Dresden to D-Day, and were flown by the likes of Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart and Lt. Col. Basil Hackleman.

Hackleman, who now lives in Springfield, Mo., was the original pilot of the Nine-o-Nine, a celebrated B-17 that is said to have never lost a crew member or abort a mission because of mechanical failure. The plane was scrapped after the war.

Wayne Pratt / St. Louis Public Radio

Elmer Boehm's life is a story about war, survival, love and life-saving luck.

The World War II veteran is headed to Washington, D.C., on Veterans Day as part of the final Greater St. Louis Honor Flight of 2014.

“I just hope I can … I’m strong enough to make it. I’ll be 92 in January, but I’m still pumping around,” said Boehm during a recent interview at his home in Town and Country.

“It’s kind of an honor to go. It will be nice to see all these memorials that they put up for the various servicemen that have done a lot for their country.”

St. Louis County Library

Just because Ben Fainer was silent for 60 years doesn’t mean he has nothing to say.

Ripped from his home in Poland at age 9 by the Nazis, Fainer was separated from his family and sent from camp to camp to camp for six years until he was liberated by the American army in 1945, six years later. He made his way first to Ireland, where he stayed with relatives, then to Canada, and finally to St. Louis, where he spent decades in the garment industry.

Da Capo Press

Author Martin Goldsmith is no stranger to St. Louis: Not only was he born here, but his mother was a longtime violinist with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. But it was a different St. Louis and a different family connection that recently caught his attention.

In “Alex’s Wake: A Voyage of Betrayal and Journey of Remembrance,” Goldsmith traces the journey of his grandfather, Alex Goldschmidt, and uncle, Helmut Goldschmidt, Jewish refugees who tried to escape Nazi Germany aboard the MS St. Louis. 

Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio

Friday marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944. On that day, Allied forces began the push to end the European front of World War II by landing in Normandy, France. Thousands died that day. Those that survived are now in their 90s.

Two St. Louis area veterans, Clem Igel and Harris Gerhard, shared their stories on Thursday's St. Louis on the Air. The show also included George Despotis, who is collecting the oral histories of World War II veterans. Jefferson City veteran Richard Gibbler spoke with Marshall Griffin about his experiences.

via Pixabay/U.S. Army

This Friday will mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day: the day 160,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, in a bid to invade Nazi-controlled territory on the western front. More than 9,000 Allied soldiers died that day in a battle that paved the way for Nazi surrender the following year. Many civilians and Resistance fighters were also involved.

D-Day: Normandy 1944

Wm Morrow

At the close of World War II, Adolph Hitler committed suicide rather than face a world not shaped to his liking. So too did high-ranking Nazi officials Joseph Goebbel and Heinrich Himmler. But 23 of the leaders of the Third Reich remained alive to face justice for their crimes.

From November 1945 to October 1946, the world watched as the Allied forces tried 21 of those leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In the background, unnoticed by most, was an army chaplain from St. Louis named Henry Gerecke.

Wm Morrow

When I saw that Tim Townsend had written a book centered on the Lutheran chaplain at the Nuremberg trials, I knew I would read it.

The Rev. Henry Gerecke ended his career in Chester, Ill. There he was assistant pastor of St. John Lutheran Church and the chaplain at the state prison and mental hospital. I graduated from the church’s grade school and relatives work at that prison.

But I have no personal memory of Gerecke. He died the year before we moved from the farm into town. And when we lived on the farm, we went another direction to church.

From "The Second Decommissioning," a history provided by Tim Raines.

On January 29, 1944, the USS Missouri (BB-63) launched into the sea for the first time, the last battleship of her kind ever built. Harry S. Truman was a senator at the time, and his daughter Margaret christened the ship.

To mark the 70th anniversary of the Missouri, St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh spoke with Michael Carr, president and COO of the USS Missouri Memorial Association and two St. Louis area residents who served aboard the ship. He also spoke with former U.S. Senator and First Lady of Missouri Jean Carnahan about the historic ship's silver.

(Bernt Rostad)

On day two of the government shutdown, it continues to cause headaches, including for a group of Missouri and Kansas veterans that flew to Washington. 

The nonprofit Heartland Honor Flight organized the trip and the closed National World War II Memorial was the first stop Wednesday. The group was met by many Missouri and Kansas lawmakers, who helped them get inside the memorial where barriers had been set up. 

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: “They became what they beheld.” -- Edmund Snow Carpenter

The Atomic Age debuted in the skies over Hiroshima, Japan, at 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945. Col. Paul Tibbets had yielded control of his aircraft moments earlier to his bombardier, Thomas Ferebee, who would guide the ship on its bomb run. Ferebee’s aim was off by some 800 feet. Given the nature of his ordnance, the bombardier’s near miss was inconsequential.

Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio

In September 1944, just nine days before his 23rd birthday, 1st Lt. Don Nicholson boarded the B-17 bomber known as “Little Chum” for a run over Germany. It was his 26th mission navigating the plane referred to as the "flying fortress."