World War II

St. Louis On The Air
1:13 pm
Tue November 11, 2014

WWII B-17 Pilot: 'It Took All Of Us'

Col. Basil Hackleman flew 30 missions in B-17 bombers before training future pilots. He is the original pilot of the Nine-o-Nine.
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.

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Honor Flight
10:40 pm
Mon November 10, 2014

The Life And Mirror Of A St. Louis Veteran

World War II Veteran Elmer Boehm holding a pocket mirror that most likely saved his life.
Credit 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.”

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Ben Fainer
10:51 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

After Silence Of Sixty Years, Holocaust Survivor Tells His Story

Ben Fainer
Credit 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.

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St. Louis on the Air
2:36 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

'Alex's Wake' Author Shares Story Of Ill-Fated MS St. Louis

"Alex's Wake: A Voyage of Betrayal and a Journey of Remembrance" by Martin Goldsmith
Credit 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. 

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St. Louis on the Air
4:22 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

Missouri Veterans Remember D-Day And Final Months Of War In Europe

Harris Gerhard, left, of Webster Groves and Clem Igel of Ballwin. Gerhard, 92, was a flight engineer with the U.S. Army Air Force in ETO during WWII. Igel, 90, was a sergeant in the army who participated in D-Day.
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.

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St. Louis on the Air
4:35 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

New Book, Film Commemorate 70th Anniversary Of D-Day

Allied troops landing at Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Credit 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

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St. Louis on the Air
11:58 am
Tue April 8, 2014

Author Discussion: 'Mission at Nuremberg'

Credit 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.

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Henry Gerecke
9:43 pm
Wed March 19, 2014

Reflection On A Pastor Who Ministered To Nazis

Credit 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.

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St. Louis on the Air
4:28 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Remembering The Battleship USS Missouri

The USS Missouri
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.

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Government Shutdown
4:25 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

Shutdown Doesn't Stop Missouri Veterans From Visiting WWII Memorial

National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Credit (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. 

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