Greatest Generation veterans relive WWII monthly

By Curtis Riggs | April 8, 2009

All about camaraderie, patriotism
DESERT FOOTHILLS – Members of America’s “Greatest Generation” meet monthly to relive the horrors and victories of World War II, which changed their lives forever and also sent the United States in a new direction.

Talk about guns, flags and the sometimes senselessness of the military and war dominate the conversation at the World War II Veteran’s Organization, which meets the first Friday of the month at the Terravita Golf & County Club.

WWII VetsNearly 30 veterans of all U.S. fighting forces gather in the dining room of the clubhouse. Group organizer Harold Corman was proud to induct four new members into the group last week, which exists because of the camaraderie between the old servicemen and the number of great stories, which remain to be told. Call Corman at 480-437-1055 for information.

Many of the veteran pilots, sailors and infantrymen who attend the monthly luncheons express “just being happy to have made it this far” when recounting their war experiences and what they have been doing since the end of the war. Thirteen million U.S. servicemen served in Europe and the Pacific.

Memories are revived about what the old servicemen were doing in the days before the invasion of Japan and how German prisoners of war seemed to not really want to escape that badly after the war ended in Europe in 1945.

“They didn’t really want to escape, they kind of liked our food and service,” a new member to the group said last week.

There are also many stories about special, and dangerous, assignments performed during the war. All the veterans have a deep respect for the different jobs their fellow servicemen completed and a special reverence for pilots like Joe Hoffman, who undertook especially dangerous missions. Hoffman flew a Piper Cub airplane during battles as a scout plane so information about enemy troop movements could be provided to American commanders.

Hoffman commented on the importance of veteran groups like the local World War II veteran’s group because on average 1,000 WWII veterans die daily in the United States.
Victor Lewis, who was among the first U.S., troops to occupy Japan after its surrender, said he found the Japanese people to be different than how they were described to him before the invasion.

“The Japanese people were a wonderful and a clean people,” he said. “They told us how terrible they were.”

Veteran Emmett “K” Olson provided a glimpse of the makeup of the veterans group; many of the servicemen in the local group were Purple Heart winners, but are too modest to talk about it.

While some of the memories of the group had faded and some weren’t sure what they were doing there in the first place, all were in rousing agreement when one veteran set the tone for the gathering by saying, “Aren’t you happy we aren’t speaking German or Japanese right now?”

Photo: WWII veteran Al Borkouski celebrated his 93rd birthday at the monthly meeting of the World War II Veteran’s group last week.
Photo by Curtis Riggs