Local WWII veterans bring history to life Once again Vermillion High School juniors have had the privilege of hearing first-hand reports of veterans of World War II experiences.
Sometimes it is difficult for students to see history as life, but Bill Radigan, Bud Marshall, Sid Engman, Fern and Warren Morse, Darrel Christopherson, Tony Cacek, and La Vern Rusch brought it to life for them.
Bill Radigan told of his experiences as a gunner in a squadron that proved that the two minute lifespan of fighter pilots wasn't for them. He told the students about the cold and the fear and the mixed feelings he had when he was following orders to shell cities or hostile areas. He talked of his high school friends who had the misfortune of not returning to family and friends.
Bud Marshall gave accounts of the Pacific as he performed his task as a radio operator on a ship, his near-death experience, and of the surrender of the Japanese who arrived at his ship on a garbage scow.
Sid Engman spoke of his experiences avoiding capture and life as a POW in Germany, the cold, the lack of food, the fleas and the lice, and the liberation and recuperation after the war.
Fern Morse expressed her amazement at the prejudice shown by recruits to other races and the prejudice shown toward women in the Army at that time. She also told of her pride in being able to replace some of the men in the states so that they could go to the front. She was a radio operator of some distinction as she was able to operate and record messages at incredible speed.
Warren Morse talked of life on a submarine, of the first appendectomy done "underwater" by a medic, of their experiences in the Pacific waters quite infested with enemy mines and traps. He informed the students of the delicacy of emptying "the head" and he suggested that if they wanted to be challenged, life as a submarine mate might be the answer.
Darrel Christopherson gave an account of his experiences at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, as well as his life after that experience. Darrel pointed out to the students that the veterans were exactly the age of over half of the students in class when each entered the armed forces. He also described the memorial at Pearl Harbor to the many who gave their lives that sad day.
Two men from Yankton joined the men from Vermillion. Tony Cacek told of building bridges and other experiences at Remagen Bridge, the Battle of the Bulge, the intense cold, how it was to crawl and search without a mine detector for mines and how they disengaged them before they could maim and destroy.
LaVern Rusch spoke of life as a ship officer en route to the European front, and of his experiences during the D-Day invasion. He also showed the students the official proclamation from Gov. Bill Janklow of Vern Rusch Day and his grandson's graduate thesis on his life experiences.
It was clear to the junior class that history is truly alive in those who served in World War II, and the students all hope that they are living lives worthy of the sacrifices made by the veterans.