World War II in the News is a review of WWII articles providing thought-provoking collection of hand-picked WW2 information.

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Reunions: World War II soldiers

Reunions of World War II veterans - Many dwindling groups are having their last reunions.
Latest hand-picked WWII news.

Doolittle Raiders stage Last Reunion at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida
At 97, retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole still can fly and land a vintage B-25 with a wide grin and a wave out the cockpit window to amazed onlookers. David Thatcher, 91, charms admiring World War II history buffs with detailed accounts of his part in the 1942 Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, in which he earned a Silver Star. Retired Lt. Col. Edward Saylor, 93, still gets loud laughs from crowds for his one-liners about the historic bombing raid 71 years ago that helped to boost a wounded nation's morale in the aftermath of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.

World War II siblings reunited after 75 years apart
A brother and sister who were parted just before World War II have been reunited in Southampton after 75 years. Rose Burleigh, 78, from Exeter, had not seen John Stubbs, 77, from Chichester, since 1938 when she was adopted as a two-year-old. An amateur genealogist traced Mr Stubbs after Mrs Burleigh's family discovered her long-lost brother during some family tree research two months ago. Mrs Burleigh said: "You don't know how much this means to me."

El Alamein veterans gather in Egypt for 70th anniversary of battle
The Battle of El Alamein, which opened with a 1,000-gun artillery barrage on the night of Oct 23 1942, amounted to a turning point in the Second World War for the British Army. In a 12-day offensive, the British Eighth Army under General Bernard Montgomery routed the German Afrika Korps commanded by Desert Fox Erwin Rommel, destroying about a third of its fighting strength and wrecking Hitler's hopes of capturing the Middle East. Perhaps most importantly, the Eighth Army renewed Britain's belief in final victory, shaken by the disasters at Dunkirk and Singapore.

Sailor and nurse who were pictured kissing in celebration of end of second world war are reunited in Times Square 67 years later
It is an image that captured an epic moment in U.S. history - a sailor locked in a passionate kiss with a nurse in New York City's Times Square at the end of the Second World War. And, after decades of dispute, the couple in the 1945 photograph were revealed to be 89-year-olds George Mendonsa and Greta Zimmer Friedman. Now the couple who won the nation's heart have reunited in the location of the famous kiss to reflect on the photograph that came to symbolize the end of the war.

World War II 5th Armored Division holds last-ever reunion in Bangor
WWII veterans who fought with the 5th Armored Division held their last reunion in Bangor. The group has been gathering annually since the end of World War Two, but as the decades passed, members have aged and many have died. "We`re too old. I`m as young as anyone in the outfit and I`m 86 years old," said Galen Cole, who served as a private with the 5th Armored and lost half of his squad to a German shell. He founded the Cole Land Transportation Museum on Perry Road, which hosted the reunion and has an extensive military collection that includes WWII memorabilia and vehicles, including Jeeps.

Survivors of Leyte Gulf - the largest naval battle in American history - gather in Chicago
Almost seven decades after the largest naval battle in American history, a handful of aging veterans of the Battle of Leyte Gulf gathered recently recalling the sinking of their destroyers and the 52 hours they spent in shark-infested waters without food or water. Five survivors are attending reunion of the USS Johnston-Hoel Association. There are among 8 remaining survivors from the two destroyers lost when they attacked a stronger Japanese force in October 1944 to help cover the escape of six American escort carriers in the Philippines. The destroyers took on a Japanese task force of 23 vessels, including four battleships.

Chinese American WWII veterans reunite to recall serving with Flying Tigers (photos)
Recently, Chinese American World War II veterans of the Flying Tigers reunited for their 68th Anniversary in New York City. Their all-Chinese American units served a special mission: to assist American Flying Tigers pilots and train Chinese Air Force ground crews to defend against Japanese invasion. They flew the "Hump", drove the legendary Burma Road, performed troop transport, repaired planes, and did crash recovery. It's been all but forgotten that 20,000 Chinese Americans served in the Second World War.

66 years after WWII George Jaunzemis manages to track down his true identity and family
Peter Jaunzemis went by the name George for 6 decades, but always wondered whether the Latvian refugee who brought him to New Zealand and raised him there was really his mother. "She didn't act like a mother. She was cold, she never took me in her arms and never referred to me as her son." Jaunzemis finally managed to track down his true identity through the International Tracing Service (ITS), 66 years since he was spirited away from a displaced persons camp in Belgium. Unfortunately, his natural mother, Gertrud van de Velde, who for years sought for her son, died in Brussels in 2009, only months before Peter first wrote to the ITS. Nevertheless, Jaunzemis says he is relieved to know who he is and that he has family, a nephew and a cousin in the eastern German city of Magdeburg.

WWII pilots who flew over the Himalayan Mountains meet for final reunion
Five aging WWII pilots who once flew over the treacherous Himalayan Mountains reunited in Charleston, South Carolina to swap stories of the first American airlift. Part of a dwindling number of "Hump" pilots who have been meeting since 1946, the group said age will make this reunion their last. "We were the first aircraft airlift operation that was ever attempted. We called the terrain we flew over "the Hump"...and the name sort of stuck to us," explained Bill Thomas. As members of the U.S. Army Air Force's Air Transport Command, the pilots flew from bases in India's Assam Valley to Kunming, China, supplying Chinese and American troops from 1942 until 1945.

Two WWII aircrew members reunited after 66 years
From July to December of 1944, nose gunner George Kroll and radio operator Jerry Lory were part of a 10-man crew which operated a B-24 Liberator. The crew shared a tent and became inseparable friends, but when their tour ended, the military sent the team members their separate ways. In 2010, after 66 years apart, Lory managed to locate Kroll by contacting a columnist he knew. The veterans said that it did not take long for some long-lost memories to come back after their meeting.

Kroll: "The more you talk about it, the more you remember. We're lucky to be alive."

Lory: "Yeah, every time we went up they were looking to shoot us down. And a lot of planes did go down."


Childhood friends separated during WWII reunited by chance 60 years later
Childhood best friends Peter Butcher and Donald Gooding lost contact when Peter volunteered as a flight engineer for the RAF and Don joined the armoured corps as a gunner during the Second World War.

Over the years both attempted - several times - to trace each other, but their efforts were in vain and both thought they would never see their friend again. Then, in a highly unlikely chance encounter, they ended up in the same room in a hospital.

Peter: "The nurses pushed me over near him and I looked at him and wondered if he wanted to speak to me. I asked him where he was from and he said 'Northampton'. I said I was from a small place called Gayton and he said: 'That's funny I had a good friend from Gayton, his name was Pete Butcher.' I just said 'that is me'."

During the Second World War millions of people were relocated, losing touch of their friends, family and loved ones. For example in 2010 two Russian sisters were reunited after 68 years of separation (read the story here).


Iwo Jima veterans get heroes' welcome at the annual Iwo Jima Survivors Association reunion
WWII Navy veteran James Linn - one of the first soldiers to step foot on Iwo Jima - has been waiting 18 years to attend the annual Iwo Jima Survivors Association reunion. He finally managed to raise enough money to make it to this year's event, which marked the 66th anniversary of the battle to seize the Pacific Ocean island stronghold from Japanese forces. Other notable guests at the 21st annual reunion included Hershel Woodrow "Woody" Williams, who won a Medal of Honor for taking out a network of concrete pillboxes with his 70-pound flamethrower.

Daughters of World War II group founded in Dallas - Will similar groups emerge elwewhere
Deborah Guerriero and Laura Leppert have known each other for four years, but only after they talked about the Battle of Iwo Jima they learned that both of their fathers served in the same Marine division. Soon, they set up "Daughters of World War II" group and hosted the inaugural luncheon on Veterans Day - which pulled in 350 people. It is interesting to see if such groups will emerge, spontaneously, elsewhere in the United States, where already exists several similar organizations, like "Daughters of Union Veterans of The Civil War."

Sadness replaces WWII veterans' reunions - 2 million WWII vets alive in the US
WWII veteran Donald Brown will soon attend his ship's 28th and last reunion, and it hurts. "I won't see my old salts anymore." In that instant his eyes expressed more than words could. Bernie Spozio has the same problem. His old Army outfit recently got together "probably for the last time." For Spozio the idea breaks his heart. More than anything, he wants the world to know and to appreciate the "big war" in which he served. The Department of Veterans Affairs says that, as of May of 2010 just over 2 million American WWII veterans were still living. Each day, about 850 members of the "greatest generation" perish.

U.S. Army’s 818th Tank Destroyer Battalion holds its reunion in Lubbock
65 years ago, the U.S. Army's 818th Tank Destroyer Battalion was a 600-man-strong force in General George S. Patton's 3rd Army that made its way through Nazi-occupied countries. Soldiers went directly against German Panzer tank divisions in the Battle of the Bulge during the Second World War. They advanced further into Europe than any other Western Allied army. The 2010 reunion began with an opening ceremony and a tour of the Silent Wings Museum's WWII-era aircraft.

Russian sisters reunited 68 years after World War II separation   (Article no longer available from the original source)
Two Russian-born sisters have been reunited, 68 years after one of them was sent to Austria as a forced World War II labourer. Araxa Sniderits met her sister Susanna in Ukraine after the Russian TV program "Wait for me" tracked her down in the Austrian community of Reichraming. "There was happiness and there were tears," Sniderits said. In 1942 Sniderits was taken away by German soldiers from Kransodar. After the war, she tied the knot with an Austrian man, and they ran an inn together. "For 15 years, we searched for her sister, but we did not find her," her son-in-law Walter Steinbrenner explained.

American concentration camp liberators gather in Washington
The 120 veterans wore tags emblazoned with the word "Liberator" as they toured the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The memories of the atrocities they saw in the last months of World War Two - when soldiers from several armored and infantry divisions liberated camps in Germany and Austria - remained vivid. Edward Ichiyama has often given speeches about his experiences liberating a sub-camp of Dachau - and he always gets questions from doubting audience members who don't believe the Holocaust happened. "There are millions of naysayers who don't believe that the Holocaust happened. All I can say is: 'I was a witness.'"

Scale-models depicting lost Lancaster bombers on display in Lincolnshire
Dozens of scale-models depicting Lancaster bombers lost in the Second World War are on display at Metheringham Airfield visitor centre in Lincolnshire. The models have been made by modeller Peter Stevenson who constructed the planes with their insignia. Each of the 59 model planes representing 106 Squadron - And the display was unveiled as veterans met for the squadron's reunion lunch. "We saw all these aircraft going out and not all of them came back. I thought, well statistics don't really mean much to people, but if I could convert those statistics of the 59 aircraft that were lost into something people could see then it would count for something."

The Desert Rats and the friend who was once a foe reunite, recall Erwin Rommel
It is a n emotional moment when a band of Desert Rats are reunited with an old foe. German soldier Rudolf Schneider first saw Alex Franks in the Libyan desert 68 years ago. Ambulanceman Franks recalls: "We didn't so much meet as share a moment together. I ... ran my ambulance into a German tank position." It just so happened that his mistake coincided with Erwin Rommel's inspection. There was nothing to do but surrender. But the Desert Fox waved him away: ambulances were not tanks, and for the German General there was no honor in capturing medics. Standing next to Rommel that day was Schneider - part of Rommel's personal battle squadron.

Reunion of the men who flew the Hump during World War II may be their last   (Article no longer available from the original source)
This is the last reunion of the "Hump" pilots of the China-Burma-India theater of WWII. That's their story right now, anyway. "2006, 2007 and 2008 were all our last reunions too," said Bill Gilmore. At their age, they don't plan a year ahead. 10 years ago 100 pilots would turn up for the Air Transport Command Hump Pilots' reunion - 13 made it in 2009. American military pilots who flew thrilling routes over the Himalayas to keep China in the fight against Japan. The U.S. set up air bases in India to transport supplies, parts, ammo, weapons and fuel into China, both to supply Chiang Kai-shek's forces and the "Flying Tigers" of the 14th Air Force.

British World War 2 code crackers reunite, with pride unbroken, at Bletchley Park
During WW2, the best minds in Britain broke Nazi Germany's encrypted secrets but never their own code of silence. Now gray-haired, the legendary code breakers returned for a reunion at Bletchley Park, where they labored in the blacked-out rooms and played a key role in beating the Nazis. The code breakers who worked here in anonymity helped alter history, foiling Adolf Hitler's plans by giving Winston Churchill and his wartime Cabinet crucial knowledge of Germany's invasion plans and U-boat locations. "Do you know what Churchill called us? He called us 'the geese that laid the golden eggs but never cackled,'" said Jean Valentine.

The Battle of Iwo Jima survivors reunite - maybe for the last time
In what could be one of the last gatherings of its kind, 28 survivors of the Battle of Iwo Jima met on the 64th anniversary. "This may be the last meeting of these Iwo Jima survivors... it is harder for them to get around," said Al Cadenhead. Military planners had expected an easy battle at Iwo Jima and were surprised by the intensity of the Japanese resistance. What had been expected to be a 3-day operation ended up taking over a month. "I watched the bombardment the night before and didn't think anything could survive on that island," recalled Jack Runninger.

In pics: A WWII veteran is reunited with a comrade whose 'funeral' he went to 67 years ago
When Harry Finlayson's tank was destroyed in a fight with the tanks of Afrika Korps in Libya in 1941, his superiors and Tank Corps comrades assumed the worst and held a military funeral. But Harry, part of Operation Crusader - an effort to relieve the siege of Tobruk in the North African campaign, was very much alive. During the battle his damaged radio caused him to miss an order to retreat: "I went straight on into the German lines... one of their tanks hit my tank and blew the engine right out of it." Among those mourning the presumed loss was Sergeant Gerry Solomon, who spent almost 70 years thinking Harry had died.

Waffen SS eastern front veterans Johannes Niessen and Josef Dorsch at the Ulrichsberg gathering
The remnants of Adolf Hitler's war machine traveled to Ulrichsberg for annual gathering, which in the 1990s was attended by Heinrich Himmler's daughter Gudrun Himmler. Johannes Niessen pulled out a photo of himself as a blond, blue-eyed youth straring out of the photo with a cap bearing the death's head insignia of Waffen SS. "I volunteered for the SS. With my Aryan looks, I was just what they wanted." Niessen's regiment, the 48th SS Freiwilligen Panzergrenadier Regiment, fought on the Eastern Front. Meanwhile much-decorated Josef Dorsch handed out letters for contributions to an SS cemetery in the Ukraine, and signed autographs for his young admirers.

Wartime Bomber Barons (WWII pilots and groundcrew) reunited
A group known as the Bomber Barons toured RAF Linton-on-Ouse near York. The 18 comrades, who socialise at Sherburn Aero Club, all have a WWII story to tell, including Dennis Naylor who was on a Lancaster bomber downed by a German jet fighter in 1944. The Lancaster had been sent to Heibeck in Nazi Germany, but the raid was canceled and the crew started ty fly back to England.. "Suddenly we were hit. Nobody saw what had shot us down and it wasn't until the end of the war that we were told by the Air Ministry that the aircraft had been a Messerschmitt Me-262. The Me-262 was twice as fast as a Lanc and had 25mm cannons. We didn't stand a chance."

Rare bottle of cognac awaits the last WWII warrior of 1st Marine Division
On Aug. 7, 1942, thousands of Marines from the 1st Marine Division stormed a beach where Japanese troops awaited them. It was a mountainous island in the South Solomons called Guadalcanal. U.S. forces took it after 6 months. From Guadalcanal, the Marines pushed across the Pacific: Peleliu, Cape Gloucester, Okinawa... getting closer to the Empire of the Rising Sun. In 1946 WW1 Marine Ralph McGill was so impressed with the 1st Marine Division's feats that he set aside a century-old bottle of Etournaud. He said the cognac would remain uncanted until only one 1st Division Marine who saw action in WWII was surviving: "the last of the 1st."

Reunion of 83rd Infantry Division - Rag Tag Circus raced toward Berlin in 1945
The US Army's 83rd Infantry Division will recreate its race towards Berlin (called "Rag Tag Circus") when it holds its 62nd annual reunion. After ordered in March 1945 to race toward Berlin, the Thunderbolt Division commandeered anything on wheels and in just 13 days they fought their way across 280 miles, outracing armored units to the Elbe River. WWII vehicles taking part are a Military Police Harley Davidson WLA motorcycle, a Willys MB 1/4-ton jeep, a Dodge WC 52 3/4-ton Weapons Carrier, a German Ford troop truck, a GMC 21/2-ton hard cab truck, a German Kubelwagon, and leading the column will be a restored Willys jeep which was with the 83rd Division.

A bittersweet day for D-Day Dodgers; Italian campaign reunion recalls 'forgotten war'
The word "bittersweet" was being tossed around during the 30th and last D-Day Dodgers reunion. "It's bitter because we've noticed, as the years go on, time catches up with us. It's sweet because you are here," explained Colin Wackett. 93,000 Canadian military personnel served - and 6,000 died - in "the forgotten war," as the Italian campaign would become known. Art Angus who served with the 7th Canadian Anti-Tank Regiment, apprehended why this reunion was the last. "We've had our day. There's so much going on in the world today, and there's other troops. There's not too many of us left."

The U.S.S. Copahee: the small aircraft carrier which carried Atomic bomb   (Article no longer available from the original source)
The U.S.S. Copahee was a small aircraft carrier barely anyone has ever heard of. Mostly the Copahee moved aircrafts and troops. It was important work, but it's what was loaded on board in 1945 that changed the world. It was the atom bomb later detonated over Nagasaki. As ships go, the Copahee had a short life, only 4 years. After WW2 it wasn't needed anymore, and it was sold for scrap to Japan. What used to be a reunion that numbered into the hundreds was down to 9 men, all at least in their mid 80's. But their memories of the Copahee and its crew and its historic mission are indivisible.

Doolittle Raiders reunion set for Dallas area
A reunion of the B-25 crews that raided the Japanese mainland in April 1942 will be held April 16-20 at Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field in Dallas, where the Doolittle Raiders has special meaning, since dozen of the 79 fliers trained at Barksdale Army Air Field. Of the 11 Raiders still living Charles J. Ozuk and Frank A. Kappeler were trained at Barksdale. Due to fears a Japanese picket boat had alarmed Tokyo, 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers launched hundreds of miles farther out than originally planned, meaning the airplanes had to crash land in China over enemy-held territory.

WWII commandos in Canberra for an annual wreath laying, maybe for the last time
18 members of the 2/5 Independent Company and 2/5 Commando Squadron laid a wreath at the Australian War Memorial. The company was organized in March 1942 and it executed a number of raids against the Japanese in New Guinea. In 1943, 2/5 Independent Company and other companies were reorganised into cavalry commando squadrons before deploying to Borneo. Veteran and president of the Australian Commando Association, Evan MacGregor, says this 2008 ceremony is most likely the last: "7 people died in the last 12 months and there'll probably be increased numbers I would think in the next few years."

10th Mountain Division vets look back - The last large national reunion
The frail members of World War II's 10th Mountain Division attend what some believe will be the last large national reunion for the soldiers on skis. Descendants and history buffs may plan others, but many at reunion regard it as perhaps the last chance to see so many of their brothers-in-arms. That's because age have thinned the ranks of the 10th, once 12,000 strong at their camp near Leadville. Men who once climbed mountains now get winded crossing the lobby. Dick Powers volunteered for the 10th Mountain Division because he was eager to be sent someplace where it wasn't hot or buggy. He told the Army he could ski: "Which was only 90% lie."

Russia condemns Estonian Waffen SS legion reunion, Erna Raid
Russia's Foreign Ministry condemned a meeting of veterans of Estonia's Waffen-SS division in the Baltic state. Estonian Waffen SS veterans gathered to commemorate one of the bloodiest World War II battles in Estonia. The ministry also said the military competition Erna Raid, scheduled for August 6-11 and held annually since 1993, complied with Estonia's line towards glorifying Nazism, as it commemorated the Abwehr-trained Erna reconnaissance group, which operated in the rear of the Red Army in 1941. Reunions to glorify fighters against the Soviet occupation have become a tradition in the Baltic state.

Successful Bletchley Park reunion of surviving WW2 radio operators
Surviving WWII radio operators, who intercepted the secret traffic from the German Secret Service, attended a reunion on April 29 at Bletchley Park. Hams who attended were involved with Ultra, the top secret material which was deciphered at Bletchley Park and disseminated only to those who had direct responsibility for directing the war. Mike Coleman, G1YVR, gave the group a history of Direction Finding from before WWI to the present day.

War escapers and evaders reunited
The Allied forces' heroic escapers and evaders will be back behind barbed wire in a World War II prisoner of war (PoW) camp in North Yorkshire. The largest reunion of those involved in the escape lines during the conflict is taking place at Malton's Eden Camp museum. The award-winning museum is an original PoW camp built in 1942. Civilians who helped Allied forces escape from Nazi-occupied Europe will also be there. The reunion is organised annually by the WWII Escape Lines Memorial Society (ELMS), which aims to help the men and women who risked their lives for escapers and evaders in the cause of freedom.

Reunion of World War II Rangers
Historians argue whether the demise of Darby’s Rangers was the result of faulty intelligence and poor planning on their mission to capture Cisterna, or was due to the German General Field Marshal Albert Kesselring’s strategic deployment of forces. But the fight that ensued was the end of 3 battalions of untested replacements and battle-hardened veterans, most of whom had spearheaded invasions and fought their way through Africa, Sicily and Italy. Only a handful of men from the 1st and 3rd Ranger Battalions escaped after an overwhelming force of German soldiers — equipped with mortars and tanks — surrounded them.

Reunion of the "light brigade" - secret project of WWII   (Article no longer available from the original source)
During WWII the Butler Valley was the site of a secret government training camp the Army had declared the middle of nowhere. Their mission was to conduct experiments on one of the most secret projects of WWII, second only to the atomic bomb. Soldiers who talked about it were threatened with death. The secret weapon was the Canal Defense Light, a high-intensity light mounted in the turret of an M3 tank. Its purpose was to exploit Germany's vulnerability in night combat. U.S. troops hoped to disorient the enemy. "It was considered to be the decisive weapon of the war," says professor Roger Baty.

Waffen-SS veterans in Britain hold secret reunions, confirms Totenkopf corporal
Waffen SS veterans who fought for Nazi Germany are living in Britain and attending secret reunions to celebrate their time under the Third Reich. Waffen SS veterans sing old Nazi songs at the gatherings - also attended by members of the British National Party. At least one BNP member is a honorary membership of the Hilfsgemeinschaft auf Gegenseitigkeit der Ehemaligen Soldaten der Waffen-SS (Mutual Aid Association for Soldiers of the Former Waffen-SS). The existence of SS reunions was confirmed by Werner Volkner, a corporal with the Totenkopf (Death's Head) division of the SS. The singing of Waffen-SS marching songs was done out of nostalgia, he explained.