Eleanor Smith (Clapp)
Navy – Ensign
Unit: Navy Nurse Corps
Served in: U.S. Naval Hospital, Philadelphia, PA; U.S Naval Hospital, Parris Island, SC.
Resides today in Lansing, MI
Charles R. Bowman
Tuskegee Airman – Corporal
Unit: Tuskegee Airman
A pilot training incident damaged one ear drum, keeping Charles Bowman stateside.
Served in: Tuskegee Army Airfield, AL.
Resides today in Lansing, MI
EAST LANSING, MI — A number of World War II veterans from Michigan will be featured with other veterans in the upcoming WKAR-TV documentary The War: Michigan Voices, premiering Monday, September 17, at 8 p.m. on WKAR-TV.
Those featured in the first hour, focusing on the European Theatre, include: George W. Bachman (Williamston); Howard G. Chaffee, Robert Kenney and Louis C. Stamatakos (Okemos); Billy Hanel, Richard B. Hoskins, Raymond Joseph and Leon G. Rockwell (East Lansing); Willis I. Cressman (DeWitt); William K. Feasal (Mulliken); Ernst Floeter (Grand Ledge); Charles J. Greenough, Fred Holmer, Sr., Paul R. Jankoviak, Robert G. LaPrad, James W. Perkins, Reynaldo Rendon, and William H. Smith (Lansing); Clyde B. Ray (Charlotte) and Clifford Lumbert (St. Johns). Those featured in the European Theatre from outside the Greater Lansing area include William Thompson (Detroit), Francisco M. Vega (Grand Rapids) and Earl F. Harmon (Olivet), and Victor E. Moiles (Corunna).
Those appearing in the second hour, which focuses on the Pacific Theatre, include: Bennie Allen, William Hincher, Harry D. Pruitt, H. Edwin Sullivan and Richard P. Thelen (Lansing); Rondo Eugene Lilly, John D. (Jack) Shingleton, Frederick W. Kletke, Dudley R. Kopen and Kenneth G. Springer (East Lansing); Leslie R. Adams and Robert Brundage (Haslett); George K. Dike (Okemos); Leon T. Dombrowski and Russel N. Morse (Holt); Leo (Rocky) Stone (Mason); Irene M. Hosking (Owosso); Clay Reeves (Oakley); Carl Galvin (Eagle), Charles Stringham of Webberville and Harry Jonas Bellows (Eaton Rapids).
Sixty-five Michigan veterans were interviewed for the documentary series, which includes a one-hour episode on both the European and Pacific Theatres. Those whose stories were not included in the video documentaries were also recorded and presented to the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project. All veterans who were interviewed are included in an honor roll listing on WKAR.org.
The veterans share their memories from first hearing about Pearl Harbor to their return home. Richard Thelen recalls the frightening days after the U.S.S. Indianapolis, which delivered the atomic bomb to Hiroshima, was sunk by a Japanese torpedo. For four days and five nights he was in the ocean, without food or water, waiting for rescue, as sharks began to devour his companions. When a raft was finally dropped from above, he and his three fellow sailors tried to swim toward it. Only Thelen reached the raft.
“Now, why I made it, I don’t know. But I got to the raft and…there was five or six of them [on the raft]. …They were delirious, out of their heads. They wre too weak to help me. I was too weak to get on the raft….So, I spent till Friday morning. I just tied myself to the raft where the little ropes go around it and stayed there till Friday morning. They picked me up.”
More than 600,000 Michigan soldiers served during World War II. The War: Michigan Voices features oral histories from Michigan veterans who served throughout around the globe in such battles as D-Day and Iwo Jima and survived such experiences as kamikaze attacks and the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis. Their stories, combined with archival film and photographs, remind us of the sacrifices made by our state’s veterans and their comrades.
“Hearing the stories of all the veterans who participated was extremely moving,” says WKAR producer Mike Mihalus. “These men, women, and their comrades made enormous sacrifices for their country during World War II. In preserving their stories, we are helping contribute to an enormous archive of first-person stories that reflect a critical period in American history. As more veterans die each day, it is our responsibility to remember what they endured to preserve freedom for generations to come.”
Production of The War: Michigan Voices and the community preview of the series on Tuesday, September 11, at 7 p.m., at Wharton Center for Performing Arts, are two of WKAR-TV’s signature events for The Year of Arts and Culture at MSU, a year-long initiative to highlight the diversity of arts and humanities at Michigan State University.
The WKAR.org website for The War: Michigan Voices includes repeat times, an honor roll listing service details for all those interviewed, transcripts for the veterans’ complete interviews, selected articles about some of the veterans, and a “Share Your Story” section that allows visitors to share their stories or memories of their family members’ experiences in World War II.