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World War II vets share stories from the ground, sky


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#1 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 08 April 2008 - 09:13 PM

World War II vets share stories from the ground, sky

By Dena Pauling

BELLEFONTE — With his left leg injured by shrapnel and his right one damaged by polio, Russell Stover, 88, of Millheim, remembered when his lower body was strong enough to help him wade through water at Omaha Beach on D-Day.
Posted Image CDT photos/Catrina Rawson
World War II veteran George Cohen, of Pittsburgh, told Bellefonte Area High School students on Monday about bombing missions on Japan that he helped complete. The State College native and a flight engineer during the war said the bombings were the right thing to do at the time. “We have no regrets Still able to wear his old, blood-stained Army Air Corps uniform hat, George Cohen, 84, a State College native, remembered when his crew aboard a B-29 bomber dropped bombs on Japan.


Both men, among the few living heroes of World War II, spoke to students Monday at Bellefonte Area High School.
“I had a great-grandfather and a grandfather fight in the war. This really hits home, hearing him speak about it,” 16-year-old Kevin Keen said after Stover’s talk inside the school library. “It really hits my heart.”
Keen, one of about 90 students who have taken at least the U.S. History II course at Bellefonte, heard Stover’s and Cohen’s tales of survival as part of a unique opportunity social studies teacher Mike Lyle organized for his students.
Stover fought the Germans from the ground. Cohen fought the Japanese from the sky.

Both men could have died. “This is us, going to shore,” Stover said, holding up a WWII calendar that depicted a picture of Omaha Beach. “I’m this guy over here, the fourth one on the left.”
But there was something else about the picture, he said, asking the students to look closely. In the distance, a cloud of smoke could be seen wafting in the air.
“I’m here because of this smoke,” said the machine gunner. “That smoke was started by a grass fire from the naval bombardment, and the wind was blowing in the right direction. It screened us from all the Germans up here on a 100- foot bluff where we were coming in. That’s only one of the reasons I’m here, though. There were many more.”
More than 100 of the men Stover knew at Omaha Beach never returned home.
Unlike Stover, Cohen, of Pittsburgh, the father of Bellefonte choir teacher Louise Victor, said no one in his group died in combat.
Cohen, a flight engineer, worked aboard a B-29 named Top Secret. It completed six, nine-to 12-hour bombing missions on mainland Japan.
Top Secret didn’t drop an atomic bomb but had been equipped to handle it, if necessary.
Cohen returned home not long after the Enola Gay had completed its mission, and the Japanese had finally surrendered.
“We have no regrets whatsoever,” Cohen said, when one student asked how he felt when the bombs were dropped from his B-29. “We know it was the right thing to do under those circumstances.”
The Japanese had “committed so many atrocities prior to the beginning of the war,” he said.
“If things had not come to pass as they did, the Russians were all set to come in and invade Japan,” Cohen said. “If they had gotten into Japan, then the whole Cold War scenario might have turned out very differently indeed.”

LESSONS OF WAR
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For the first time I have seen "History" at close quarters,and I know that its actual process is very different from what is presented to Posterity. - WWI General Max Hoffman.




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