“Hello. I’m Jane Hanson, and I’m proud to bring you the stories of our nations heroes, their words never heard before, in this compelling series “Unspoken, Now Told: Soldier Stories.” The footage that you’re about to watch is part of an on-going mission to document the wartime stories of our nation’s military veterans, from World War II through today’s conflicts, all in the voices of the men and the women who fought for our freedom, facing down enemies poised to change our way of life. First in the series, this moving and thought-provoking video gives us a new look into the World War II experience through previously undocumented first-person accounts. Each story is told by the solider himself. Many of these stories have been left unspoken, until now.”
Thomas J. Morris, WWII Veteran, Age 91
Staff Sergeant, Engineer Gunner; Army Air Corps;
319th Bomb Group, 437th Squadron
July 26, 1945. President Truman, supported by Allied forces, issues the Potsdam Declaration, promising “prompt and utter destruction” if the Japanese refuse to surrender.
“We were briefed that night to bomb Nagasaki, and it was a target that wasn’t bombed before so they said “We’ll go in there with the A26s.” And what happened that night, they called us back again and we were re-briefed to bomb the alternate – we always have two targets – bomb the alternate target which was Kanoya. So I said “Why aren’t we going to bomb Nagasaki?” “Oh, they think, they said, it’s weather there. Not very good visibility there.” But we didn’t know that they were giving it to the B29s. And, uh, or the B29. And we bombed an alternate target which was a, which was a Japanese airfield. And then on the way back, I saw this huge thunderhead going up. And there was blue flashes going on in it. And we were out, we were out about 8,000 feet and it was passing us by.”
August 6, 1945.
The first atomic bomb devastates Hiroshima, eliminating 90 percent of the city, but Japan refuses to surrender. Three days later, a second bomb is released over Nagasaki.
“It was still going up and there was a cap falling on top of it. Like an ice cap, you know? And it just kept going up and going up. And every once in a while you’d see a flash – a blue flash. I said “Boy, that’s some thunderstorm.” I didn’t know about the atom bomb. But when we landed, the news was all around. Guys were passing out these little bulletins about the atom bomb. Then right after that, the Japanese surrendered.”
August 15, 1945.
Emperor Hirohito announces Japan’s unconditional surrender.
“So that saved our lives because we were scheduled to the invasion of Japan. And they said that the A26s, the low-level planes, would practically take a 50% loss. I says “Oh, that was lucky.” In fact, when we heard about the uh, the bombs at Nagasaki there, I had the feeling that it was like what they were dropping on Europe. The English were dropping those huge bombs. I thought it was one of those. That saved our lives – that bomb. Whatever they want to say about the bombs, they put the war – they ended the war and saved millions of lives. Because they say that the invasion of Japan would have been horrendous.”
Morris served bravely in the following countries during WWII:
Japan, China and Korea.
Morris received the following medals for his service:
Three Air Medals (Okinawa, China and Japan) and the Distinguished Flying Cross
Angelo Salerno, WWII Veteran, Age 92
Private First Class, U.S. Army, 103rd Infantry Division
“My outfit, the 103rd Infantry Division, I look upon that like – I classify them as three armies. The first army was with Bradley and with Patton. They were the… they used to go 50, 60 miles, they could go. They were fantastic. But one used to go, and the Germans used to come back into the pocket, they called them. And we were like the mop up. And we would come through and clean up the towns where all the Germans were left behind. And then behind us came the other ones that would set up the government, set up the mayors and all of that.”
Autumn 1944: The 103rd Infantry Division arrives in Europe. Operation Avalanche, the Allied invasion of Italy, was well underway.
“The lieutenant comes running and calling.. “What the heck?” and I say “Yeah, what is it?” “Come here,” he says, “There’s a bunch of Italians that want to surrender but they can’t.” I understand that somebody doesn’t wanna make them surrender. So he says “We’re gonna go over there,” he says “Do you speak Italian?” I said “Yeah, I speak Italian.” He says “OK.” So they got a jeep, they got a half-track, and they got a tank. We go up there and there’s a big slope. It’s about 100, 150 foot, and it’s all woods at the top so we got the white flag – it was the guy’s undershirt. We put it on a stick and we walk it up, the three of us. Me, the lieutenant and another guy. Here comes four guys, four Italians, they come out. So I says “Hey..” in Italian I said “You surrender? You call the rest of your guys and you bring them out.” We didn’t know how many were there. “You know the Major don’t want us to do it.” I said “Well, look, instead of you going to the Major’s funeral, your wife and kids are gonna go to your funeral because you guys are all gonna die.” I said “Take a look.” And then we had the tank with the gun up there and two machine guns, and we had a platoon of soldiers – of gunmen. I said “You got ten minutes. You don’t come out, you’re all gonna die.” So we went back and they went back. We were waiting 5 minutes, 4 minutes, then we hear boom, boom, boom.”
With German forces resisting defeat, some Italian troops remain politically divided and reluctant to surrender.
“Everybody’s ready to shoot. The lieutenant says “Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot.” In a little while they all start to come out. So I see the guy that had the flag – the guy I was talking to. And I said “What happened?” He said “The major didn’t want us to surrender. He wouldn’t let us surrender and we were brought up in the same village,” he says. “We didn’t have the heart to kill him. But we had two new guys in the thing. We gave them the gun, and they killed him.” He killed the Major, and they all surrendered. I said “Go home to your wife. You can thank her very much that you’re still alive. Otherwise you would have been like the Major.” And we brought them in. There was 62 or 63 in the woods. For one guy?”
May 1945: German forces in Italy surrender. The “long, hard slog” of the Italian Campaign ends not without cost: over 300,000 U.S. and British soldiers were killed, wounded or MIA.
Salerno served bravely in the following countries during WWII: England, France, Belgium, Austria, Italy and Germany.
Salerno received the following medals for his service:
The Bronze Star and The Victory Medal
Leroy E. Barnes, WWII Veteran, Age 89
Sergeant, 2nd Infantry Division, 38th Infantry Regiment, Company F
March, 1945: The 2nd Infantry Division reaches the Rhineland region of Germany.
“We were by that big fortress on top of the hill, and out of nowhere this German officer comes out, putting on gray kit gloves. But then he wanted to surrender to an officer. The guy says “I’m an officer.” He says [speaking German]. So we had to bring him to our lieutenant to surrender. Then he told us about people being in the secret tunnel that he just came out of. He said that they wanted to surrender but the S.S. wouldn’t allow them to do that. So he says “Go back and tell them that nobody will be harmed, to start coming out.” And they came out one or two at a time, and then they wanted the S.S. officer to come out. He wouldn’t come out. So they sent guys in to hold a few hand grenades, but then I heard a big explosion.”
Tensions rise as the Eastern and Western Fronts begin to close in on Germany. War crimes are not an uncommon occurrence.
“So then they told me that the hand grenades must have blew up a box of ammo or something because there was a lot of damage on the inside. We had to get the bodies out and everything out. Not I, but a group of guys. And that’s when I met this Russian who was interrogating prisoners. And I said to the lieutenant that was standing by, “What’s going on?” “He’s talking to him. He wants to know what’s going on inside this compound. The tunnel here.” And the guy wouldn’t talk so he takes out his little 25 caliber pistol, and he had a hammer sickle pin on his jacket. So he was really stiff Russian air force working for us in intelligence, you know. So he took it out, put it up to the guy’s – now, I didn’t think he was gonna shoot him. Then he did. Pulled the trigger, the bullet hit his nose, went out his, underneath his eye. And he did it the second time. The second time, I put my hand up and pushed the gun away so he wouldn’t shoot him anymore. And then he got very angry at me. The lieutenant started jumping on him and told him “Put the gun away. Shut up!” The guy went, never died. Both bullets hit his nose and went out, deflected one out underneath his eye, but a 25 caliber, not 20.”
Numerous cases were determined where POWs were shot under circumstances in which shooting was not necessary, but came only from bad will. – Soviet Order, January 1945
“Maybe the powder was wet, who knows? But, saved his life. No, it’s human rights. Why would you shoot somebody like that? I don’t believe in hurting anybody really. I tried not to. You know, it’s war, but why kill somebody because six months later it’s gonna be all over, or two years later, and who the hell’s gonna remember it? And what good is it gonna do? Nothing.”
Barnes served bravely in the following countries during WWII:
France, Belgium and Germany.
Barnes received the following medals for his service:
Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Combat Infantry Badge, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
Each of the soldiers who shared their stories for “Unspoken, Now Told” is an Honor Flight Long Island recipient. Honor Flight is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for all of their sacrifices. The organization flies our nation’s heroes, free of charge, to Washington D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials. Through their association with the charity, the group responsible for producing “Unspoken, Now Told” formed connections with each of the World War II veterans who agreed to share their stories for the sake of posterity. To watch more interviews in the series, please visit UnspokenNowTold.com. The mission to build an on-going catalog of soldier stories continues with veterans of the Korean, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. Visit UnspokenNowTold.com for a continuously updated catalog of first-person accounts from the battlefield. Thanks so much for watching.