April 10, 2008

Wartime Decatur

(Aired on WILL-TV's "Prairie Fire" on April 10, 2008)

In World War II, soldiers from Decatur, Ill., served in North Africa, Italy, the Philippines and Germany. Local volunteers rolled bandages, collected food, and recycled bales of paper and heaps of scrap metal. Citizens planted victory gardens and bought war bonds and savings stamps. Dan Guillory's book, "Wartime Decatur: 1832 & 1945" documents the vigorous wartime culture based on community involvement and a strong sense of patriotism. Prairie Fire talks to Guillory about his stories of service both on and off the battlefield. Then producer Denise La Grassa recounts the experiences of Decatur's Carl Mocabee, who was a master sergeant in the Army stationed in the Philippines and New Guinea. He received a Purple Heart and Silver Star during his service.

April 03, 2008

Oral History Interview: O.B. Streeper of Chenoa

O.B. Streeper served with the Army Air Corps from March 1943 to September 1945. He was shot down May 27, 1944, over southern France. He parachuted to safety, and joined the French resistance. During one of the missions that he participated in, a bag was accidentally left behind contained his name and some of his identification. After finding this bag, the Nazis were apparently convinced that Streeper was one of the key figures in the French resistance so they offered a large reward for him—large enough that it represented several years of salary to an average French citizen—so Streeper had to distance himself from some of his colleagues in the resistance for fear that someone might turn him in for the reward money.

April 03, 2008

Friendship in Combat

(Aired on WILL-TV's "Prairie Fire" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 3, 2008)

A friendship during World War II helped George Kitterman of Bloomington survive fierce conditions during the Battle of the Bulge. In this Prairie Fire story, Kitterman describes being pinned down in a foxhole with his friend Joe Spencer, covered with snow with only a bazooka and one shell between them. They wondered what they would do if a German tank came over the ridge.

Producer Denise La Grassa begins with Kitterman learning about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, when he and his pals were finishing a game of touch football and turned on a car radio to hear the Chicago Bears score. "We follow him through much of his war experience, but the centerpiece is this friendship that was so important to him," La Grassa said.

March 20, 2008

Oral History Interview: George Myers of Springfield

George Myers grew up in Hoopeston on a family farm with his widowed mom. He enrolled in the U of I to major in agriculture, thinking he could learn something to make the farm more successful. Myers served on an LST in the Pacific from 1944 to 1946. He didn’t get shot at, but he recalls being scared. “I still remember the full moon on the water and how it seemed like we were visible to everybody, but we couldn’t see a thing,” he said. Myers has been president of the national LST Association. Of the some 100 men on his ship, only about 7 are left.

March 14, 2008

Oral History Interview: Jesse Dowell of Champaign

Jesse Dowell volunteered to join the U.S. Navy Air Corps, serving from August 1944 to August 1947. He trained for the invasion of Japan, going to school double time to be prepared as soon as possible. He completed bombing practice with a new secret radar bombsite, which could bomb for the first time at night in total darkness. The surrender of Japan made the invasion unnecessary.

March 11, 2008

Oral History Interview: George Boyd of Urbana

George Boyd was 7 years old and living in Urbana when Pearl Harbor was attacked. His homefront memories of the war years are sharp and reflect much of what children living in this country experienced. He did the things children did, playing and going to movies and helping with liberty gardens. He gives a good picture of life in middle America where everyone was involved in some way in the war effort. At the same time he heard adults talk and radio reports and knew when neighbors or family members were hurt or had died in battles. Children of this period in our history were changed by what was happening and in some ways were adults well before they might have been if the war had not happened.

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