(To listen to the audio of this blog post, use the purple play button.)
· World War II Patriots ·
It’s not Veterans Day and it’s not Father’s Day, but let me introduce you to some Fighting Fathers, American Patriots.
I’ve written about my father, Harold L. Potter, before and I’ll write about him again. Despite a successful career, and a happy marriage and family, he couldn’t help but remember growing up during the Great Depression and his years serving in the US Army during World War II in the European Theater. Harold L Potter WWII service record They were both world-shattering events.
One of my earlier essays discussed the war trunk that was ever-present in our house when I was growing up. https://jimpotterauthor.com/the-war-trunk/ Dad’s war mementos were inside. It was always a special day when Dad would open the trunk and talk about his treasure trove. They ranged from uniform shoulder patches, photographs and postcards, to weapons of war—a German military dagger and Luger. But the real treasure was having him share memories.
Another essay of mine recalled my dad being stationed in Wales awaiting the Allied invasion of the European Continent. https://jimpotterauthor.com/veterans-day/
But today I’d like to tease you with a little background on two World War II veterans who I never knew until very recently.
Ginger Zyskowski, “Ginger Z”, a member of the Kansas Authors Club, has just published a blog about her father, J. G. Frank A. Hulet. https://gingerz.works/dad-and-the-doolittle-raid/ He served in the US Navy during World War II. Z’s excellent essay explains how Lt. Hulet, when he was a Navy engineer stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, was given a “Top Secret” assignment that would help make military history. This was in early March, 1942, and the assignment had a 40-hour window to be completed.
Hulet and his team of two other men designed, acquired materials, and fabricated a hoist that would lift a B-25 bomber onto the deck of an aircraft carrier.
Only after the “Doolittle Raid” (or “Tokyo Raid”) on April 18, 1942, did Hulet recognize the importance of his design. It allowed Captain Jimmy Doolittle and his men to attack Japan while flying their sixteen B-25 bombers, the same planes that had earlier in the day been successfully hoisted onto the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. See Part 2 of Z’s blog on this at https://gingerz.works/more-doolittle-doings-with-dad/
At our most recent Kansas Authors Club meeting in Hutchinson, I met Jim and Natalee Ganyon. Jim said he was attending the meeting because he wanted to get some pointers on writing a memoir. Little did I know that the author talk would help motivate Ganyon to begin writing a book on his father’s military service in the Pacific Theater. I look forward to hearing about his literary progress.
Robert Lee Morris served in the US Army in the Philippines. Unfortunately, he was captured by the Japanese at the Battle of Bataan. Lt. Morris survived the legendary Bataan Death March, and was eventually shipped to Japan where he was forced to labor in coal mines until the end of the war.
In the summer of 1945, while Morris was toiling as a slave laborer, Hulet, a US Navy pilot by then, was helping with sea rescues from the waters off the coast of the island nation.
During World War II about 10-12% of the US population served in the military (today’s volunteer military is less than half a percent). One person who tried unsuccessfully to enlist was Johnny Wetta, a productive Kansas farmer. While his brothers enlisted and fought for their country, Wetta felt like he was stuck at home. You can read about him and the war effort in Gerri Wetta Hilger’s “mostly true” historical novel, Our Duty. https://gerriwettahilger.com/
Hilger’s literary focus on the sacrifices and contributions of women during the war is welcome. One character, Aggie, joins the Army Air Corps and qualifies as a flight nurse who is shipped to the Pacific. Polly Garrity, Hilger’s mother, serves on the home front as a nurse.
Let me end this post where Author Hilger (Kansas Authors Club) begins her novel. It’s a quote by Dwight D. Eisenhower.
“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility and its stupidity. . .
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
Until next time, happy writing and reading!
The Kansas Authors Club http://www.kansasauthors.org is a statewide organization that encourages and supports great writing. It’s divided into seven districts. In Hutchinson, Reno County, (part of District 6) we have monthly meetings at Hutchinson Community College http://www.hutchcc.edu.
Miriam Iwashige says
Hiromi and I knew Frank Hulet. We didn’t know about his WWII history though. I don’t think it would have made any difference in our friendship, but it’s ironic that Hiromi’s father was a Japanese soldier during WWII, and, in the eyes of all the soldiers you named, was surely viewed as one of the bad guys. Eisenhower’s sentiments reflect both the dissonance between what we know of common humanity and war, and the dissonance he must have felt personally having grown up in an Anabaptist (pacifist) family and eventually becoming a decorated war hero. Teasing out the significance behind finding “things” together that don’t seem to belong together is one of the most fascinating pastimes ever.
Jim Potter says
This is fascinating! OK, now I want to interview Hiromi! I can’t help but think of all the war stories that were never shared with family. For years, as I was growing up, our family attended an annual Army Reunion where dad got to talk with his war buddies. Now, that’s where the stories were shared.
Nancy Julien Kopp says
I just finished reading a book by Fannie Flagg titled The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion. It highlights a group of women who flew planes during WWII for the military but were never allowed to be a part of the military, like the WACs or WAVEs. They were known as WASPs. Never got much acknowledgment for the work they did throughout the war. The novel is about a woman who learns, at age 60, that she was adopted. It moves back and forth from the early 200’s to the Depressions and WWII years. It was a great story and a little piece of history I had not known.
Jim Potter says
Sounds like a book I’d enjoy reading. Thanks for the tip.
Ginger Zyskowski says
Nice blog, Jim! Thank you for including my dad‼️
Jim Potter says
Ginger, thanks! When you have part 2 in a couple of days I’ll see about adding that link too. Jim
Marilyn Bolton says
I loved reading about your father, Jim, and about Frank Hulet as welll. I knew Frank (his warmth made everyone feel they knew him!)–truly a wonderful man. I enjoyed reading Gerri’s home front family memoir, and the oh-so-human experiences of the young nurses, both in training and as flight nurses. We have a treasure trove of WW II stories yet to be written!
Jim Potter says
Marilyn, yes we have history among us! There are always stories out there to gather and save. Thanks for the encouragement! Jim
Eisenhower was my favorite President mainly because he alone knew the futility of war and actually was, for better or worse, the initiator of the Korean Armistice. I believe he might have had a better handle on avoiding violence then we give him credit for. I can remember many, particularly in my circles, thought when he was elected president we would have nothing but war. Turned out to be quite the opposite. Dorothy liked your blog as well.
Jim Potter says
Lewis, thanks for your encouragement. I still get chills thinking about the responsibility Eisenhower faced in sending troops into harms way. Hello to Dorothy. Jim
Hi Jim, thanks for the latest blog which was really interesting. I like the way the KAC brings together people from different backgrounds but who still share some things in common even if they don’t realise it e.g. fathers who were in the forces. Also like the way the fighting brought together children with their father. Keep up the good work. Sean