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Veterans

Hal Mayo and Ernie Schwarz: A Tale of Two Survivors

Hal Mayo and Ernie Schwarz: A Tale of Two Survivors

One young sailor was “mad as hell” that a Japanese pilot was shooting at him. For another, watching torpedoes fall on Pearl Harbor was so unreal it was “like a dream.” Seventy-five years later, they recall the horrific events that unfolded one Sunday morning in 1941.

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Ski Biernacki and Wally Walling: Return to Pearl Harbor

Ski Biernacki and Wally Walling: Return to Pearl Harbor

Chester “Ski” Biernacki of Jamestown and Wally Walling of Valley Springs were among some 90 survivors who returned in December to Pearl Harbor for the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack. Walling has attended every anniversary since 2003, but it was Biernacki’s first. Writer Chace Anderson accompanied Biernacki to Oahu and visited with Walling while there.

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Denny Thompson: Life of a WWII Bombardier

Denny Thompson: Life of a WWII Bombardier

On American bombers during World War II, nine crew members risked their lives to put one man over the intended target: the bombardier, whose job was to release bombs on time and accurately. The mission was twofold, recalls veteran Denny Thompson, now 94: destroy enemy positions and make it back alive.

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Pearl Harbor: New Friends Share Moment in History

Pearl Harbor: New Friends Share Moment in History

Jamestown resident and Pearl Harbor survivor Chester “Ski” Biernacki, 94, was aboard the USS Helena and only 400 yards from Wally Walling during the Japanese attack (see Summer 2014  story, From Pearl Harbor to Kula Gulf: A Survivor’s Story). A

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Pearl Harbor Survivor Wally Walling: Witness to History

Pearl Harbor Survivor Wally Walling: Witness to History

Wally Walling was just 20 when he witnessed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and its horrific aftermath. Now 95, he is one of few survivors who saw firsthand the toll of that day and of six Pacific invasions that followed.

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Lucky Lowman: That Fighter-Pilot Attitude

Lucky Lowman: That Fighter-Pilot Attitude

A retired fighter pilot who flew 52 missions in World War II and 185 in Vietnam reflects on war, luck and golf — a game in which, at 93, he remains a standout.

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Del Berg: Meet the Last U.S. Veteran of the Spanish Civil War

Del Berg: Meet the Last U.S. Veteran of the Spanish Civil War

In ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls,’ American Robert Jordan travels to Spain to join the fight against Franco and his fascist supporters during the Spanish Civil War (1936-’39). Like Hemingway’s hero, Del Berg joined the Republican cause, and today he is the sole surviving American veteran of that war.

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Joe Haratani: An American Story

Joe Haratani: An American Story

The 442nd became the most decorated combat unit in Army history. More than 30 percent of its 14,000 soldiers were killed or wounded, and 70 years later, few remain to tell its history.

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New Call-In Program Welcomes Veterans

New Call-In Program Welcomes Veterans

What’s wrong with feeling lonely?  Though some older adults are happy living alone, experts say that for many, loneliness can lead to health problems such as depression, cognitive decline and even premature death. “One recent study found that 44 percent

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From Pearl Harbor to Kula Gulf: A Survivor’s Story

From Pearl Harbor to Kula Gulf: A Survivor’s Story

Chester “Ski” Biernacki survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor aboard the stricken USS Helena. It was a close call for the 19-year-old sailor – and it was just the beginning.

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Quilts of Honor, Quilts of Gratitude

Quilts of Honor, Quilts of Gratitude

Army veteran Gail Belmont knows how to marshal troops – in this case, volunteers with her national nonprofit. The colorful gifts they create have a lasting impact on veterans who have waited to hear two words: ‘Thank you.’

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For 19,000 Veterans in the Foothills, Help is Close at Hand

For 19,000 Veterans in the Foothills, Help is Close at Hand

The foothill veterans community is larger than many people realize. More than 19,000 veterans live in the tri-county area: 5,123 in Amador County, 6,202 in Calaveras County and 7,724 in Tuolumne County. Help for those veterans can be found at local veterans service offices.

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Foothill Groups Welcome New Quilters, Fabric Donations

Foothill Groups Welcome New Quilters, Fabric Donations

Other area quilting groups sew and stitch for charity. Like Quilts of Honor (click here for story), they also welcome fabric donations. TUOLUMNE COUNTY Pine Needlers, Groveland: Donates pillowcases to the Tuolumne Trails handicapped camp, quilts to Wounded Warriors and

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Honor Flights: A Salute to Veterans

Honor Flights: A Salute to Veterans

Two Tuolumne County veterans flew to Washington this fall to see the Capitol Mall monument to their World War II service. The experience brought back memories, but what will stay with them is their heroes’ welcome at DC’s Dulles International

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Bearing Witness to the Holocaust

Bearing Witness to the Holocaust

What Army scout Lee Dunlap saw on April 11, 1945 defied belief: the Mittlebau-Dora concentration camp.

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Memories of D-Day: U.S. Navy veteran James Mazzaferro

As the 70th anniversary of D-Day approaches, a U.S. Navy veteran who took part in that epic invasion recalls the mission, its toll and his role in history.

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Scout’s Honor: World War II Veteran Maury Hyder

Scout’s Honor: World War II Veteran Maury Hyder

World War II veteran Maury Hyder survived ship sinkings, an epic typhoon and combat. A globe-spanning State Department career followed. Looking back, he credits his success to the skills and creed he learned as a boy.

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Finding Your Roots: Researching Military Records

Like many of you, I was an Army brat. We brats know what it meant to move every year or so, following our fathers from base to base. We made friends quickly because we knew we’d be on the move

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Witness to History: The Sinking of the Shinano

By Chace Anderson “‘FIRE ONE came the call from the conning tower. Then the whole sub bucked,” recalls Tuolumne County resident and World War II submariner Don Deiss, now 87. “I was with 10 other guys in the forward torpedo room

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WWII Veteran Joe Huante: 302nd Signal Operation Battalion

WWII Veteran Joe Huante: 302nd Signal Operation Battalion

By Joe Huante As told to Chace Anderson I think I know Sonora and the people here as well as anybody. I’ve been here all my life.  Well, almost all my life. I was born in Mexico in 1923, but

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A Helping Hand for Returning Veterans

A Helping Hand for Returning Veterans

By Kerry McCray Counselor Susan Reid has this advice for parents of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan: No surprise parties. The reason? In war zones, roadside bombs go off with no warning. Bullets fly. People scatter. An unexpected roomful

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World War II Veteran Don Brady: 50 Missions as a Ball Turret Gunner on B-24s

World War II Veteran Don Brady: 50 Missions as a Ball Turret Gunner on B-24s

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner By Randall Jarrell  From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State, And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze. Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,

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WWII Veteran Max Kernaghan, U.S. Army Air Corps: Flying The Hump

WWII Veteran Max Kernaghan, U.S. Army Air Corps: Flying The Hump

By Max Kernaghan As told to Packy Maxwell I spent about four years during World War II in the Army Air Corps (which became the U. S. Air Force after the war) which included operations in a war zone. I

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World War II Veteran Wendell Nicholls: In Patton’s Army

World War II Veteran Wendell Nicholls: In Patton’s Army

By Wendell Nicholls As told to Mary Louis  I was born in Sonora, California on April 30, 1921. My family lived in Soulsbyville, just up the hill from Sonora. I lived there for the first 25 years of my life.

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Graciano “Tete” Arellano: Three-war veteran recalls life aboard B-17s in World War II

Graciano “Tete” Arellano: Three-war veteran recalls life aboard B-17s in World War II

I remember Vernon Dunlavy, my principal at Sonora High, writing in my yearbook, “You’re going to go a long way in life.” That really hit me.  I always remembered what he wrote, and I guess in many ways he was

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WWII Veteran Arthur Moore, U.S. Army Air Corps

WWII Veteran Arthur Moore, U.S. Army Air Corps

By Arthur Moore as told to Jim and Judy Hamilton My name is Arthur Moore; no middle initial. I was born May 3, 1919, in Willits, about 150 miles north of San Francisco. My mother’s name was Bertha Friesendorf and

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Dennis “Denny” Thompson, 1st Lt. Pilot-Bombardier, 487th Bombardment Group

Dennis “Denny” Thompson, 1st Lt. Pilot-Bombardier, 487th Bombardment Group

By Denny Thompson  as told to Bill and Celeste Boyd  I gazed down from the aircraft as we crossed the English Channel and saw hundreds of ships heading for the beaches of France.  It was June 6, 1944 and I

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Celia Seubert, Coast Guard Yeoman Second Class

Celia Seubert, Coast Guard Yeoman Second Class

Celia Seubert in dress uniform, 1944 By Celia Seubert As told to Mary Louis I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to Ben and Cecelia Veronica Upchurch on Jan. 20, 1923. Shortly after, my family moved to Manhattan, New York, where

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Combat Zone: WWII Marine fighter pilot Paul Becker

Combat Zone: WWII Marine fighter pilot Paul Becker

A ‘party animal’ turned fighter pilot, then college dean, Sonora resident Paul Becker recalls the dogfight days of World War II.

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Robert Rundle: U.S. Army Sergeant Technician, 7th Division, 17th Infantry

Robert Rundle: U.S. Army Sergeant Technician, 7th Division, 17th Infantry

By Robert Rundle as told to Mary Louis I was born in Stockton, California to William and Pearl Rundle.  Two and a half years earlier my brother, William, had been born. I lived on Ophir Street in Stockton and had

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Milton “Punny” Dambacher: 5th Marine Amphibious Corps

Milton “Punny” Dambacher: 5th Marine Amphibious Corps

The war? It’s just hard to fathom the whole goddamn thing happened. I’ve always wanted to leave it all in the last foxhole. Why anyone would want to have it in their mind and talk about it I can’t imagine.

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James Kennedy, U.S. Army 71st Infantry Division

James Kennedy, U.S. Army 71st Infantry Division

    VIDEO: Scroll to page bottom to hear Mr. Kennedy describe liberation of Gunskirchen Lager concentration camp. Also, read a  camp survivor’s 1947 letter detailing Nazi atrocities. By James Kennedy As told to Celeste and Bill Boyd Like those

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Combat Zone: Frank Gurney, Flying the Hump

Combat Zone: Frank Gurney, Flying the Hump

By Chris Bateman It was like one of those black-and-white movies from long ago: The Army Air Corps pilot, the hometown girl, and a chance meeting on a station platform, all amid the drama and danger of World War II.

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Veterans History Project Yields New Stories

Volunteers’ efforts to save the stories of World War II veterans in Tuolumne County are yielding remarkable results. Visit seniorfan.com to read the latest stories, including one about John Morgado’s service as a combat engineer in the U.S. Army’s 16th

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GI Joe: Joe Uvelli, 793rd Military Police Battalion

GI Joe: Joe Uvelli, 793rd Military Police Battalion

By Joe Uvelli As told to Joy Conklin This is the story of my service in the United States Army during World War II, as part of the 793rd Military Police Battalion, Company B. I served in Europe from Utah

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Paul Miranda: Plank Owner and Survivor, USS Hoel (DD 533)

Paul Miranda: Plank Owner and Survivor, USS Hoel (DD 533)

By Paul Miranda As told to Donna Underwood My full name is Gulbrand Paul Miranda. I was born at home at Laupahoehoe along the Hamakua Coast on the island of Hawaii on Dec. 14, 1925. My mother’s family came to

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Veterans History Project Gains Momentum

Veterans History Project Gains Momentum

Their stories, inspiring and heroic, are held tight in the memories of men and women who put their lives on the line for our freedoms seven decades ago. But now these often modest World War II veterans are in their

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A Three-War Veteran’s Explosive Career

A Three-War Veteran’s Explosive Career

It was May 1943, and Larry Singley had just enlisted in the Navy – four days before his 18th birthday. With World War II under way, Singley was immediately sent to Florida for boot camp. So quickly, in fact, that

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WWII Veteran John Morgado, Army Combat Engineer

WWII Veteran John Morgado, Army Combat Engineer

By John Morgado As told to Celeste and Bill Boyd In the summer of 1943 I was 20 years old, and the youngest of six surviving children living with our parents in San Leandro, California. Our parents had emigrated from

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Robert Ottesen: A Quartermaster’s Life, 1943-1946

Robert Ottesen: A Quartermaster’s Life, 1943-1946

My wartime story began in Berkeley, California in 1942, where I was living with my mother and two siblings. Both of my parents were born in Norway. They met while on board a ship coming to the United States. My father died of pneumonia when I was 6 years old, leaving my mother to support us. She was not confident in her ability to speak English, although she spoke quite well. She worked in a school cafeteria, which was right around the corner from our home. This was during the Depression, and times were hard. She would bring home leftover food from the school, seems it was always baked custard. To this day I have not acquired a taste for it.

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Combat Zone: Jack Glass, USS Enterprise

Combat Zone: Jack Glass, USS Enterprise

Jack Glass, 86, looks back on his two years of service aboard the USS Enterprise during World War II, including the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, one of many he feels fortunate to have survived.

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Welcome Home, Vietnam Veterans

Welcome Home, Vietnam Veterans

On  March 28, 2010, thousands of people gathered in downtown Sonora for the nation’s first “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans” parade, organized by Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 391. Here is one veteran’s view of the emotional event. By George Eldridge

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Volunteers, Support Sought for WWII Project

Volunteers, Support Sought for WWII Project

A new community effort aims preserve the firsthand accounts of U.S. war veterans,  starting with those who served in WWII. The project’s future hinges entirely on community support. The Tuolumne Veterans History Project (TVHP) is being led by Deanna Maurer,

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Combat Zone: A Tale of Two Aces and One Lucky Number

Combat Zone: A Tale of Two Aces and One Lucky Number

As a young man barely out of his teens, John O’Brien was the crew chief for “Number 13,” a fighter plane shared by two Marine aviators who would join the ranks of World War II’s greatest aces. The plane that

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A Room to Spare and ‘A Heart for Veterans’

A Room to Spare and ‘A Heart for Veterans’

Gloria Mooney, 73, wants to rent out the empty bedroom in her East Sonora mobile home. She needs the extra money to boost her shrinking disability income and keep her home. Plus, she admits, “I’m tired of being alone.” She

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PTSD Help and Information

Help is available for those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Various support groups and professionals at the local, state and national level offer help to both veterans and non-veterans dealing with PTSD.

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PTSD: A War That Lives On Inside Him

PTSD: A War That Lives On Inside Him

The screaming rockets and bursts of cannon fire during the Vietnam War still haunt the dreams of Marine veteran Joe Garcia, 62. The nightmares and flashbacks are among many symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, which affects many war veterans and

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Vietnam Veterans Find Strength in Numbers

Vietnam Veterans Find Strength in Numbers

Vietnam veterans braved a brutal war, then faced rejection at home. Decades later, many continue to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or illnesses linked to wartime chemical exposure. A growing number are homeless. Many have not taken advantage of veterans’

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Combat Zone: The ‘Hell on Earth’ That Was Iwo Jima

Combat Zone: The ‘Hell on Earth’ That Was Iwo Jima

On a wind-whipped morning in February 1945, 24-year-old Marine Sgt. Harry Roberson hunkered in a half-track churning across a black-sand beach at the base of Mt. Suribachi, his pulse racing. He and fellow soldiers in the 3rd Marine Division had

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Gratitude Fuels Mission to Honor Elderly Veterans

Gratitude Fuels Mission to Honor Elderly Veterans

This is a story about the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Honor Guard, which provides military honors at veterans’ funerals. Underlying it is another story – of the brotherhood between a former Marine and retired Navy combat pilot, and their shared devotion to Tuolumne County veterans.

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