Generation of heroes: Photos of WWII vets sought for online legacy

World War II veterans I have written about stay with me through the years. I remember their faces, homes and harrowing stories. They should be remembered forever.

Arlington’s Jared Dickson was part of the USS Curtis crew at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941.

Leonard Martin traveled from Snohomish back to Normandy and walked the sands of Utah Beach, where in 1944 he landed as a young soldier.

Everett’s Lloyd Oczkewicz, who was in the U.S. Army’s 42nd Rainbow Division, spent three months of 1945 in a German prisoner-of-war camp.

Now passing away, their generation still has much to teach. This summer will be the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. The Allies marked Victory in Europe Day on May 8, 1945. And Aug. 15, 1945, was Victory Over Japan Day.

The Washington Secretary of State’s Office is asking veterans of the Second World War, and their families, to share photos as part of an online Legacy Project, “WWII Washington Remembers.” The pictures — many are already posted — are on part of the website called “Faces of Heroes.”

“We’re asking for people to send us those photos. We want to honor those veterans,” said John Hughes, chief historian with the Secretary of State’s Office.

Hughes, the former editor and publisher of The Daily World in Aberdeen, is at work on the project writing profiles of Washingtonians whose war experiences were extraordinary. Not all served in the military. One of his subjects is a 92-year-old “Rosie the Riveter” from Olympia. While the male workforce was at war, she worked drilling holes in B-17 wings at Boeing’s Plant 2 in Seattle.

Other Secretary of State staffers working on the project are senior researcher Lori Larson and Trova Heffernan, creative director of Legacy Washington.

In August, Larson said, there will be a public exhibit, “Washington Remembers: Their Sacrifice. Our Freedom,” in the lobby of the Secretary of State’s office at the Capitol in Olympia. The display will be up about a year.

One of the first profiles on the site tells the story of Ferndale’s Joe Moser.

Now 93, Moser was shot down over France in 1944. He was captured and sent to Buchenwald, a Nazi concentration camp. At the German camp, he saw people starved to skin and bone. Days before he and other U.S. captives were to be executed, they were moved to a POW camp.

Families have told Larson their loved ones rarely talked about the war. “Joe Moser’s wife didn’t know for 40 years that he had been in a concentration camp,” she said.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman comes from a military background and keeps “veterans close to her heart,” Hughes said. According to Wyman’s biography on the state website, her husband, John, served as a U.S. Army Ranger.

One of the “Faces of Heroes,” Marine John Dobbs, is Wyman’s uncle, Larson said.

“We are racing time,” Wyman said in a March 26 statement announcing the project.

For Hughes, it’s an opportunity to highlight the amazing service of people who came to be called members of the Greatest Generation. “As a storyteller, my mantra is, ‘So many stories, so little time,’” he said.

In time for Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday, the “Washington Remembers” site will include Hughes’ story of Arnold Samuels, of Ocean Shores.

“Mr. Samuels is a German Jew whose family escaped Nazi clutches in 1937,” he said. After coming to New York with the help of influential people, Samuels became an American GI who in World War II helped liberate the Dachau death camp.

“It is the most incredible story I’ve ever told as a writer,” Hughes said.

Larson sees a poignant aspect to these stories, many kept private for decades. Finally, veterans are ready to share them.

“There’s something about them approaching the end of life, in their 90s, and realizing if I don’t get my story out there now, it will be lost to history,” she said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Share photos of WW II veterans

The Washington Secretary of State’s office Legacy Project has launched an online tribute to World War II veterans. “WW II Washington Remembers” features outstanding stories of veterans at 1.usa.gov/1CqITKs.

All World War II veterans in Washington or their families are asked to share digital photos for the site’s “Faces of Heroes” at 1.usa.gov/1CclDgf.

Photos may also be emailed, with name and information, to lori.larson@sos.wa.gov.

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