World War II veterans Anthony Rand, at left, and Frank Quinlan. Photos by Jessica Steeley
BY JESSICA STEELEY
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Clarkston ninth graders learned about World War II on a more personal level last week as they listened to veterans’ first-hand accounts.
The all-day speaking event allowed students to listen to a veteran during their history class. The speakers included three World War II veterans, a veteran who served immediately after World War II, a speaker who retold his father’s WWII story, and a Rosebud who discussed women’s role in the war.
Frank Quinlan served in the Sierra Nevada mountains during the war in the U.S. Navy as a seaman first class. Though he discussed his job during the war, his primary focus was his younger brother’s story, who was a flight officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Quinlan referred to his brother as his hero and relayed how he served as a top gunner in London during the war, flying on missions to bomb Germany.
Steve Himburg told students his father’s story of fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. Veteran Anthony Rand also fought in the battle near the end of the war, a last-ditch effort by the Germans. Rand described to the students how it felt being surrounded by 200,000 Germans and 1,000 of their tanks.
Luckily, he was able to jump onto a departing truck and continue through Belgium. He vividly remembers how cold it was during the battle and hearing President Roosevelt saying “Merry Christmas” over the radio of the jeep he escaped on.
Toledo was the farthest Rand had ever been from his Detroit home before the war, during which he trained in Illinois, Indiana, and California, and was stationed in England, Belgium and Paris.
Takao Kojima served in a Japanese-American unit during WWII. He was trained in Florida, where his trainer taught recruits about hand grenades by pretending to take the pin out and drop one, causing panic among the recruits.
After training Kojima was sent to France, then Italy. While his unit was travelling through Italy, they saw the bodies of the executed Benito Mussolini and his mistress.
An interesting perspective of the war was given by Stewart Newblatt, who served in the Philippines after the German and Japanese surrender, but, despite the war being over, fighting continued.
Newblatt served in the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division. His first mission was to bring an American deserter back from Australia. The deserter was court martialed and received 10 years in prison, despite only deserting because they wouldn’t send him back into combat. Newblatt saw this as an injustice and cites it as the reason he decided to become a lawyer after leaving the service. He eventually went on to become a U.S. federal judge.
Donnaleen Lanktree, dressed as Rosie the Riveter, presented to students throughout the day about women’s role in the war, including her mother’s, who was a “Rosie.” Her father also served in the war, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.
Lanktree is known as a “Rosebud” because she is descended from a Rosie, her mother. As a member of the American Rosie the Riveter Association, she has collected around 5,000 Rosie’s stories over the last 10 years.
Ninth grade history teacher Laura Murray has run the veterans event the last five years, though the junior high has had a WWII event every year since it opened in 2001.
Students get to hear the speakers during the WWII units in their history classes.
“The kids really enjoy it,” Murray said. “They come back and they talk about it again and again. It’s one of the most memorable things from this school, which is kind of unique, I think, that they remember when the World War II veterans come and they want to shake their hands.”
Murray often has different speakers come in each year, which she finds by sending out emails to different veteran’s associations and sometimes students in her class have family members that served.
“It’s actually really rewarding for me because the veterans they’ll write me notes or tell me how much they enjoy it and how respectful the kids were and how special it made them feel to get invited here,” Murray said. “They feel honored to come here and were honored to have them.”