Thursday, May 9, 2013

Cavendish WWII Veterans Speak to 6th Grade

Cavendish has six World War II veterans still residing in town-Russell Fitzgibbons, Carmine Guica, Jim Hasson, Edward Kolenda, Seymour Levin and Kenneth Winot. Edwin Farrar lives part of the year in Cavendish and winters in Florida.

Sandra Stearns has gone through the list of those listed on the town’s WWII memorial to see which veterans are still alive even though they may no longer be residing in Cavendish. The results of her research, and with input from others,  indicates that the following Cavendish veterans are alive just not in town: Paul Ahonen, Jr. , Glendon Bemis; Gordon Durand; Vincent Guica; Antoni Janowski; and Wyeth TiemannShe is not sure if John Gay is still alive. If you have information on WWII veterans, please let us know by e-mailing or calling 802-226-7807. 

On Monday, May 6, three of the veterans came to speak to the sixth grade class at the Cavendish Town Elementary School. Robin Bebo-Long, the sixth grade teacher, made a video of their presentations.

Jim Hasson: Started school at the age of four. When Pearl Harbor occurred in 1941, his high school class quickly emptied, but he was too young to enlist. In 1943, he was leaving the post office and noticed a poster showing a Seabee jumping off a road grater with a Thompson Machine Gun. He said, “that’s the job for me.”

He enlisted as a Seabee at the age of 17 and he remained one until he was 60 years old, when he retired. More than 325,000 men served with the Seabees in WWII fighting and building on six continents and more than 300 islands. In the Pacific, where most of the construction work was needed, the Seabees landed soon after the Marines and built major airstrips, bridges, roads, gasoline storage tanks, and Quonset huts for warehouses, hospitals and housing.

Jim was first assigned to Pearl Harbor, where he built timber rafts for airplanes. He then was sent to Quam. After the war, Jim became a plumber, but continued with the Seabees. He was 41 when he went to Vietnam and also served in Cuba during the Castro era. He particularly liked his stint in Bermuda, particularly since he wasn’t being shot at. Watch his presentation on uTube

Carmine Guica: He and his two brothers, Vincent and Frank,  enlisted and were stationed in the Pacific. Carmine was stationed in some of the highest attacked areas-Guam, Philippines, Okinawa and Ie Shima. He described how they lived two to a Foxhole, taking turns staying up at night. As he wrote in his autobiography, “We were on the beaches where we set up our anti-air craft guns. Most of the fighting was back in the hills. The action we saw most was firing at the Jap planes. They never bombed us too much as their greatest target would be the ships. When we had an alert, all personal were called-cooks, clerks, and KPs. [Carmine was a cook.]. ...We used to go on the hill where the refuges were and talk to them. They spoke English well and they used to tell us how strict they had to live under the Japanese rule. I did get very sick there for a few days. Just about every one was affected. They said it was Dengue Fever or something like that. The Engineers made fresh water for us from the salty ocean water. There sure was a lot of deep mud on Guam. After we got our kitchen set up the engineers also made ice that they delivered to us every day. We did get a lot of Spam. There were so many ways we served it....For fresh meat we had a lot of goat meat from Australia.”

The constant bombing Carmine was exposed to resulted in major hearing loss. He would eventually return to Cavendish, where he worked for GE until his retirement. Like many of the other veterans, he was in the reserves after the war. Watch his presentation on U Tube.

Seymour Levin, originally from Grand Rapids, MI, had several reasons for enlisting: to keep up with his older brother; his dislike of school (he had already finished two years of college) and most important, he had family in Lithuania who were forced into the concentration camps. Seymour thought that Hitler was evil and needed to be stopped. Initially in officer’s training school, he was moved into gunnery and bombardier training. Instead of going to Europe, he was sent to the Pacific as a tail gunner on a B-29 bomber. At one point, Seymour’s crew was sent stateside for additional training. While it was top secret at the time, it later became apparent that his flight crew were among those that would be the back up for the Enola Gay, which dropped that atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Completing 23 aerial combat missions, Seymour’s division, located on Saipan was featured in the War Department’s film TheLast Bomb-1945 U.S. Army Air Forces Bombing Japan. Portions of the film, available on-line was shown to the sixth graders.

After the war, Seymour took advantage of the GI bill to complete college and medical school. He would eventually work with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) and has worked with combat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Watch his presentation on uTube. 

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