Retired Lt. Col. Bryant Smick is often reminded of the time he spent flying B-24 bombers over Europe during World War II and of the time he spent as a prisoner of war in Germany and Poland. More than 60 years later, he still looks up whenever he hears an airplane.
Few U.S. military operations were as fundamental to the outcome of World War II – and at the same time as little-known – as those conducted by the Persian Gulf Command, which supplied arms and materiel to the Soviet Union through Iran from 1942 to 1945. "We were supposed to have a secret operation," said John Wills, of Spokane, who arrived in Iran in December 1942, "but the Germans knew all about us. In fact, the night I landed in Abadan, the German radio greeted us by unit number."
There was a moment 66 years ago – surrounded by smoke on the burning deck of the USS West Virginia, while explosions rocked the ship from below – when Denis Mikkelsen thought to himself: "This is the end." It was probably a common thought among the sailors around him at Pearl Harbor, as well as the soldiers and civilians on the nearby islands who went to sleep at peace and woke up to war.
Ninety-year-old Frank R. Mace, of Cheney, was a prisoner of war in Japan and an accidental atomic veteran – one of the few Americans briefly exposed to the deadly atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945. At the time, Mace had been laboring in a Japanese POW camp in Nagoya. In the 44 months since his capture on Wake Island after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the former minor league baseball player nicknamed "Curley" had dropped 81 pounds from his 187-pound frame. Beaten repeatedly during a regimen of forced labor, he was trying to survive on two cups of rice doled out each day.