- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 30, 2005

With swing music and wartime memories, members of the “greatest generation” gathered in Washington for a three-day conference hosted by the World War II Veterans Committee.

“It was the best conference we’ve held so far,” said Gene Pell, retired president of the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, who served as master of ceremonies for the awards banquet that ended the eighth annual conference held last month at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill.

The three-day conference featured panels that were led by World War II veterans, who brought to life the stories of prisoners of war (POWs), great American fighting units and leadership — hours of written and eyewitness accounts.

Among the events during the conference was a reception in honor of former Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller, who served as a Navy gunner on the USS Alabama. Mr. Feller also led the conference’s workshop on the air war in the Pacific Ocean.

The banquet featured musical tributes to songwriters and entertainers such as Irving Berlin, the Andrews Sisters, Lena Horne, Vera Lynn and Kate Smith. The official toast at the banquet was given by author Celia Sandys, granddaughter of Winston Churchill.

It was the veterans themselves, however, who provided the star power of the evening. Among those recognized at the awards banquet:

• Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk, navigator on the Enola Gay, which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima;

• C. Windsor Miller, who led the first tank battalion across the Remagen Bridge after fierce fighting and the breakout at the Battle of the Bulge;

• Philip Piazza, who fought with Merill’s Marauders in Burma.

The committee gave its Chesty Puller Award — named for legendary U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller — to Guy Gabaldon, the Marine who became known as “the Pied Piper of Saipan” after he used his ability to speak Japanese to secure the surrender of more than 1,000 Japanese.

The Audie Murphy Award went to retired Army Lt. Gen. Harry W.O. Kinnard, second in command at Bastogne when the famous “Nuts!” reply was sent to the Germans. The Chester Nimitz Award went to submariners Robert W. McNitt and Eugene B. Fluckey, now retired rear admirals.

The veterans are quite elderly, but youth remains a primary focus of the committee’s activity, led by the motto “Bringing the legacy of the Greatest Generation to the Latest Generation.” Its quarterly publication, World War II Chronicles, is distributed in school libraries, and the committee is in the midst of preparing a high school curriculum on the war.

It was British singer Miss Lynn — famed for her wartime hits “We’ll Meet Again” and “White Cliffs of Dover” — who provided a dramatic benediction via video on the banquet’s giant screens.

“I’m sorry I can’t be with you tonight,” she told the veterans. “But I can tell you, because of you, the White Cliffs of Dover are still here. And I know we shall all meet again, someday.”


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