Lions Salute WWII Veterans
With Jeff Meek’s Rousing Talk
HSV World War II historian and Village Voice staff writer Jeff Meek, along with his wife, Jeanne, were welcomed for dinner and his rousing talk about America’s “Greatest Generation,” the WWII vets, at the Evening Lions earlier this month.
Meek spoke about what he has learned in doing some 126 oral histories with WWII veterans in Hot Springs Village. “Each veteran has a unique story, yet there are commonalities as well,” Meek said.
“Most veterans are very humble and reluctant to tell about their wartime experience,” Meek said. Yet all who have been interviewed seem to be glad they did it.”
“They don’t like to be called heroes, Meek said. “And many will say they had a million-dollar experience they wouldn’t give a nickel to do again.”
Meek’s description of combat conditions experienced by Allied soldiers in Germany’s winter of 1944-45 had his audience in awe.
He explained how heroic Allied Forces prevailed through sub-zero weather and gained momentum to end the war before summer. Even though German front-line infantry soldiers were more seasoned combat troops and equipped with more powerful guns – each had an automatic weapon while Allied troops had only one per squad. But Allied soldiers overcame that advantage with their own true grit to win battle after battle during the war’s final months in Europe.
In the Pacific, Meek told the Lions that it was the combined effort of all military services – the Army, Army Air Corps, Navy, Navy Air Corps, Marines, Merchant Marines and the home front providing materials and weaponry – that defeated the Axis Powers.
Each veteran who does an interview receives a free video copy. Another copy is sent to the Veterans History Project (VHP) at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
That’s where Meek’s wife, Jeanne, comes in the picture. She is the VHP chairperson of the local Arkansas Chapter of the Daughter of the American Revolution (DAR). Arkansas’ chapter is one of only two U.S. DAR groups officially connected to VHP.
Evening Lions were interested to learn that the fathers of both Meeks served in WWII, a major reason for their involvement in the WWII history project, as well as becoming knowledgeable about U.S. military history.
Each vet’s story is also written up for publication in one of Meek’s two columns: They Answered the Call and the Veteran’s Vault, which appear in the Voice two to four times per month.
Veterans, who would like to participate in the VHP, are encouraged to contact Meek at 922-5387 to set an interview date.
Lions Who Answered the Call
Evening Lions Who Served in WWII
Evening Lions recognized veterans from U.S. military service in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Bosnia, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan in their March salute, but the emphasis was on the members who served in WWII.
Among those Evening Lions who served in WWII, only one – Marlin Roberts -- could comfortably wear his or her uniform from 65 years ago to their Lions celebration in March.
Among Evening Lions who are WWII veterans:
William Benjamin enlisted in the U.S. Navy at age 17. He served aboard several warships in the Pacific during the final months of the war in 1945.
Mildred Buesing – served in the U.S. Army Air Force’s Supply Depot in 1942-43 at Victorville, Calif.
William Carson was a U.S. Army infantryman, serving in Germany in 1944-45, including the Battle of the Bulge. Although Carson and club member Surry Shaffer were both infantrymen in the historic Battle of the Bulge, they never met until retirement.
Bob Case was a navigator aboard B-17 bombers. On his third mission to Berlin, his bomber was hit and the entire crew had to bail out. They were taken prisoner by German troops, but later liberated by American soldiers.
Jack Hornecker served in the field artillery of the 89th Infantry, under Gen. Patton’s command in 1945. His unit began combat in Luxemburg and moved through Germany to Austria.
Walter “Jigs” Ramsey a US Army engineer, Jigs served mostly as an engineer developing and testing weapons and hardware. His services at the U.S. Army Aberdeen Testing Grounds resulted in major improvements in weapons that saved lives of many American soldiers. He also was given responsibility of living and protecting the well-known German rocket scientist Werner Von Braun, who Russians also wanted.
Walt Rasmussen served in the U.S. Army infantry as a machine gunner in combat in European theater, including the Battle of the Bulge and Alsace Lorraine.
John Riordan was a paratrooper in the famed 101st airborne unit that led Allied invasion into Normandy, France in June 1944
Marlin Roberts, a pilot in the Naval Air Corps, who served in the Pacific theater, looked fit and trim in his 1940s uniform at the Lions event. During WWII, Roberts flew many aircraft, including props, jets, multi-engine, seaplanes, bombers, fighters, and an air balloon or dirigible.
Robert Schuffert enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1945 and was working at the Philadelphia Naval Yard when the war ended.
Surry Shaffer served in U.S. Army infantry in Europe. His combat service included Battle of the Bulge, Alsace Lorraine and other areas of France and Germany. After battle wounds, he spent four months in hospitals in southern France. At the Lions celebration, Shaffer wore his WWII helmet, which saved his life from shrapnel fired by German artillery.
Horace Shankwiler. A past Lions club president, Shankwiler served as a bomber pilot and squadron commander flying 25 night-time missions in Germany. Meek interviewed Shankwiler two years ago and published his story in the Voice.
Art Wimmell served in the U.S. Navy at its air station in Jacksonville, Fla.
Left to right, Among Evening Lions who served in WWII are Walter Rasmussen, Bob Case, Walter “Jiggs” Ramsey, Surry Shaffer, Mildred Buesing and Marlin Roberts. In center, military historian and Voice staff writer Jeff Meek.
Left to right, Among Evening Lions who served in WWII are Walter Rasmussen, Surry Shaffer, Marlin Roberts, Mildred Buesing, and Walter “Jiggs” Ramsey.