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Museum honors World War II vets

September 14, 2008|By Alicia Notarianni

WILLIAMSPORT- Jack Myers spoke with intensity as he recalled being drafted, getting married at 19, and setting sail from New York Harbor to serve in World War II.

"It was a unique experience, going to New York City, getting on the ship. It was so crowded I had to sleep on a mess table," Myers said. "I was watching the harbor lights disappear, thinking, 'Will I ever see these lights again? Will I ever see my wife again?'"

Myers, 85, of Williamsport, was among more than 40 World War II veterans from across the Tri-State area who were honored during a ceremony Saturday afternoon as part of World War II Weekend in Williamsport. Williamsport Town Museum at Springfield Farm hosted the event, which Myers said was "wonderful."

"It makes us feel good to be appreciated," he said.

Kim Bowers, a member of the Town Museum board of directors, proposed the idea for the World War II Weekend. After attending similar events elsewhere, Bowers said he began thinking of the number of World War II veterans in the Williamsport area, and how quickly they are passing away.

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"There are estimates that 1,200 World War II veterans a day are passing away," Bowers said. "Some are just now being able to talk about their experiences."

Bowers said of the roughly 2,000 Williamsport residents during World War II, more than 800 enlisted or were drafted for military service. He set about identifying the surviving veterans in Williamsport, and mailed invitations to them for Saturday's ceremony. The museum also publicly welcomed other World War II veterans to be recognized at the event.

Veterans gathered with family and friends under a large white tent before the ceremony. Several of them wore their military uniforms. Nelson Deal of Williamsport led the proceedings across from the tent under the nearby shelter of the Springfield Farm barn, which was strewn with U.S. flags. The day's intermittent sprinkles of rain held off during the ceremony, allowing the veterans to take seats of honor on the lawn as fellow veteran Myers presented them with ribbons of gratitude for their service.

"Men and women of our greatest generation, only one word can identify with our tribute today - gratitude," Deal said.

Following the service, veterans shared war stories with those in attendance. Joseph Scott, 93, of Halfway, said he worked in supplies on Tinian Island.

"I was sleeping 300 yards from the plane when they loaded an atomic bomb on Enola Gay," Scott said. "Later we were at a movie when they called us to report back. 'We just dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima,' they told us."

Charles H. Brown, 84, of Bunker Hill, W.Va., recalled being a 20-year-old gunner on a B-17 in Berlin when three of the plane's engines failed.

"We flew out to the North Sea on one engine and ditched the airplane in the North Sea," he said. "We were in a raft 28 hours - overnight. The next evening, we were picked up by the German Air Force."

Brown was a prisoner of war until he was liberated April 26, 1945.

Jack Holland, 85, of Williamsport, said he served as a tail gunner in the 8th Air Force 447th bombardment.

"I got the letter," Holland said. "I knew I had to go."

Holland married his wife, Fae, three days before he left. Today, Sept. 14, they are celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary.

World War II Weekend also included an Abbott and Costello tribute show and re-enactment encampments. Saturday night, veterans attended a USO Dance with the Ray Birely Big Band.

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