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Students hear from two who lived through WWII

June 03, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

SPRING MILLS, W.Va. -- Jumping into the darkness over Normandy, France, 65 years ago, Guy Whidden did not have much time to think about his landing about 300 foot below.

"You didn't know what was down there -- it could be a pile of rocks, it could be a roof of a house, it could be anything, it could be a half-dozen Germans you're dropping in on top of," the 85-year-old World War II veteran told eighth-graders at Spring Mills Middle School on Wednesday.

"Before you know it, you struck the ground," said Whidden of Frederick, Md., who was invited to share his experiences with the students, four days before the anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944.

A 101st Airborne paratrooper, Whidden, took part in what is regarded as the military operation that paved the way for the liberation of France and other neighboring countries of Nazi Germany, which occupied them, beginning in 1939.

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Hagerstown resident Jeanne Jacobs, who was a teenager in France when the Germans occupied her homeland in May 1940, had her own perspective to share with the students in English teacher Donna Allen's classes on Wednesday.

Jacobs recalled for four years not being allowed to go swimming, a night-time curfew and rationed food, heat being limited to one radiator in one room for one month of the year.

Because she was younger than 16, Jacobs said she was the only member of her family who was entitled to a cup of skim milk and a small piece of bread per day.

With no meat except for a small amount (50 grams) of beef per person, per week and few vegetables, Jacobs, 84, said there was no need for Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig diet plans because they were left with so little to eat.

"There was no veal, there was no lamb, there was no chicken, there was no turkey, there was no fish," Jacobs said while holding a plastic bag containing a small portion of meat for the class to see.

"That's what we had, for four years ..."

Allen, whose father died in D-Day operations at the age of 17, said having Jacobs and Whidden share their experiences with the students was only fitting.

"This is real," said Allen, who is retiring this year after 41 years of teaching in Washington County, Md., and in the Eastern Panhandle.

"That's the kind of stuff that I love to do," she said.

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