Carson veterans call World War II memorial beautiful, long overdue

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal John Lund, left, and Henry 'Bill' White watch the National World War II Memorial Dedication on C-SPAN Saturday morning at the Elks Lodge in Carson City.

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal John Lund, left, and Henry 'Bill' White watch the National World War II Memorial Dedication on C-SPAN Saturday morning at the Elks Lodge in Carson City.

Men and women who were young 60 years ago wiped away tears during the dedication of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.

Henry "Bill" White was one of about 50 gray-haired veterans who watched the event on television at the Elks Lodge in Carson City.

"I'm 86 now and this is the first recognition I've received since I was in the service," he said, pausing to wipe away tears. He had just met - for the first time - a sailor who was on the same ship on Dec. 7, 1941, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

"We were about 200 miles west of there at the time," said his shipmate, John Lund.

"As we entered the channel the next day we passed the battleship Nevada and began to see the devastation I will never forget."

Both men, Carson City residents for the last few years, thanked actor Tom Hanks and former senator Bob Dole for making the memorial a reality.

John Perkowski of Gardnerville said the memorial should have been created sooner.

"I think it's long overdue," he said. "It's well done, it's in the right place, but it's long overdue."

Glenn Valenzuela, another Carson veteran of the war, agreed.

"How many more of us are gonna be around next year?"

Valenzuela was an engineer in the Army when he volunteered for overseas service.

His unit was assigned to guard Nazi prisoners during the Nuremberg war crimes trials. He remembers watching Hermann Goering, Reichsmarschall of the German air force, do his exercises.

"He was very gregarious. He would give his autograph to everybody."

Like so many of those Tom Brokaw called "The Greatest Generation," Valenzuela is modest about his service.

"There's other guys here with more interesting stories. Go talk to that guy over there, he was captured by the Japanese."

He was pointing to Perkowski. Stationed on the Philippine Island of Corregidor when the U.S. entered the war, Perkowski endured unimaginable hardship at the hands of the Japanese. U.S. troops on the isolated islands ate half rations for months and faced hundreds of Japanese bombing runs before finally surrendering. Then they were used for slave labor.

A friend of Perkowski's, a sergeant named Quentin Reynolds, demanded water for his starving, dehydrated soldiers. Japanese guards beat him with their rifle butts and dragged him away.

"We didn't see him again until the next morning," recalls Perkowski. "Then somebody said, 'Hey look out the window at that sign post.' Hanging from the sign was his head."

Perkowski was held by the Japanese for 40 months. While being forced to work in a coal mine wearing only a loin cloth, he heard the news of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima. Three days later he was near Nagasaki Bay when he saw the detonation of the second atomic bomb.

"Just a white flash - that's it. That's all we saw. No mushroom cloud or anything. We were about 35 miles away."

The Japanese surrendered six days later.

"When we got to Okinawa they had pork chops and ice cream," Perkowski said. "I took my canteen, my canteen cup and my mess kit cover and filled them all up."

Carson City's Pat Flanders was a watertender, 2nd class in the number one fire room of the destroyer David W. Taylor. During sea battles with the Japanese, his destroyer hit a mine near the island of Iwo Jima.

"It blew the boiler plate door right off and fire came out like a torch," said Flanders. "I've still got scars from that."

He pointed to pink marks on his forearms as the crowd of veterans applauded a scene on the televised dedication.

Ray Marion came from Reno to watch the show with other veterans. He was a Navy Armed Guard gunner on Merchant Marine freighters during the war. Tears welled in his eyes as he recalled Dec. 29, 1944.

"I got torpedoed at 20 minutes to 2. We were in the English Channel, five miles off the coast of England. We sank in two-and-a-half minutes."

He was rescued after spending several hours in a life raft soaked in oil.

"(The Navy Armed Guard) lost more men per capita than any other branch of the service," he said.

He saw ships carrying 10,000 tons of bombs get torpedoed by German U-boats.

"They would disintegrate. Just disintegrate."

Another time he saw a submarine pass within about 10 feet of his freighter.

"I could have jumped onto it," he said. "I gave the order to put on life jackets, but I didn't even get the laces tied on mine and I was in the water."

Marion's happiness with the new memorial is tempered a bit.

"It's beautiful - but it should have been done 20 years ago."

Contact Karl Horeis at or 881-1219.


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