Memories of war relived
Forgotten memories and old camaraderie were brought to life when more than 40 people crowded into the Antelope Valley Methodist Church in Coleville to listen and share stories from World War II.
The World War II Evening of Memories was filled with stories. Some were told with laughter, others with sorrow, but the crowded church was filled with people of all ages who listened intently as several veterans spoke last week about what the war was like for them or someone they knew closely.
Leonard Anker, who was in the 29th Division of the 116th Infantry of the U.S. Army, received three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Distinguished Flying Cross for his service in the war.
“I feel very fortunate to be here tonight,” said Anker, who was stationed at Pearl Harbor when Japan attacked.
Anker could only think of one word to describe the terror at Pearl Harbor — “hell.”
“Anybody tells you they weren’t scared, they’re lying,” Anker said. “Most everybody went three days without eating. They were that scared.”
But 60 years have passed, and although Anker came out to share memories of the war Thursday evening, he said he would like to forget what he saw.
Harry VandeLinder, who was stationed in England with the Eighth Airforce of the U.S. Army Air Corps, also brought his memories to the gathering.
He piloted B-17s during the war and remembers taking off from England during the dark hours of morning. But because it was so dark, it made flying in formation very difficult.
“Three hundred B-17s were lost over England because of formation collision,” VandeLinder said.
VandeLinder survived and flew 35 missions during the war, and he even managed to photograph one. The color photographs he took while flying over Merseburg, Germany, during one of the largest air battles of the war were on display in the church for the Evening of Memories.
Not all the speakers fought in World War II. U.S. Navy Chaplain Andrew Sholtes was just a child during the war.
He described his life growing up in Hungary and losing several family members in the war.
“I will never forget living and growing up in that history,” Sholtes said. “Our family album is all dead.”
Teressa Tucker-VandeLinder, organizer of the event, said she hopes to take the stories told Thursday evening and combine them with future stories to create a book and a digital memorial for the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.
Tucker-VandeLinder, Vandelinder’s daughter-in-law, said her father was in the war, but died when she was only 15. She wants to compile stories from World War II to learn about the things her father could never tell her.
And after the success of Thursday evening, Tucker-VandeLinder said there will be many more evenings of memories.
“I feel touched,” she said. “They all reawakened. That camaraderie is still around.”
Teressa Tucker-VandeLinder is still looking for World War II veterans to share stories for a possible book and digital memorial for the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C. Call Tucker-VandeLinder at (530) 495-1194.