Spring 2013 Veterans History Project Interviews
In the spring of 2013, Citadel students in Dr. Lauren Rule Maxwell’s Advanced Composition class conducted oral history interviews with a diverse group of area veterans regarding their military experiences during World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam. In addition to conducting interviews, the students incorporated the veterans’ stories into a range of writing exercises, including abstracts, feature articles, and transcriptions, which appear with the interviews online. In organizing the project, The Citadel English Department and the Krause Center for Leadership & Ethics teamed up with Fred Lesinski, Chief of Voluntary Service at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston.
Click on the hyperlinked headings below to see video recordings and transcripts of the interviews, which also will be archived in the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. By capturing these histories, it is our hope that the interviews will do justice to the veterans’ stories while paying homage to their legacy and the principled leadership they inspire.
Many people deserve thanks for helping make this project a reality. In particular, we’d like to thank Lawrence Galasso in Multimedia Services; Kara Klein in External Affairs; Tiffany Silverman and Norris Evans from Citadel Fine Arts; Col. James Rembert, Professor Emeritus of the English Department; Kerry Taylor and The Citadel Oral History Program; and Chris Sakmar, who assisted with the interviews as part of his internship.
To honor one of our own principled leaders, the English Department dedicates these interviews to the memory of Professor Philip Leon, who faithfully served both the U.S. Army and The Citadel.
Mr. Jack Brickman was born to Sam Brickman and his wife on July 8, 1921. He grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, attending Courtenay Public School and the High School of Charleston before enrolling at the College of Charleston. He enlisted prior to the breakout of World War II and joined the U.S. Army’s 87th Airdrome Squadron based out of Savannah, Georgia. Upon deployment, he was moved with his unit to Hawaii; from there they were deployed to the Pacific. Second Lieutenant Brickman then took command of a small communications unit of eight men and conducted operations on Kwajalein Island. After the brief assignment, they moved to a main island of the atoll and conducted communications work for another ten months. After his operation was complete, Mr. Brickman was returned to Hawaii where he served out his remaining enlistment.
Upon returning to Charleston, he immediately married his fiancée, Fae. After a period of around two years, they moved to the University of Virginia, where Mr. Brickman attended law school. They then returned to Charleston, and Mr. Brickman maintains a law firm here to this day. In addition practicing law, Mr. Brickman is a key figure in Charleston real estate and investing. Together, Mr. and Mrs. Brickman have six children, all of whom have law degrees.
Thomas Carr graduated from the Citadel in 1950. Upon graduation, he accepted a job offer from the Army and immediately attended Coast Artillery training. Completion of his training sent Carr to fight in the war in Korea. As he was traveling to Korea, he was informed that he would be placed in the Military Occupation Specialty of Field Artillery, a specialty in which he had no prior training. While traveling to combat, he was trained for his new MOS. In Korea, Carr received a Purple Heart for being shot while he was a forward observer. Upon completion of the war, Carr returned to the United States, married his wife and remained in the service for seven and a half years in which he took command of two antiaircraft artillery schools and a battery of antiaircraft artillery at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn.
Carr had three children while in the service. After retiring due to disability, Carr was given the golden opportunity of being chosen to found and head the White House Fellowship Program. From its inception, the Fellowship has helped developed some of the most brilliant minds in America and allowed our future leaders to work alongside Cabinet members to gain a better understanding of the U.S. government before continuing on in their respective careers. In addition to covering his service in the Army, Carr’s interview explores his passion for education, a passion that he says grew out of his Citadel experience.
Mr. Robert Dunbar was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, and he still resides here today. He has served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. He joined the United States Army Air Corps shortly after graduating from high school and became a pilot of a B-17 Bomber. During the interview, Mr. Dunbar tells many compelling stories that offer a new perspective on World War II and what life was like as a Prisoner of War.
Dunbar begins his interview by discussing his early life and how he became involved with the war and then quickly moves into stories about his training. Mr. Dunbar was trained in the United States as a bomber pilot and was sent to England to fly with the 96th Bomb Group. He would go on to fly some very interesting and important missions, such as dropping guns and ammunition to the French Maquis. He was shot down over southern Germany on his 21st mission. In the interview, Mr. Dunbar tries to convey what it was like to be shot at, explaining that, after being shot down, he was thankful because he knew he would not be shot at anymore. After being captured, he was held as a Prisoner of War for nine months. He was moved from one prison camp to another and spent time in Nuremberg, Moosburg, and Stalag Luft III, the site of the “Great Escape.” He shares some very humorous tales of his time as a prisoner as well as some very emotional ones.
Mr. Dunbar explains that Moosburg, the second camp of his captivity, was so close to a British and American bombing target that the explosions of the bombs would rock their barracks at night. Mr. Dunbar also describes how one night in particular the bombing was so terrible that the prisoners took shelter in the trenches with their German guards. Mr. Dunbar was liberated by General Patton’s 3rd Army in June of 1945. In addition to discussing his WWII experience, Mr. Dunbar touches briefly on the different jobs he performed for the Air Force during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. This interview tells the story of his service.
Serving one’s country is quite an honor. People either accept the responsibility or they do all they can to avoid it. Henry Harden, Jr. not only accepted the responsibility, he excelled as a leader in the field of battle. He led an artillery unit in Korea that successfully held crucial positions despite repeated enemy attacks. To orient his men to the mechanisms of then newly issued recoilless rifle, he drew schematic diagrams that helped them better understand how the weapon worked and how they should use it. Even when conditions were tough, Mr. Harden held firm; in the interview, he remembers times when the weather was so cold that he had trouble reloading his rifle, his hands numb and nearly frozen. Mr. Harden, despite the hardships he faced, chose to focus on the positive moments.
In the interview, he says that he and his men were fortunate to usually have at least one hot meal a day. He tells the story of the one time they were given ice cream—it melted into the mashed potatoes. According to Mr. Harden, it was the most delicious thing he had while on the front lines. Mr. Harden describes the amazing experiences he had in combat: his volunteering to go on raid and seeing his friend die, his walking through a mine field to take up positions on Hill 290 or, as he referred to it, T-Bone Hill. His story reveals not only the true grit required to survive in these situations, but also the poise and positive attitude that leaders need to inspire their troops to carry on.
Max Hill Jr., an Illinois native, has a life’s journey that takes him through enlistment in the Armed Forces towards the end of World War II to involvement in some of the first atomic bomb flying squadrons. Hill begins his interview with an insight into his enlistment into the Army; he then describes his studies at Purdue University, where he focused on Mechanical Engineering. Through a roundabout series of events, Hill was then appointed to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. In the interview, Hill goes into detail about his decision to attend pilot training upon graduation and expands on of some of his experiences there.
While in the service, Hill traveled to a variety of places, including Hawaii and Guam. As Hill gained experience in the Air Force, he was appointed to one of the first atomic bomb flight training squads. Although Hill’s unit never actually deployed an atomic bomb, it came very close to doing so. An assumed training exercise soon became a sobering close call for Hill—the operation was carried out until the very last minute when the mission was aborted by higher powers. After Hill’s time in the service came to an end, he moved on to pursue a career in real estate here in Charleston. Hill then goes into detail about Charleston’s development from its humble beginnings into its now lucrative and prosperous state. Mr. Hill provides full accounts of military experiences and intriguing life stories that make this interview one for the ages.
Colonel Tony Lackey was born in Statesville, NC in 1939. Inspired by military surroundings during childhood, including the influence of his father and the soldiers he would bring to their home from Fort Bragg, the young Tony Lackey quickly developed a profound respect for the uniform he would one day wear. Col. Lackey graduated from The Citadel in 1961 and commissioned into the Army’s field of Military Intelligence immediately following graduation.
Over the course of Col. Lackey’s 30 years of active service, he participated in such conflicts as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Gulf War, and he also served tours in Okinawa, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Col. Lackey’s career ended with his induction into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame—he is one of only 233 men to be awarded this honor. This interview includes accounts of Lackey’s childhood military influences, as well as his experiences at The Citadel as a cadet, a member of the Army branch of the Commandant’s Department, and a Professor in the Department of Political Science. Col. Lackey discusses his earliest years of his military career and progresses through his years of service, including stories of challenging and humorous times.
Retired Major General Carroll LeTellier shares some of his life experiences in this interview from March 27, 2013. General LeTellier was born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1929, and he describes The Citadel as he remembers it both as a child of a faculty member and as a cadet. He discusses some of the physical changes to the campus that have occurred since his graduation in 1949. General LeTellier points out that “some of [the buildings] have been created and re-created during my lifetime.”
General LeTellier also explains some of the highlights of his military career. He gives insight to his impressions of and experiences in Korea, including how he discovered that a war had broken out there. General LeTellier jokes about not having been promoted as quickly as some of his peers even though he had held a company command position longer than the others and recalled wondering if he had been passed over because he had “parted his hair on the wrong side”; it turned out that he was too young and had to wait until his birthday. He also discusses his two tours in Vietnam and their differences. He describes his deployment to Lebanon between Korea and Vietnam as well. General LeTellier closes the interview with both advice he gave to fellow men in the Army who were weighing career options and some final reflections on having an education from The Citadel.
The story of Mr. William (Billy) Leonard is nowhere near your traditional WWII story. Drafted as a Private right before his first semester at The Citadel, Mr. Leonard’s journey takes him from an ideal life in Charleston to paratrooper training—arguably the hardest training there was—in no time. After giving a highly descriptive account of his training and “how tough they were on us,” Mr. Leonard shares highly entertaining stories that take place between the major battles he was in, namely Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. Whether it is the accidental killing of a French cow, landing by parachute and having tea with the Queen of Holland, or holding an American coffee stand hostage for his men, Mr. Leonard keeps his audience guessing the entire time during this account. Trying to keep it “funny and interesting” while giving his audience a raw account of all the major battles he participated in, Mr. Leonard’s interview offers us a gritty, gripping account of what it was like to be on the ground in the Second World War.
Dick Whitaker was born on March 13, 1926, in the Hudson Valley. He served as a Marine in the Pacific Theater from 1944 to 1946. In his interview, we learn about his experiences at the infamous Marine Boot Camp on Parris Island and his personal philosophy on how to get through the rigorous training. He displays respect for the ingenuity of his drill instructors in the making of a Marine.
On his nineteenth birthday, Dick Whitaker stormed the beaches with the 6th Marine Corps Division. He experienced some of the worst combat—based on the casualty rates—that took place in the Pacific Theater. He himself suffered a gunshot wound in one of the many battles for Sugar Loaf Hill. Whitaker served as an ammo carrier for a machine gun squad until he was promoted to a company runner under his future lifelong friend Lieutenant Sherer. Dick Whitaker is a true Marine, and his stories, although at times humorous, display the hardship and camaraderie of war.