The years slip away and events recede into the past, but the experiences of local World War II veterans remain etched in their memories
From the Holiday 2018 issue
Next year will mark the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II. All but a handful of countries participated in that conflict and historians estimate that more than 60 million people died as a result of the war. Included in that death toll were 40 million to 50 million civilians, killed by bombings, disease and starvation, and war crimes, including the Holocaust’s systematic extermination of Jews and others.
The United States joined the war in December 1941, after the Japanese attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. By the end of the conflict nearly four years later, nearly 406,000 U.S. soldiers, Marines, sailors and Coast Guardsmen had been killed and more than 672,000 wounded.
The surviving veterans of World War II are largely in their 90s; some have hit the century mark. What follows are profiles of seven who live in the coastal Sussex area. Though all are 90 or older — Ed Carter, the most senior, is 99 — each can clearly recount his or her war experiences. “I have pictures in my head of things that I saw that I will carry with me until I die,” says Navy veteran Ed Cobb.
Only one of the seven, B-17 pilot Tom Creekmore, participated in battle. A second, Cobb, viewed the Battle of Okinawa from his transport ship, the USS McCracken. But all had important roles to play, valuable jobs that contributed to the war effort and, eventually, to the victory of the United States and its Allies.
In the words of Joe Boyle, who spent the war on a ship in the North Atlantic, monitoring the weather: “There were millions of people in the service during World War II. Not all of them stormed the beaches. But it took a lot of people to support what had to be done. There were a lot of people working together so we could be successful.”
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