Greatest Generation Live

Every 4th Tuesday on Zoom at 7pm ET and simulcast to Facebook and YouTube.

We talk all things WWII, with experts, authors, and WWII veterans.

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The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II – Wednesday, February 1 @ 6:30pm ET

Date: February 1, 2023
Time: 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Location: Zoom
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Glenn Flickinger kicks off Black History Month with a talk about the famed Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. The VBC is hosting this event with Upper Saint Clair Township Library. Glenn presents the history through the story of one its youngest pilots: Colonel Harry Stewart

Registration is required. Space limited to 100.

Who were the Tuskegee Airmen?

Three years before the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the Roosevelt administration launched the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) to boost the nation’s pool of licensed pilots in case of war. The need for skilled airmen was so great that few noticed that the enabling legislation included funding for Black pilot training.

Over 2,500 colleges and flight schools participated in the CPTP, including the historically Black Tuskegee Institute, Hampton University, Virginia State University, Delaware State University, and Howard University. As the war approached, the need for military pilots, combined with twenty years of political pressure by Civil Rights activists, compelled the War Department to train African Americans as officers and pilots in racially segregated facilities.

The all-Black 99th Fighter Squadron started training at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama on November 15, 1941 and graduated its first class of aviators in the spring of 1942. The squadron saw its first combat flying from bases in French Morocco, North Africa in April 1943. It continued combat service in the air war for Sicily and the invasion of Italy. In February 1944, as more Black pilots arrived from training, the USAAF joined the 99th Squadron with three other fighter squadrons (the 100th, the 301st, and the 302nd) into the all-Black 332nd Fighter Group commanded by Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. Flying P-47s and P-51s, the fighter group became legendary for escorting 15th Air Force bombers from their bases in Italy.

Over the course of the war, 355 Tuskegee pilots flew combat missions from the Mediterranean Theater. Eighty of them died in service, and 31 others were taken prisoner.

But what we call the “Tuskegee Airmen” also included thousands of Black men and women who trained and served as navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, instructors, nurses, cooks, and technicians of all sorts. Taken together, about 15,000 men and women took part in what the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. calls the “Tuskegee Experience” from 1941 to 1949.

The Veterans Breakfast Club is proud to have captured the stories of two remarkable Tuskegee Airman. Lt. Col. Harry Stewart, Jr., flew 43 combat missions as a P-51 pilot, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross as a result of three dogfight victories in a single day in 1945. Harry joined our Greatest Generation Live program on May 25, 2021.

We were also fortunate enough to interview Wendell Freeland, who joined the Army Air Corps in 1943 as a student at Howard University. Wendell served as a bombardier on a B-25 with the all-Black 477th Bomb Group.  But, despite his rank, he remained a second-class citizen in Army. He was arrested twice for defying the Army’s strict segregation policies.

The second arrest occurred at Freeman Field, Indiana, when Wendell and other black officers entered the all-white officers’ club and waited to be served.  When Wendell refused to sign, read, or even acknowledge the regulation strictly separating white and black officers, he was charged with mutiny, a crime punishable by execution.  Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall eventually ordered the charges to be dropped for most of the men, including Wendell.  The Freeman Field Mutiny was an early blow against official segregation in the armed forces, an important step in the Civil Rights Movement.

Fox Company on Iwo Jima, Roi Namur, Tinian, Saipan ơn VBC Happy Hour – Monday, February 20 @ 7pm ET

Date: February 20, 2023
Time: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Location: Zoom, YouTube, Facebook
All Events | Greatest Generation Live | Online Events | VBC Happy Hour

On the anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima, VBC Greatest Generation Live host Glenn Flickinger welcomes Marine Corps World War II historian Steve McCloud to talk about his in-depth study of Fox Company, the Pacific War’s Band of Brothers.

In his book, Black Dragon: The Experience of a Marine Rifle Company in the Central Pacific recounts the experience of a single Marine rifle company—2-F-23, or “Fox” Company—and its drive through the central Pacific in World War II. Through painstaking research of battlefield reports and extensive interviews with surviving members of Fox Company, Steve has reanimated the grueling, day-by-day slog through the Pacific theater through the eyes of the US Marines who endured it.

This is the story of American teenagers who left home, many for the first time, trained together, and formed a team that held strong until, at last, those who survived tried to leave it all behind as they dispersed, returned home, and sought to build their lives. Decades later, Fox Company re-formed through correspondence and reunions and also welcomed McCloud into their midst by telling him their stories. McCloud took notes, chased down company reports and other documents to fill in the gaps, and carefully reconstructed their journey.

As one member of Fox Company recalled after returning to Iwo Jima half a century later, “I think the pilgrimage to Iwo has helped me conquer my black dragons—those bloody and stinking nightmares that made nightly uninvited visits for fifty-six years. My dreams were in color, predominantly bloody red. Those remaining are in black and white and shades of gray, not so violent and stinking. These I can live with.”

Readers who reveled in Stephen Ambrose’s masterful oral history of E Company in the European theater will find similar heroism and heartbreak in the pages of Black Dragon.

Sponsored by D&D Auto Salvage and Tobacco Free Adagio Health.  Simulcast to Facebook and YouTube.

WWII SeaBee and WWII POW on VBC Happy Hour – Monday, February 27 @ 7pm ET

Date: February 27, 2023
Time: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Location: zoom, Facebook, YouTube
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102-year-old Raymond West joins VBC Happy Hour to share his story of serving in the 28th Division in World War II, being captured in the Battle of the Bulge, and surviving to the end of the war in two POW camps. Also joining us are Vietnam Donut Dolly Rosemary Schwoebel and her sister, Diane Schlosser, who oversaw publication of their father’s WWII memoir. Ivan D. Thunder’s The Pacific War and Iwo Jima is a series of vignettes of daily Seabee life during and after the battle of Iwo Jima. A former Lt. CEC, USNR of the 133rd Naval Construction Battalion, Thunder writes with simplicity and candor describing his harrowing, bloody experience landing on the island under enemy fire; and after the island is secure, describes the sneak Japanese attack where even the Army cooks fought them off with knives. He then switches to the lighter side of living in a foxhole while mimicking FDR. Included in his recollections are essays where Thunder unabashedly expresses his opinion on whether we provoked the Japanese; if the A-bomb was justified; and offers his detailed tribute to Admiral Nimitz. In addition, the chilling diary of a Japanese Marine Officer and a G-2 Intelligence Bulletin recounting a U.S. Merchant Seaman’s POW experience, help to found out the Iwo Jima story. Though written by one man, this book transcends the individual and is a testimony to the extraordinary “Can Do!” spirit of the Seabees. As the Greatest Generation passes away, these inspirational recollections will serve as a useful primary source for young historians.