World War II Vets Remolded American Society

By Kolb, Richard K.; Moran, Joe | VFW Magazine, June/July 2001 | Go to article overview

World War II Vets Remolded American Society


Kolb, Richard K., Moran, Joe, VFW Magazine


World War II (1941-1945) put 16 million Americans in uniform; 12 million served overseas. Countless numbers of them came home to recast American society. In every walk of life, they transformed how things were done and viewed.

GEORGE C. MARSHALL

(1880-1959) b. Uniontown, Pa.

Soldier-Statesman

"Organizer of victory" in WWII, George Marshall, as secretary of state ( 1947-49), ensured the success of the European Recovery Program. His initiatives (NATO, Berlin Airlift) in Europe helped stem the tide of communism. From 1930-51, he was secretary of defense, and envoy to China earlier in his career.

Marshall served in the Philippines (1902-03, 1913-16) as an infantry officer, in France (1917-18) as chief of operations of the Ist Inf. Div. and Ist Army and in China (1924-27) as executive officer of the 13th Inf. Regt. at Tientsin.

A selfless public servant, he also was president of the American Red Cross. A man of impeccable integrity, he left a diplomatic legacy matched by few and was rewarded with the 1953 Nobel Peace Prize. fie has been called "the greatest soldier-statesman since George Washington."

JAMES M. STEWART

(1908-1997) b. Indiana, Pa.

Actor

Jimmy Stewart was the quintessential heartland hero-a modest movie star. He starred in 93 films, earning the Academy Award for The Philadelphia Story in 1940.

He served in the Army Air Forces from March 21, 1941, until September 1945. Sent to England in November 1943, he flew 20 missions over Europe as captain of the 703rd Sqdrn., 445th Bomb Grp. Later, he was operations officer for the 453rd Bomb Grp. In April 1945, Stewart became chief of staff of the 2nd Combat Wing. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster and four Air Medals.

As an Air Force Reserve officer, he flew a bombing mission over Vietnam. lie genuinely embodied the American values he portrayed on screen. Stewart was awarded it special Academy Award (1985) "for high ideals" and the presidential Medal of Freedom.

HENRY A. KISSINGER

(1923- ) b. Furth, Germany

Statesman and Scholar

A renowned diplomat, Henry Kissinger served as secretary of state (1973-77), national security adviser and consultant to the State Department as well as the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the 1973 cease-fire ending the U.S. role in the Vietnam War. Relations with the Soviet Union and China were expanded under his leadership.

Kissinger served in WWII from Feb. 26, 1943 to May 23, 1946. As a private in G Co., 335th Inf. Regt., 84th Inf. Div., he saw action in the drive on the Roer River and in the Battle of the Bulge. He later became an interpreter/interrogator with the 970th Counter Intelligence Corps Detachment.

A former political science professor at Harvard (1954-1969), Kissinger has authored some 10 books and today writes a syndicated column for the L.A. Times. His foreign policy expertise is still in demand and he is often interviewed by the media.

HENRY J. HEIMLICH

(1920- ) b. Wilmington, Del.

Physician

Creator of the anti-choking technique (the Heimlich maneuver) that bears his name, Henry Heimlich also is the "father of esophageal surgery." His innovative surgical procedures and first aid methods have saved countless lives worldwide.

Heimlich went on active duty in September 1944. Arriving in India in March 1945, he was assigned to the U.S. Naval Group, China. Part of Naval Unit 4 based in the Gobi Desert of Inner Mongolia, he treated Chinese Nationalist troops through October 1945. Then he spent six months on the hospital ship Repose based at Shanghai.

A professor of advanced clinical sciences at Xavier University in Cincinnati until 1988, Heimlich has published books on thoracic and stomach surgery. He currently heads the Heimlich Institute, a research facility based in Cincinnati. …

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