On my fourth trip to the Normandy, France D-Day Beaches, I took my father and mother along. As a daughter of a World War II veteran and with many uncles and relatives serving (and some perishing) in that war, I have always had a keen interest in all things World War II.
My father Russell Barager (of Spooner, Wisconsin) served in the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific (LSM 326). Before that he was in the Merchant Marines. My mother's brother was a navigator with Bomber Group 450, The Flying Cottontails (he never came home from Italy).
I knew this trip would be more emotional traveling with a veteran couple, and it was. The local residents of the Normandy region were so kind. My father had his Navy hat on, and so many people went out of their way to shake his hand, thank him for his service and welcome him to the beaches. (They even bought him a beer!)
We happened to visit on a day when there was a service to honor a U.S. Normandy veteran who had passed away. One veteran (perhaps someone he served with) was in a wheelchair along with another veteran there with flowers to place on the memorial. Taps were playing as the flag was lowered. There were about 100 people there that day – not a dry eye and you could hear a pin drop. It's a peaceful, spiritual ground, our American cemetery near Omaha beach. You can't help but be moved by the amount of headstones, the sound of the waves nearby, the sheer magnitude of what happened. It was on this trip that I wanted somehow to bring a piece of Normandy and the story of the brave participants who played a role in this war to future generations who may not be as closely connected as I am. The idea to create a charity that both celebrated the heroes and sacrifice of the participants by awarding scholarships to deserving young college-bound students seemed like a perfect fit. In order to receive the scholarship award (along with scholastic achievement and financial need), the applicants must write in their own words what the lessons, events and historical significance of World War II mean to them. In other words, we want to engage them in learning about this time in history. We enjoy their perspective and have been greatly impressed with the quality of their writings.
So please join me in helping our future generations come to know our greatest generation.
Barbara (Barager) Fasola
By trade James was a chemical engineer, but it was his unique artistic skills that served our country in a way no other serviceman could. During the invasion, James was reassigned from Normandy to create accurately scaled drawings of German artillery shells.
Those in command saw the need to educate the ordinance about specific artillery being used against our soldiers. This reassignment could very well have been what saved his life.
Pictured in the shadow box is James’s army uniform as well as James at his drawing board and one of his drawings (circa 1943). A letter to his mother is framed detailing a party in Paris the day the war ended.
"Families of World War II Veterans is important because these people saved the world! They risked everything for you and me. You lose the words to appreciate such things. Every veteran will tell you they are not the hero, the real heroes never came back. I’m an American! I got to grow up here and was bequeathed this beautiful country by women and men who sacrificed their lives. We are such beneficiaries of their sacrifices and we should appreciate it."
Charles (Eddie) Handlin entered the navy in the spring of 1943 and went to basic training/boot camp in New York. He was assigned to the USS Ashtabula, which was commissioned on August 7, 1943. Ironically, the name of the ship also corresponds to the name of a river and county in Ohio directly adjacent to here he lived. I feel this was meant to be and part of a greater design.
The USS Ashtabula operated as a member of Service Squadron 6, Service Squadron 8 and Service Squadron 10 in the South Pacific. Eddie was granted leave in August of 1944 and used this time to his full advantage when he proposed and married my grandmother, Betty Tallentire. The USS Ashtabula's next assignment was to support the first American forces to fight for the liberation of the Philippines. Japan surrendered on September 2, 1945 and Eddie was discharged shortly after that. The USS Ashtabula earned eight battle stars for its WWII service.
I was not fortunate enough to meet my grandfather, as he passed way a couple of years before I was born, but one of the stories my grandma always tells is about how Eddie was a goofball and was notorious for sun tanning on the deck during off-duty times. One of these times he fell asleep and was burned badly, so the whole ship gave him a hard time.
Families of World War II Veterans means a lot to me for many reasons, but mainly because the more I learn about my grandfather's service and his role in the war, the more I am humbled and honored for the time he sacrificed not only for his country but for our family as well. I feel that this historictime of our country is getting lost in today's education system and I love how this charity helps bring it back to the forefront for children, grandchildren and others to learn about what their family members did and went through in order to protect this country. His legacy has continued to live through my two uncles who both joined the service during the Vietnam War because of his experiences and passion toward protecting this country. I am incredibly honored to be a part of this family and to see his lasting impression still exist at family functions and the holidays.
Edward Monroe Scott was a senior at Oregon State studying forestry when World War II started. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in the spring of 1941 and trained as a fighter pilot. He was sent to Europe and stationed in Sicily. On October 17, 1943, Edward's plane was hit and severely damaged. He tried to navigate to a nearby landing strip but crashed while attempting to land and did not survive. In a letter his mother penned to a relative earlier that month, she wrote that the last update she received, though she hadn't heard from Edward in three weeks, he was in Sicily. She announced in her letter that she had since received a notice from the War Department announcing that Edward received an air medal for "repeated and meritorious conduct." The letter from the War Department also explained that Edward would be home for Christmas. Edward's plane went down just days after this letter was written.
Nathaniel Prewitt witnessed intense action in North Africa and Italy while serving in the Army Signal Corp, a Tech 4 in the 91st Signal Corp as a radio operator. He set up and maintained radio equipment that allowed communication between all military divisions. He became the eyes on the ground for the fighter pilots in the sky.
Private Andrew Burke served with the USMC (Marines) in the South Pacific as an Orderly responsible for logistics and supplies for the troops. He enlisted to fight but was tagged to track logistics and supplies when identified by an officer of his banking experience. His banking background was fortunate in hindsight." I believe both men were heroes and am happy that their memories are kept alive by the plight of Families of World War II Veterans," said Baumann of her native Texan grandfathers.