World War II vet to appear in documentary | ParkRecord.com
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World War II vet to appear in documentary

Dan Bischoff, Of the Record Staff

It’s been more than 60 years, but World War II veterans like Park City’s Carl J. Workman will never forget what happened in the Pacific.

They hope others don’t forget either.

"It was the largest battlefield in history. A savage battle fought on an epic scale. Yet it’s a story as intimate as one soldier’s tale. KUED will continue its series about the men and women of Utah’s "Greatest Generation" as they recount their very personal stories from the war in the Pacific," wrote Eve Mary Verde, a KUED spokeswoman, in a press release.

Utah World War II Stories: "The Pacific," the third installment of KUED’s four-part series, will premiere Sunday, Aug. 13, at 7 p.m.

"It is a wonderful documentary," Mary Verde. "To hear the stories, it is so powerful. They were so brave. We have some pretty impressive veterans. One guy was among the Doolittle Raiders, there is one veteran left here in the state that won the Congressional Medal of Honor.

"There was a pilot that had his eye shot out then flew for eight hours without an eye. You are hearing their stories and after all these years, they still are so emotional about it that it’s very touching to see the impact it had in their lives."

America and her allies had done the impossible in Europe. In three and a half long years of severe casualties and bloody fighting, they had defeated Europe’s first modern superpower, Nazi Germany. But the nightmare of World War II was still not over.

"The Pacific with millions of square miles of ocean, was an area so large that all the Earth’s land mass could fit within its waters. Combat raged in the skies above, the depths below, on worthless volcanic outcroppings and in steaming island jungles," Mary Verde said.

Utahns fought with bravery and courage in the Pacific theater as America defeated Japan.

Workman, who was born and raised in Park City and an Army sergeant from the 27th division, is greatful to KUED for making the documentary.

"It’s been about 60 years ago that I got out, I’m glad that somebody recognizes us after 60 years, we wasn’t much recognized when we did get out. I think it’s really nice that they think about us before we all pass away," Workman said.

Workman also remembers the horrors of war vividly.

"The artillery was like rain," Workman said as he described to the filmmakers about the fighting in Okinawa. "It was all close calls; there was a lot of artillery. There were guys next to me within maybe 20 feet that got a direct hit with artillery. When you get a direct hit there’s nothing left of you. We found, I think it was, about nine in that trench along there, we found a few with a foot in it. You ain’t got much of a chance when you got that artillery just shooting you up."

George Wahlen of Ogden won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service as navy medical corpsman. His job was to take care of Marines in his company and platoon who were wounded on Iwo Jima as the battle raged.

"I thought, ‘Am I really going to be able to do this?’ &I’d never been very religious up to that time, but I think during that time that I started praying to the Lord," Wahlen told KUED.

It is the triumphant raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima that is one of Keith Renstrom’s most vivid memories of the war.

"It was just a satisfying, great feeling to see those stars and stripes flying over the highest piece of ground on the island," Renstrom told KUED.

Roy Tew of Mapleton, recalls the March 9 firebombing of Tokyo, in which more than 200,000 people were killed.

"That incendiary raid on Tokyo killed more people than either of the atomic bombs," said Tew, who was a captain in the U.S. Army Air Corps and served as a B-29 navigator. "After a while, I just kind of felt a hate for this airplane when I realized what we were doing — bombing civilians up there in Japan, innocent people. I’m sorry. I could hardly take it. I just didn’t like what we were doing. The hate for the plane, I guess, was trying to transfer some of the guilt I was feeling for doing this. But, of course, it was war and it was our job," Tew told KUED.

Other Utah veterans recall darker days of the war in the Pacific. Now deceased, Salt Laker Woody James, who served as a U.S. Navy coxswain, described the grueling ordeal of surviving nine days in the ocean after the sinking of the USS Indianapolis.

"The first day, about noon, somebody started yelling, ‘Shark, shark, shark.’ And they came — a whole school of them," James said. "Pretty soon somebody let out a scream and all of the guys were just quiet. Just the lapping of the water, that’s all you could hear&. We’d pull the lifejackets off bodies that were cut in half by sharks," he told KUED.

St. George resident Gene Jacobsen, who spent three and a half years as a POW in Japanese coal mines, recalls the day he watched the camp commander stand on a platform to tearfully announce that the war was over and that the Allies had won.

"All of a sudden, all of the hatred I had for the Japanese just evaporated," Jacobsen says in the film. "I no longer hated them. That hatred I had was replaced with joy, and I’m telling you it was the most beautiful thing that could happen to me. I never could believe I could be so happy. I know I cried. I know I laughed. I’m sure I sang a little bit. I was just so overcome with joy."

Workman in a similar way is proud of what the U.S. accomplished during those times.

"I think we brought peace to the world," Workman said to filmmakers. "We got the dictators that we fought. We figured that if they had of been rulers of this country, we would have been slaves."

Utah World War II Stories: "The Pacific," was produced by KUED’s Elizabeth Searles, with assistance from writer/consultants Rick Randle and Geoffrey Panos. Look for Utah World War II Stories: "The Home Front," coming December 2006.Utah World War II Stories: "The Pacific" premieres Sunday, August 13, at 7 p.m. on KUED.


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