It’s been almost 74 years since the end of World War II, but the stories of these days will live long past the lives of the remaining veterans who tell them.
Lakeview’s home schooled youth had a chance to listen to the memories of WWII vets and Lakeview Gardens’ residents Glenn Plato, Bob Swart and the experiences of June Getty’s late husband, Don. The stories of these individuals are some of the last pieces of living history with nearly 100 years of life behind them. Today, 844 WWII vets die every day and most of them are around 90 years old.
Kathie Duggan, daughter of Plato, led the storytelling, reminiscing when her father first joined the United States Navy in 1941. At first he was working in the mill and just a year later was aboard the USS Lexington aircraft carrier. Plato was an airplane machinist and later became a pilot.
During WWII, the Lexington was partially sunk by the Japanese and Plato, along with the crew, were rescued by Americans and taken to New Caledonia to avoid detection. After the war, Plato returned to Lakeview and ran the Lakeview Airport as its first fixed based operator in 1945 once the Navy closed the base. During the war the airport was a Naval ammunition dump providing re-arming and re-fueling for the aircrafts. Plato taught students to fly and operated a spray plane until he was 78 years old.
After WWII, the U.S. Army actually built 5,200-foot runways to the southwest of Lakeview. Sult Field as it was dubbed was home tot he Army until 1944 when the Navy leased the airport from the Army. At the time, they constructed two barracks, a mess hall and an administration building. Nearly 4,000 people attended the open house celebration.
Plato hadn’t stopped flying completely until just a year ago when he was 96 years old. He still remembers those funny stories of flying under the Golden Gate Bridge and dive bombing past generals on the beaches of Paris in celebration after the end of the war.
Swart on the other hand was in the Naval Air Force. His duty at the age of 20 was known as a sub chaser, tracking down Russian submarines in air sometimes 500 miles from the shore to the sea. A minimum crew of 14 operated back and forth between the radar and other duties.
Around the room photographs of the planes he flew years ago were passed to the kids to view.
Finally it was June’s turn to tell Don’s story. With the help of her son, Mike, the two covered his medals and recognition including involvement in the Oregon Trailblazers who recruited soldiers in the state of Oregon. He was involved in the 70th infantry division as a machine gunner that trained in Corvallis and Monmouth and received a ruptured duck, combat infantry badge, bronze star medal, expert in rifle and machine gun, a corporal badge, commemorative medal, European theater and a few other recognition medals.
At one point, Don was pinned down during the Battle of the Bulge for 88 days in a foxhole against the SS Mountain Division.
The stories of WWII flooded the room as interested kids sat on the edge of their seats asking questions, wide-eyed, absorbing all the information they were given.
After the presentation was completed, the kids were able to go around and thank or ask questions to each individual. They took this opportunity to learn more about each individual and hear more stories about WWII and other exciting times in these veteran’s lives.
More than just learning from a book, these were first-person events and memories.
For these kids, the stories cover a lifetime, something they may not be able to fathom for a few years. But the memory of this moment and these men and women will forever be etched in history.