Two distinguished vets are gone, but their stories survive

You’ll have to excuse me for feeling down tonight. In the last week, two war veterans I’ve written about in The Morning Call have died.

Harry Yoder on May 8. His story about his experiences as a cargo pilot in the Berlin Airlift ran on the Fourth of July 2009. http://www.mcall.com/news/warstories/mc-harry-yoder,0,2809102.story

Jack Davis on May 12. His account of his role in the Battle of the Bulge ran on Christmas Eve 2006. http://www.mcall.com/news/all-5bulgedec24,0,1718578.story

Of the two, I knew Jack best. He lived on College Hill in Easton. We stayed in touch by phone, and I saw him at luncheon meetings of the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge. He was a serious student of World War II, widely read, and liked to speak about it in public. He gave one of those instructive talks last year at the Bulge vets’ annual tribute to D-Day veterans in Nazareth.

Jack, who was 87, had two Silver Stars for gallantry. I never found out what he did to earn them; he declined to tell me. He said it was between him and the Army buddies with whom he shared the experiences. But a close friend of his, another Bulge vet, told me the medals concerned incidents in which Jack acted to save the lives of fellow soldiers.

Harry was an extraordinarily energetic and personable man whose military experience reached from World War II, when he was a B-24 bomber pilot, to the Cold War, to the wars in Korea and Vietnam, and to the Pentagon. Among his many decorations was the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery.

After his story ran, I brought him extra copies of the paper. As we sat in his Boyertown home, he read part of his story about defying the Soviet blockade of Berlin, looked up at me and burst out happily: “Ah, this is great history!” He was right about that.

Harry was 95.

He and Jack were more than just good stories for me. They were my friends. I’m glad I spent time with them and got their stories into the newspaper, and into the permanent collections of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans and the Library of Congress in Washington.

You know I’m just one of many who aim to record veterans’ stories before it’s too late. Locally the effort is led by the Lehigh Valley Veterans History Project Roundtable.

Another contributor is the PCN television network, which has recorded more than 300 hours of interviews with Pennsylvania veterans since 2002. Its series “World War: In Their Own Words” focused on World War II vets.

Now a new PCN series, “Voices of Veterans,” covers WWII, the Cold War, and the Korean and Vietnam wars. It debuts this Friday, May 20, at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. The series will continue on Saturday, May 21, and Sunday, May 22, at 2 p.m.

“Voices of Veterans” will also re-air several times during the Memorial Day holiday beginning Friday, May 27 at 6:40 p.m. Encore presentations have been scheduled through Memorial Day on May 30. See the daily schedule at www.pcntv.com.

Among the 21 vets who will be featured are Frank Ginther of Bethlehem; Matt Gutman of Macungie; Bob Kauffman and Mark Kistler, both of Emmaus; Hank Kudzik of Northampton; and Walter Morgan of Allentown.

Kauffman’s and Kudzik’s stories have appeared in my Morning Call series
War Stories: In Their Own Words.

2 responses to “Two distinguished vets are gone, but their stories survive

  1. Sharon J. Davis

    Dave, On behalf of our whole family, thank you for sharing your personal memories of our father Jack Davis. In the latter part of his life,our dad and most of his peers finally opened up about their war experiences. It became their mission to make sure that their stories were recorded for posterity and that they were told factually accurate. You and the others who present these veterans’ stories honor them in the most appropriate way. I know our father deeply appreciated your devotion to recording their stories and he enjoyed his personal friendship with you as well.
    Sharon J. Davis

  2. Joan Shortall

    Dave,
    I am Jack Davis’ youngest daughter, and have lived in South Carolina for the past 20 years. I was not present for most of his story telling, and people like you recording stories like his will keep history intact. Thank you.

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