Sunday, April 21, 2013

Veteran Spotlight : Don Wardell fought both Germans and Japanese during World War II

"I had to go."

It is amazing to think how many WWII veterans have a multitude of stories of their experiences.  As mentioned on the article, some probably took their stories with them when they passed away.  This is just one of those veterans and thank goodness he is sharing his story, because he has some amazing history.  Mr. Wardell is 90 years old, and from the quotes in the article and the video is obviously still sharp as a tack.  The reporter notes his "Welcome aboard!" as he welcomes visitors into his house; his personality must fill a room.
Don Wardell, 90, of Willoughby, served in the Navy and fought both the Germans and Japanese during World War II. He had no doubts about eventual victory. "I knew we were going to win, 'cause we're America, right?" he says.

Not many veterans of the Greatest Generation can say they fought both the Germans and the Japanese.  There was a brief time, after VE-Day, that troops from Europe were preparing and training to go to the Pacific Theater.  Some of the veterans had enough combat experience (or points) to qualify to go home; the rest were turning a concerned eye to the news reels of combat on the Pacific islands, knowing they could be next.  For most of them, all that changed when the atomic bombs were dropped, ending the war.  Mr. Wardell took matters into his own hands when he became "bored" with his duty in the Atlantic.

Scary? "I don't remember, that was too long ago, but I'd say yes," Wardell, 90, quipped.
With Mr. Wardell's gift of laughter, it is hard to know if we should read between the lines much at this statement...I'd bet he remembers being scared but wants to keep his accounts on an upbeat measure.  Who can blame him?  He notes he doesn't watch war movies; who better than veterans (of any war or conflict) to say that they don't want to watch war-related "entertainment."  It *is*  entertainment for the rest of us on a certain level, whether we give our hearts and souls into Band Of Brothers (I'm man enough to admit I cry every time I watch it) or simply watching the History Channel's accounts of WWII.  I, personally don't think of it as "entertainment" when I'm watching it, because it is also history unfolding before my eyes to me. But, combat veterans especially have no need for it.  They lived it.  Their experiences are almost unimaginable to me at times.  This is one of the reasons I honor and respect them.

A snapshot shows Don Wardell looking fierce aboard a PT boat in New Guinea. A caption on the margin notes, "This is why the Japanese surrendered."

The author of the article, Brian Albrecht,  (who did a great job) notes a quote from Ken Burns (of the famed "The War" documentary) "There are no ordinary lives."  This is a very poignant statement from someone who interviewed dozens of WWII veterans to make his documentary.  My favorite quote from someone involved in "The War" was not from Ken Burns, however :

"I think my understanding of what heroic means has changed a little bit over the course of making "The War".  Sometimes I think just the people who endured it are just as heroic...the people who didn't run away...the people who just stuck with their buddies...the people who kept their sense of humor."  - Lynn Novick, Director/Producer "The War"