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Project WWII: Voices of the Greatest Generation

Welker voices heroes stories

by Dylan Welker

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The World War II era fascinates me for several reasons. My grandfather, Russell Welker, served in the Army Infantry in the Pacific Theatre. He was wounded twice while fighting the Japanese, once in New Guinea and the second time in the Philippines. I was never able to speak to him about his experiences; he passed away when I was just three years old.

Through the veterans I have interviewed in conjunction with the Veterans History Project, I have been able to understand more clearly what his daily life must have been like while serving in the jungles and on the beaches against the Japanese.

Kenneth McCaleb was a navigator on a B-17 that was shot down over Germany. He spent 18 months in German prisoner of war camps. Many of the men whom he served with did not return from the war. Prior to the war, McCaleb was a student at Joplin Junior College.

In 1939, he began the publication, The Chart. McCaleb returned to the United States and reflected on his experience over the next 50 years. In April of 1998, Margaret and Kenneth McCaleb donated to The Chart $150,000 worth of Time-Warner stock in pursuit of peace and war studies. The veterans, McCaleb and my grandfather, lived and fought during the World War II era. They are often referred to as the greatest generation. It is my hope to honor these veterans by recording their experiences and preserving their memories for future generations. The project continues at Missouri Southern through the efforts of Dr. Robert Markman, professor emeritus.

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