Students listen to, learn from war veterans

by Dayna Straehley - March 21, 2014 at 12:00 AM - dstraehley@pe.com
Veteran sharing stories with King High students

Korean War veteran Charles Geitner, 85, of Fullerton, shares his Army experiences with Riverside King High School juniors Darrel Artiaga and Nicole Item. Students interviewed veterans during King High Remembers on Friday, March 21. MILKA SOKO/FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHER

When Sgt. Bert Frank got home from World War II after three years in the Army, he took off his uniform and threw it on the floor.

He didn’t put it back on until Friday, March 21, when he wore it to King High School in Riverside.

Frank, a 90-year-old Los Angeles resident, was among 298 veterans interviewed by high school juniors in the 14th annual King High Remembers. One of those students was his grandson Joel Frank.

The veterans were interviewed across tables in the school gym, multipurpose room and in classrooms by groups of two or three 11th graders, who asked about their war experiences, military life, homecoming, their opinion of their time in the service and current conflicts.

Like many veterans, Frank, brought a scrapbook that included some mementos of happy experiences. He was in the Army from 1942 to 1945.

Frank told students about the dances they had almost every week while he was stationed in the Philippines and USO shows with Bob Hope and others.

The Army showed movies, but almost all of them were interrupted by bombers that sent soldiers running for their foxholes.

“When it was clear, we would resume the movie,” Frank said.

“We called the Japanese bombers Washing Machine Charlies” because of their sound, he said.

Two flew over almost every night, he said.

Joel Frank said he had never heard much about his grandfather’s WWII service, just that he had been in the Army Signal Corps.

“That’s why I’m so happy to have this experience,” Joel said. “I didn’t want him to pass away without being able to talk about some of his experiences.”

Bert Frank described the silence after his unit in Okinawa heard the United States had dropped two atomic bombs and the war was over.

Although Frank said they had expected the war to last another three years, singing “Golden Gate in ’48,” there was no cheering.

“After they dropped the two atomic bombs, I knew if it ever started again, we would wipe out a whole country,” Frank said.

He got out of the Army as soon as he could, but said his experience was good.

“If it weren’t for our service, we’d all be speaking Japanese or German,” he said.

Contact Dayna Straehley at 951-368-9455 or dstraehley@pe.com

WAR TALLY
Some veterans served in two or more wars or did not list a war. Not all of the 361 who were expected showed up. Others arrived without advance notice, social studies teachers said.
WWII: 59
KOREAN WAR: 57
VIETNAM WAR: 149
COLD WAR: 48
GULF WAR: 21
IRAQ/AFGHANISTAN WARS: 17

Source: The Press-Enterprise