Moving Histories of WW II Veterans

Troops cover-3 Troops cover-2“Our captain singled me out and told me to check one of the dead Japanese. He wanted to get me exposed to this kind of thing and get me hardened as quickly as I could. He said, ‘Number One, make sure this guy is dead. Number Two go through his pockets and bring me back what you find.’ I felt a little sick about it, but I had to carry out the order. When I got close enough, I saw that the soldier was indeed dead, and that he was around my age. He was a kid, too. I couldn’t help but realize that our situations might have been reversed had they attacked us when we ran into them on the trail. I reached into his breast pocket and found a wallet. Inside were pictures of his family. At the time I really wasn’t feeling too much compassion, as I said, this could have been the other way around. That was my introduction to combat.” Norman Larson, 33rd Infantry Division, An Honor to Serve, page 277

 “It was in France that Sergeant Luis Chavez got killed. Luis replaced Jack Singleton after Jack lost his legs at Salerno. Luis was killed by a mine. The explosion blew him straight up into the air. It was such a terrible explosion that we had to collect his body parts in a bushel-basket. A couple hours later and farther down the road, we found one of his arms. His death was such a shock to us. One minute he was laughing, and the next his body was in pieces.” Harold Dougherty, 36th Infantry Division, An Honor to Serve, page 88.

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These are just two examples of the 45 oral history accounts of American veterans’ experiences fighting in World War II that are collected and presented in the volume, Honor to Serve by Dr. Richard Wissolik, Director of the Center for Northern Appalachian Studies at St. Vincent College in Latrobe.


Representative of the different theaters of the war, the narratives contain remembrances of the attack on Pearl Harbor, numerous battles, air combat, time as prisoners of war, and the tedium of regular military life, among many other experiences. The staff of the Saint Vincent College Center for Northern Appalachian Studies in Latrobe, Pennsylvania (also the publisher) prepared the narratives from taped interviews, diaries, letters, and other materials.

 The Saint Vincent College Center for Northern Appalachian Studies works to enable students and faculty to learn across the whole spectrum of human experience through interdisciplinary study and participation in fieldwork. Simultaneously, members of the off-campus community (local, state, national, and international) collaborate with us at every level in collecting, preserving, relating and interpreting their pasts and experiences.

The Center for Northern Appalachian Studies has also released several additional publications including The Long Road: From Oran to Pilsen The Oral Histories of United States Army Veterans in the European Theatre of Operations, World War II, and Listen to Our Words: Oral Histories of the Jewish Community of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. In addition, the center has also published entire life memoir of Cub Morgillo in A Game, A Life, A Story… with a forward by his daughter Dee Morgillo. Cub’s memoir of WW II will be featured in Dr. Wissolik’s up-coming book Victorious: From Hometown America to Tokyo Bay, 1941-1945, tentatively scheduled to be released this coming January.

You can purchase Dr. Wissolik’s books through Google Books, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. For further information on the Center for Northern Appalachian Studies or if you have a memoir you would like to share, please contact: Dr. Richard David Wissolik, Director of the Center for Northern Appalachian Studies or visit the web site at

If you wish to make an online donation to the Center, please go to and fill out the required information on the first page. Click “Continue,” and then answer the question “Where would you like your gift to be used?” by clicking on the down arrow next to the space “Current Operations” and choosing “Other.” To designate your gift to the Center, please type ‘Center for Northern Appalachian Studies’ in the text box.