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May 28, 2022

World War II: children and teens who faced special challenges

Cover of Our Service Our Stories Volume 3

Government orderOn Memorial Day weekend, Hoosier History Live will follow up previous shows that featured World War II veterans. This time, we will focus on children and teenagers, now in their 80s and 90s, who dealt with special challenges during what many historians consider the most cataclysmic event of the 20th century.

Nelson’s guests will include a retired teacher in Carmel who spent World War II in an internment camp for Japanese Americans. She will be joined by an author, chaplain and World War II historian who, in addition to interviewing veterans, has been collecting the stories of Hoosiers who were “children of war”. They include a Carmel resident who, as a 7-year-old girl, witnessed the attack at Pearl Harbor in 1941, and a Zionsville resident whose Polish family fled both the Nazis and the Soviets.

Ron May, a Carmel-based author and historian, features their accounts in “Our Service Our Stories, vol. 3”, a new book. Ron, the chaplain at Hoosier Village Retirement Community in Zionsville, has been our guest on “Hoosier History Live” shows in 2016 and 2018. He was joined by veterans of World War II, many of whom have died since they were our guests. Ron notes that even the youngest World War II veterans are now in their mid-90s.

Ron MayThis time, Ron will be Nelson’s guest along with Carmel resident Jean Umemura, 95, who is retired from a 30-year career as a teacher at Allisonville Elementary School in Indianapolis. For many decades, Jean did not tell her students, or even her three children, that she had spent most of World War II confined to a remote internment camp in Idaho with her twin brother and her parents, who had immigrated from Japan during the 1920s.

During our show, Jean will share details about the camp. Her family lived in barracks after having enjoyed a comfortable life in Seattle, where she was born. In Ron’s new book, he quotes Jean as recalling the “evacuation order” in spring 1942 for Japanese Americans in Western states: “They made us get rid of everything. Our home and all our belongings. My father had to give up his business. My parents had worked so hard to get where they were.”

Of the 120,000 Japanese people (70 percent of whom were U.S. citizens) ordered to move to internment camps, most only could bring two suitcases, which had to include bed sheets, blankets and dining utensils, according to Ron’s research. Jean even had to give up her collections of dolls and books. While living in the camp, Jean graduated from high school in 1944.

Jean Umemura

In the “Children of War '' section of  “Our Service Our Stories, vol. 3”, Ron also describes the experiences of Colette Pearcy, 87, who was born in 1934 in Indianapolis but witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese aircraft. As a 7-year-old girl, Colette moved to Honolulu because her father, a solider in the U.S. Army, was transferred to Hickman Army Airfield in Hawaii. During our show, Ron will describe the transformation of the “tropical paradise” as witnessed by Colette, who now lives in Carmel.

Jean Umemura with husband

Ron also will share the story of Zionsville resident Eva Benirska Hermacinski, 92, who fled her homeland in Poland as a young girl. As German forces advanced, her father made arrangements for his family to escape; Eva did not see him for six years. In 1955, she immigrated to the U.S. with $100 and one suitcase, according to “Our Service Our Stories vol. 3”.

In addition to his books, Ron has a YouTube channel that includes videos about his interviews with WW II survivors. During our Memorial Day weekend show, he plans to share advice about tracking down the war experiences of veterans who have died.

Roadtrip: Lake Waveland in Montgomery County

Lake WavelandGuest Roadtripper Kathleen Madinger Angelone, retired bookstore owner, recommends a visit to Lake Waveland south of Crawfordsville in the western part of the state. The 360-acre lake is bordered by 248-acre Lake Waveland Park, and provides more than 600 recreational acres with camping, boating, fishing, hiking and swimming in season.

T.C. Steele (1847 - 1926) was an Impressionist painter known for his Indiana Landscapes, and he grew up in the nearby small town of Waveland. Actually, the town was there before Lake Waveland was created, but that’s another matter. Waveland features the T.C. Steele Boyhood Home, a Carnegie Library, a war memorial park with a red, white and blue bench, old machine gun, and flags, plus a couple of great small-town restaurants on Cross Street, the town’s main street.

And, coming in 2023 from the Friends of T.C. Steele a “virtual trail” of T.C. Steel’s life! The trail will be available by visiting trail.tcsteele.org, and, using a smartphone, visitors can learn about seven historic places in the life of the artist.

Save the date for our big Annual Hoosier History Live soiree!  Hosted by Kurt Vonnegut Library and Museum. Wanda June cash bar by Black Plate Catering.

Costumed characters encouraged, and expect Abe to be there escorting his beloved mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln!

HHL11 Celebration

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