On Sunday, November 11, SPOHP attended the second annual Veterans Day Parade in Starke, Florida. The event honored local veterans and featured ROTC and veterans groups, including the USO. SPOHP set up a booth to share interviews from our Veterans History Project and to schedule new ones. Staff members Deborah Hendrix, Marna Weston, Sarah Blanc, and Diana Dombrowski attended the event.
On November 10, 2008, SPOHP presented “Testimony of War,” a two-part program in Pugh Hall that attracted several hundred people from the community, including students, faculty, and veterans.
The first part of the program premiered the SPOHP-produced documentary titled “I Just Wanted to Live!”
SPOHP historian Diane Fischler selected passages from four oral histories with a common theme: four men who all experienced the horrors of being held prisoners by the Japanese, Victor Cote, Herbert Pepper, Conrad Alberty, and John Bumgarner. Fischler developed a narrative account of their POW experience.
Deborah Hendrix, SPOHP videographer, used film clips, photographs, and artwork from the Pacific Theater–some created by former POWs–to provide a graphic context for the compelling audio passages.
Two of the featured POWs attended this public program, and their families came from across the United States to view the documentary.
The documentary is now part of the educational resource archives of three major museums:
- National World War II Museum in New Orleans
- National Museum of the Pacific War
- National Prisoner of War Museum in Andersonville, Georgia (part of Andersonville National Historic Site)
The film is also included in the Library of Congress Veterans History Project.
Diane Fischler also wrote a study guide for the documentary as a resource for 11th grade American history teachers in the Alachua County Public School System, and the documentary has been shown at several retirement facilities and veterans’ gatherings in Florida and North Carolina.
The second part of the “Testimony of War” event featured a panel discussion among four WW II veterans whose oral histories are also included in the SPOHP World War II Collection.
Panelist, Clif Cormier, talked about being a forward liaison officer with the 3rd Marine Division on Iwo Jima. A second panelist, Victor Cote-one of the POWs featured in “I Just Wanted to Live!” being a POW in the Philippines and Japan. The third panelist, Frank Towers, representing the European Theater of Operations, spoke about his 30th Army Infantry Division participating in Operation Cobra, the Battle of the Bulge, and liberating a train load of 2,500 Jewish concentration camp survivors. The fourth panelist, Clair Chaffin, related his harrowing experiences of being a corpsman (medic) with the 4th Marine Division on Roi-Namur, Saipan, and Iwo Jima. Julian Pleasants moderated the panel.