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WWII Oral Histories

The Historical Society of Palm Beach County (HSPBC) and Oxbridge Academy (OA) have partnered to collect oral histories of ten World War II veterans as an extension of the HSPBC’s special exhibit “Paradise in Peril: World War II in Palm Beach County” (December 7, 2011-August 18, 2012). The exhibit opened at the Richard and Pat Johnson Palm Beach County History Museum and as part of it, sections of the oral histories were part of an interactive display. The HSPBC and OA recognize the importance of collecting the memories and accounts of America’s World War II veterans while they are still among us. We are losing about 1,200 World War II veterans a day, which makes it very important to collect their histories now.

Included here are the complete videos of the interviews conducted by students of the Essential Skills class at Oxbridge Academy.

World War II Veterans Interviewed

Richard Block
US Army Air Forces, 1944-1946
Rank: Staff Sergeant
Stationed/Trained at Kessler Field, Biloxi, Mississippi; Truax Field, Madison Wisconsin; Chanute Field, Illinois; Boca Raton Army Air Field, Boca Raton, Florida.
Served in Europe, first Air Corps replacements (May- June 1945), Hoersking Air Base, Linz, Austria.
Awards and Decorations: Good Conduct Medal.

Jay Elgart
US Army, Signal Corps, 10/16/1942 – 12/08/1945
Rank: Tec 5
Unit: 3110 Battalion, I support of 3rd Army
Trained at Philco Radio School, Philadelphia; Fort Dix, New Kersey; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Fort Monmouth, New Jersey; and Camp Crowder, Missouri.
Served: Ardennes, Central Europe, Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, stationed at Fulda, Germany, for telephone services.
Awards and Decorations: American Service Medal, EAME Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, World War II Victory Medal.

Robert Erskine
US Army, Combat Medic, 03/4/1943 – 12/14/1945
Rank: Sergeant
Unit: Company D, 303rd Medical Battalion, 78th Infantry Division
Trained at Camp Upton, Long Island, New York; Camp Butler, North Carolina; Camp Pickett, Virginia; O’Reilly General Hospital, Springfield, Missouri.
Served: European Theater (England, France, Belgium, Germany); Battle of the Bulge, Remagen Bridge Crossing (first US troops to cross Rhine River), Rhine River, Germany; Central Rhineland; Capture of dam at Roer River, Germany.
Awards and Decorations: European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 3 bronze service stars(battle stars), 2 Bronze Star Medals, Combat Medical Badge, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal.
Combat or service injuries: Trench Foot and Dysentery.

Herbert Gordon
US Navy, Seabees, 1945-1948
Rank Petty Officer 3rd Class, Electrician
Trained at Oxnard, California
Served in the Philippines
Awards and Decorations: WWII Victory Medal.

Brigadier General Albin Irzyk, USA (Ret)
US Army, Battalion Tank Commander 07/01/1940 – 07/31/1971
Rank: Brigadier General (rank during WWII, during Major)
Unit: 4th Armored Division
Served in European Theater, Battle of the Bulge, numerous other battles. 4th Armored Div spearheaded Patton’s 3rd Army across Europe.
Awards and Decorations: Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star w/ one oak leaf cluster, Legion of Merit w/two oak leaf clusters, Bronze Star with three oak leaf clusters, Purple Heat w/one oak leaf cluster, Croix de Guerre, Czechoslovakian War Cross, Air Medal with 10 oak leaf clusters, Order National Security Merit 3rd class, Chuong My Medal 1st Class, FR. Fourragere, Gallantry Cross w/Gold Star, Army Distinguished Service Order 1sr Class, Army Commendation Ribbon with one oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Unit Badge, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal, Army Occupation Medal (Germany), General Staff Identification Badge, National Defense Service Medal w/one oal leaf cluster, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal w/60 device, Presidential Unit Citation w/one oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Service Medal, Seven Overseas Bars.
Wounded twice in combat.
Also served in Vietnam where he commanded the Military Police and reaction forces that saved the US Embassy in Saigon at the beginning of the TET Offensive in 1968; over 600 combat hours in helicopters supervising operations in Vietnam.

Wilbert Jasmund
US Army, Combat Engineers, 05/05/1943 – 10/21/1945
Rank: Private First Class
Unit: 158th Combat Engineer Battalion, 1128th Engineer Combat Group, 1st US Army
Served in European Theater, Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe. Captured by German soldiers wearing US Army uniforms; escaped from them and rejoined unit during the Battle of the Bulge.
Awards and Decorations: American Defense Service Medal, European Theater Medal w/five bronze stars, Normandy Service Medal, French Legion of Honor Medal, WWII Victory Medal, WWII Occupation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Expert-Submachine Gun & .45 cal. Pistol badge, marksman-rifle badge.

Jim Ponce
US Navy, Corpsman, 1942-1946
Rank: Petty Officer 1st Class
Stationed/Trained at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida
Served aboard USS LST 750 (ship); Battle of Leyte Gulf, Samari, Panai
Wounded in combat
Awards and Decorations: Purple Heart and Good Conduct Medal
USS LST 750 was torpedoed by Japanese aircraft and sunk in the Sulu Sea on December 28, 1944, while enroute by convoy to Mindoro.
Also served during Korean War.

Jacob J. Stam
US Army Field Artillery, 11/18/1942 – 11/19/1945
Rank: Corporal
Unit: 16th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, Battery B, III Army Group, VIII Corps
Served in European Theater, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes, Central Europe, Normandy, Army of Occupation.
Awards and Decorations: Bronze Star, European African Service Medal, American Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal.

Murray Stein
US Army, 12/1943 – 12/31/1945
Rank Corporal
Unit: Company I, 423rd Regiment, 106th Infantry Division
Trained at Camp Shelby, Mississippi and Camp Atterbury, Indiana
Served: European Theater, Battle of the Bulge
Awards and Decorations: Combat Infantry Badge, Purple Heart Medal, Bronze Star Medal, POW Medal, European Theater Medal
Prisoner of War: Stalag IVB, Muhlberg, Germany, Elsterl Elbe, Hospital Halle, Germany, 12/19/1944 - 6/1945
Stein wounded in combat.

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