Main Story – Oct. 24, 2012

Oklahoma honors state’s World War II veterans
100-plus veterans see National WWII Memorial

for the Oklahoma Press Association

WASHINGTON D.C. – Oklahomans who are part of the Greatest Generation helped the Allies win World War II.
This week, supporters of Oklahoma Honor Flights thanked about 100 of the state’s veterans for their service and sacrifices, taking these men and women to a city some had never visited and to sights most had never seen such as the National World War II Memorial.
This week, supporters of Oklahoma Honor Flights thanked more than 100 of the state’s veterans for their service and sacrifices, taking these men and women to a city some had never visited and to sights most had never seen such as the National World War II Memorial.
During the war, these Oklahoma veterans contributed in a variety of ways:
· Robert Barnard, of Okmulgee, a Marine, served at Bougainville, Guam and Iwo Jima;
· Amelia Childress, of Norman, was an Army nurse in England, France and Belgium;
· Harold Dickerson, of Oklahoma City, was an Army flight engineer;
· Robert Arnold, of Tulsa, served in the 9th Infantry Division and saw action at Normandy, the Remagen Bridge, the Battle of the Bulge and Hurtgen Forest;
· Donald Edmonds, of Enid, was an Army infantryman in central Europe;
· Preston Fite, of McAlester, served in the Navy in the Pacific theater and at the Admiralty Islands;
· Nolan Glasgow, of Edmond, was an Army infantryman and saw action in Europe during the Battle of the Bulge;
· Thomas Hawkins, of Moore, served in a Navy construction battalion, later as a chaplain;
· Lois Turner, of Ponca City, was an Army message center clerk stateside; and
· Donald Worthingon, of Stillwater, was an Army clerk at Gen. Douglas McArthur?s headquarters in the Philippines and Tokyo.
Others were a B-52 top turret gunner, a chemical warfare specialist, a combat engineer, a B-24 navigator, an aircraft mechanic, a pilot who flew 57 combat missions, a communications officer, a hospital corpsman-meat cutter-truck driver, a pilot for Air Transport Command and an aviation supply depot specialist.
Opened in April 2004, the National World War II Memorial honors the 16 million men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces, the more than 400,000 who died and all who supported the war effort from home. It testifies to the spirit, sacrifice and commitment of Americans.
Surrounded by granite columns near an oval-shaped pool with fountains, Leman Clarkson, 88, of Grove, reflected on his military service. The gunner’s mate served from 1943-46 in the Pacific on the USS Tennessee, a battleship.
"I maintained the guns in an eight-hour day," Clarkson said. "There were four turrets on there, two forward and two aft. You kept the inside of the breach free and cleaned them out after each operation. You had to do that while they were still hot."
Clarkson said when the big guns fired there was a lot of noise on the outside, but he was always inside. It recoiled about 3 feet when they fired the big guns, he said.
"Our job was, when it was taking an island, the Air Force would go in and strafe and bomb first," he said. "Then we would go in with all the information and we would bombard it with shells that were point detonated."
He recalled the battleship taking two kamikazes. He was on a ship headed toward Japan when President Harry S. Truman ordered the B-29 Enola Gay to drop the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It did so on Aug. 6, 1945. Another B-29, the Bockscar, dropped the second A-bomb on Nagasaki on Aug. 9. Japan surrendered on Aug. 15.
Clarkson said heading toward Japan was part of the job.
“Actually, it was just another day’s work,” he said. “You know, when you go in the service that way you’re taught to do something and you learn to do it well. You’re real good at what you do, and you’re there to do a job. If we hadn’t done what we did it would be a different world today.”
Clarkson described the memorial as “awesome.” Looking at the names brought back memories, he said. He said he had really never thought about visiting the memorial, and he appreciates Oklahoma Honor Flights.
Marine Lucy Shank, 90, of Seiling, was a secretary stateside during the war. The trip made her think of her husband who died three years ago, and his buddies who were killed in action. She said she enjoyed the trip, which her husband would have liked.
“Keep supporting it because it’s wonderful,” she said of Oklahoma Honor Flights. “I can just see the happiness in some of these men.”
Caesar Latimer, of Tulsa, is a Marine who served in the Pacific, where he was part of operations on Saipan, Iwo Jima, China and Okinawa, among others. He said he was glad to see the national memorial honoring those who fought at Iwo Jima.
“It was beautiful for me to see that,” he said. “It didn’t think it even existed.”
The Oklahoma veterans visited several other memorials, witnessed the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery and had a “window tour” of other sights in Washington, D.C.
This was the last Oklahoma Honor Flights trip for 2012. The next flight leaves April 17 from Tulsa. A total of three flights are scheduled in 2013 to honor another 300 Oklahoma men and women who helped change the world. More than 230 veteran applications were awaiting flights; more arrive each day. As of Oct. 6, Oklahoma Honor Flights had taken 1,005 WWII veterans on 10 flights.
For more information on how to have a veteran go on the trip or to support Oklahoma Honor Flights, call 259-9000 or visit

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