NISKAYUNA — Bill Rochelle remembers Christmas Day, 1944.
He was in Germany. He was in World War II.
“We had been told we would not be flying on Christmas morning, so a lot of the guys did a little too much partying [the night before],” stated Rochelle, a Glenville resident and former member of the Army Air Force’s 463rd bomb squad throughout the warfare.
About 120 eighth-graders from Iroquois Middle School listened to Rochelle’s story within the college auditorium on Monday. The college students acquired an training by Rochelle and 5 different veterans from the 1940s — who all instructed tales about their days in navy uniforms.
Rochelle stated the bomber group’s Christmas plans were canceled when the brass scheduled a mission over Germany. The goal was Brux, then a big producer of artificial oil.
Rochelle stated a few of the guys on his workforce fortuitously had not celebrated the vacation.
“It turned out to be the toughest mission we flew,” Rochelle instructed the girls and boys. “We lost about nine of 28 airplanes and, as far as we know, the crews of those planes. It was just a rough day.”
Part of tough day was the tough reception the bomber group acquired from German floor crews manning anti-aircraft weapons, 88-mm cannons.
“We called them flak guns,” Rochelle stated. “I’ve never seen so much flak. I’ve seen a lot of flak, but never so much as there was that day. They used to say, it was so thick you could get out and walk on it. Don’t try that.”
The youngsters silently listened to Rochelle’s tales and remembrances by Army infantryman George Williams; Navy veteran and touchdown craft tank skipper Charles Merriam; German soldier Bernhard Graf von Schwerin; Navy veteran Charlie Levezque and Army veteran Allan Atwell.
Dennis Frank, a social research instructor at Iroquois, has organized the annual salute to veterans. The level, he stated, is for the scholars to be taught historical past.
“It’s not a textbook,” Frank stated.
“They love coming here,” Frank stated of the veterans. “Five of the six are repeats. Some have been here a few years. They look forward to my phone call.”
There were tales of journey on the water from Navy veterans. Charles Merriam of Schenectady supplied phrases of reward and recommendation.
“I congratulate your teachers,” Merriam stated. “A lot of kids your age have no idea who won the war. If we hadn’t won the war, you might be speaking German or Japanese, so you ought to thank your teachers.”
Merriam additionally instructed the youngsters search out their very own adventures — by data.
“I took one of my kids around the world at 15 and he still remembers where we went,” Merriam stated. “So 14 is a very good age. I recommend you ask your teachers, ‘Teach me more.’ You’re going to really absorb all that stuff at 14. You don’t know how much you can do at 14.”
Clifton Park resident von Schwerin gave the scholars a distinct perspective on the warfare. He joined the German navy in late 1944, skilled in war-neutral Denmark and was despatched to the entrance line simply because the Allies were getting into Germany.
Von Schwerin remembers a narrative from his days in Denmark about two younger German troopers procuring in a retailer. One discovered a daring tie and determined to purchase it. The signal stated $5.
“He pulled out $5 and the merchant said, ‘No, no no. For you, it’s $20.’ He said, ‘Why?’ and the merchant said ‘Well, you’re German and we don’t like the Germans.'”
The soldier gave the service provider $5 and left.
Von Schwerin added his buddy’s commanding officer heard concerning the private low cost and insisted the person return to the shop, apologize, and make restitution or return the tie — all with a sergeant wanting over his shoulder.
Kids requested questions on why the lads had determined to affix the navy. They needed to know what it was like spending the vacations within the armed forces. And they liked this system.
“I thought it was so powerful,” stated Mathena Rush, 14. “There’s not that many of them left. Our children will not be able to remember the incredible service, they’re not going to experience it first-hand.”
Rush introduced certainly one of her late grandfather’s Purple Heart medals to the occasion.
“It was definitely heartwarming, after a while these guys aren’t going to be here anymore,” stated Anjana Kurian, 13. “It was important for people our age to know all this.”
“It’s really easy to learn about the statistics and the facts about the war, but it’s much more powerful to know the personal stories,” stated teen Anna Brown.
The veterans additionally loved themselves. Colonie’s Levezque, remembering the lengthy skirts well-liked with the ladies of his period, marveled at vogue selections favored by immediately’s teenagers.
“I like being around young people,” Levezque stated after the session.
“I can tell the children what I experienced,” stated Niskayuna resident Williams, nonetheless a trim determine in his Army uniform.
“I think it’s interesting the kids want to know about these things and keep the memory of what we did and why we did it alive,” Rochelle stated. “We could use some of that thinking today.”
Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]