Story Preservation Initiative®

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Posts from the ‘Veterans’ category

Holocaust Survivor Stephan Lewy ⎥ One of the World’s Most Unlikely Soldiers


WORDPRESS GLITCH!  If you aren’t seeing the audio bars and want to listen to this recording, click on the post title “Holocaust Survivor Stephan Lewy / One of the World’s Most Unlikely Soldiers.”


Stephan Lewy was born in Berlin in 1925. His father was Jewish, his mother protestant. When Stephan’s mother died in 1931, Arthur Lewy, Stephan’s father, was left to raise the boy alone. He was unable. So Stephan was placed in the Baruch Auerbach orphanage.

Stephan’s father remarried in 1938. That same year, shortly after Kristallnacht, the family made plans to leave Germany for the States; however, due to a health issue with Arthur, their request was denied. Fearing for his son’s life, Arthur agreed that Stephan should instead leave Germany on a kindertransport. It was then that Stephan and his parents lost contact.

Stephan was transported to unoccupied France, where he stayed for a period of four years.

Stephan’s parents made it to the United States in 1940. Stephan, finding them through the American Red Cross, followed two years later. He was seventeen years old. He arrived with America already at war with Germany and so, Stephan, upon landing in the US, was considered an enemy alien. At eighteen, he was called upon to serve.


Stephan joined the army and was placed with a group primarily made up of German immigrants.

As teenagers they had escaped the Nazis. They trained in intelligence work and psychological warfare, and returned to Europe as US soldiers – with the greatest motivation to fight this war: They were Jewish. They called themselves “The Ritchie Boys”.

Stephan was assigned to General Patton’s Army with the 6th Armored Division. He landed in France ten days after D-Day and was present when Buchenwald was liberated.

This is a fascinating story, beautifully told.



Stephan has shared family and historical photos to accompany his personal narrative.

View images here: Stephan Lewy images to accompany audio

Click for audio (full run time – 42 minutes):

Portrait of a Dedicated Teacher

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West High School History Teacher, Brad Morse

Brad Morse was the first teacher to connect with Story Preservation Initiative, looking for a way to bring primary source material into his classroom.

In his own words:

“History is best taught and learned by the telling of stories.  By listening to the testimonials of people who lived through the historical events and eras we study in class, students have felt a direct relationship to those events in a way that is otherwise difficult to achieve.  Whether it was Max Ebel’s account of being detained and interned here in America as a German immigrant during World War II, Victor Kumin’s story of being a scientist on the Manhattan Project, or Doug Anderson’s wrenching description of the daily struggle to stay alive during the Vietnam War, these personal stories being told by the people who lived them is the “hook” that history teachers are so often looking for.  I am so pleased to be able to use these accounts in my American History class.”  

Image courtesy of Southern New Hampshire University

Stories Matter

The Day They Lost the H-Bomb

No known copyright restrictions.

The Palomares Incident, 1966

Between the years of 1963 – 1966, Joe Henderson was an active duty Navy Seal assigned to the Naval Special Warfare unit.

He  was among those called to find one of the “missing” hydrogen bombs, accidently dropped off the coast of Spain near the small fishing village of Palomares.  The Palomares Incident, as it was called, occurred on January 17, 1966 when a US Air force B-52G bomber collided in mid-air with a refueling tanker.  The B-52G was carrying four hydrogen bombs.

Three of the bombs were found on land.  The fourth, which fell into the Mediterranean, was located on March 17, 1966, using Alvin, the US Navy’s manned deep-ocean research submersible. The bomb, found resting nearly 910 meters (2,990 ft) deep, was raised intact on April 7.  (The next generation Alvin found the Titanic).

Although Joe’s unit was not the one to find the missing bomb, he played an important role in discovering its whereabouts.

Between the years of 1975 – 1988, he was again on active duty, this time with the US Navy Medical Corps, as a Submarine and Diving Medical Officer.

In 1975 Joe received his M.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo.  And in 1994, he received his Master of Philosophy degree from Yale University in Epidemiology.

In 1981 he received a Navy Commendation Medal.

To Listen – click on links below:  

Track 01

Track 02

Copyright Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.

Audio Up! on our Conversation with Space Shuttle Neurolab Researcher⎥ Jay Buckey

Dr. Jay Buckey was a crew member and Bio-lab researcher on the Space Shuttle Columbia’s …

16-day Neurolab mission from April 17 to May 3, 1998. The 7-member crew served as both experiment subjects and operators for 26 individual life science experiments focusing on the effects of microgravity on the brain and nervous system. The STS-90 flight orbited the Earth 256 times, covered 6.3 million miles, and logged over 381 hours in space.

Neurolab, a NASA research mission dedicated to the study of the neurosciences, focused on the most complex and least understood part of the human body – the nervous system. This joint NASA-NIH sponsored mission explored five key areas affected by weightlessness: blood pressure control, balance, sleep, nervous system development and the blending of vision with balance and position sense.

Jay is the author of Space Physiology (Oxford Press: 2006), that tells about the effects of weightlessness on the body.

He holds a B.A. in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University (1977) and an M.D. from Cornell in 1981, interning at New York Hospital – Cornell Medical Center and completing his residence at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.

Currently, Jay is a Professor of Medicine at Dartmouth Medical School.  He was also a flight surgeon with the US Air Force Reserve for 8 years.

To hear Jay’s story, click on the links below:

Jay Buckey_Track 01_Intro

Jay Buckey_Track 02

Jay Buckey_Track 03

Jay Buckey_Track 04

Jay Buckey_Track 05

Jay Buckey_Track 06

Copyright Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.


Victor Kumin ⎥ One of Oppie’s Boys

An eyewitness to history, Kumin’s story is a cautionary tale.

Victor Kumin graduated from Harvard in January of 1943 with a degree in Chemistry.  A year and a half later, in June 1944, he was drafted.   Three months after becoming a soldier, he was in the final phase of basic training when  he was called out and brought before a civilian and a military officer who quizzed him about physical chemistry. At the end of the oral exam, they told him he had flunked. They needed chemists, they said, but he had been away from his studies for too long.

Kumin returned to the mud. Within a few days, he got another call. This time he was told to pack his bags and be ready to leave the next morning. Along with a train ticket to Santa Fe, N.M., he was given orders in a manila envelope with instructions not to open it.

“I was told to keep my mouth shut and not tell anyone anything,”he said.

A young soldier who had studied metallurgy in college had also been plucked from the ranks to travel west with Kumin. At every meal stop along the way, strangers sidled up to the two soldiers and tried to strike up a conversation. They disclosed nothing.

Between themselves, Kumin and the other soldier speculated about their destination. Their best guess was a rocket development project.  But, as he says, “We couldn’t have been more wrong.”  Their destination was Los Alamos, where they were to work with a team assembled by J. Robert Oppenheimer to help build the Atomic bomb.

Kumin and his colleagues attended weekly meetings at which leaders of the project explained aspects of the work. As the Trinity test drew near, Oppenheimer made a statement that stuck in Kumin’s mind.

He recalled it this way: “There are many of us here who hope and pray that this will prove to be impossible. But we’re going to go down to Alamogordo, and we’re going to make this test, and if it doesn’t work, we’re going to come back and we’re going to work twice as hard to make it work.”

After the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Kumin refused to continue his work and faced court marshall.   He was ultimately honorably discharged.

Click on the links below to listen: 

Victor Kumin_Track 01

Victor Kumin_Track 02

Victor Kumin_Track 03

Victor Kumin_Track 04

Victor Kumin_Track 05

Copyright Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.

(Concord Monitor, July 2005, Destruction, Pride, and Compassion by Mike Pride)

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Stories Matter

Poet ⎥Writer ⎥Doug Anderson

Doug’s story has been integrated into high school classroom American History units via our Learning Lab project (see: link above to Learning Lab page) where his first-hand narrative about his Vietnam experience helps students gain a greater understanding of the war and its human toll.

a6a7dab4-ad1c-49aa-adaa-71d5aa7843fe-1024x682From the Poetry Foundation …  Poet Doug Anderson grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. He served as a combat medic in the Vietnam War, and after Vietnam attended the University of Arizona, where he studied acting. He started writing poetry after he moved to Northampton, Massachusetts, and worked with the poet Jack Gilbert.

Anderson has written about his experiences in the Vietnam War in both poetry and nonfiction. He is the author of the poetry collections The Moon Reflected Fire (1994), the winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, Blues for Unemployed Secret Police (2000), and Horse Medicine (2015). In 2000 he published his memoir, Keep Your Head Down: Vietnam, the Sixties, and a Journey of Self-Discovery.

His awards include a grant from the Eric Mathieu King Fund of the Academy of American Poets, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Pushcart Prize. Anderson has taught at the University of Connecticut, Eastern Connecticut State University, and the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Its Social Consequences at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

To listen to Doug’s recording, click on the links below. 

Copyright Story Preservation Initiative, 2012.  All rights reserved.

01 Doug Anderson_Intro to Recording

02 Doug Anderson_Day One as a Combat Medic

03 Doug Anderson_Realizing Something was ‘Not Quite Right’

04 Doug Anderson_Running Security Patrols

05 Doug Anderson_A Typical Day in Vietnam

06 Doug Anderson_The Homecoming

07 Doug Anderson_Self-Discovery Through Writing

Surviving Operation Crazy Horse ⎥Vietnam 1966

Michael Heaney dug below the weeds on a remote Vietnamese hillside and slipped a small military lapel pin into the earth. Then the former Army officer prayed.

“This is for Terry … and for the other nine guys who stayed here that day and who never came home,” he said.

Then considering the Vietnamese men who had led him to the secluded spot, halfway around the world from his Hartland home, Heaney added: “And also for the young Vietnamese boys who died that day, I pray to God, the father of all of us. We are all your children. We are together now, in love and in peace. None of us will ever fight again.”

Heaney, a former platoon leader who 46 years ago saw all 10 of the men under his command gunned down in an ambush by North Vietnamese soldiers, had returned to the land he calls “my valley of death” to reclaim a piece of his soul.

As he traveled to the ambush site with a translator, a Communist party minder and several North Vietnamese veterans, Heaney wrote in his trip journal, “I was in God’s movie, and wondered what the script would have in mind for me.”

The Hartland man, a father of five and a retired lawyer and college history professor, had traveled to Vietnam’s Central Highlands to exorcise a lifetime of sadness and guilt, embarking on a journey he had planned almost since arriving stateside as a badly wounded 23-year-old Army first lieutenant.

Despite the successful professional career and rich family life he built after his tour in Vietnam, Heaney spent countless hours trying to come to terms with the fact that he – unlike many of his Army buddies – had survived Operation Crazy Horse, a firefight so fierce it has been chronicled in military history books.

Heaney’s journey to the hills near the village of Vinh Thanh was his reason for returning to Southeast Asia. But the expedition also taught him more about the battle that ended his Vietnam tour, about war and about the enemy soldiers who killed his men in May 1966.

In addition, the trip bolstered his conviction that there are very few wars worth fighting. “The long-term effect on soldiers and their families is never a factor that’s sufficiently weighed when we’re deciding whether to go to war. It’s ‘Are we going to win? How long will it take? How many casualties?’ ” he reflected upon returning to his Vermont home.

“That’s almost the easy part. The hard part is what about the long-term consequences? Every time you fight a war, you’re consigning a large number of people and their loved ones … to pretty dire consequences – forever.”

From the Valley News 12.7.08


Michael Heaney outside his home in Hartland, Vermont.   Heaney, a former Army officer who was the only member of his unit to survive an ambush by North Vietnamese soldiers in May 1966, returned to Vietnam to visit the site.

To Listen to Mike’s story, click on the links below:

01 Mike Heaney_Intro to Recording

Mike Heaney_Track 02

Mike Heaney_Track 03

Mike Heaney_Track 04

Mike Heaney_Track 05

Mike Heaney_Track 06

Mike Heaney_Track 07

Mike Heaney_Track 08

Mike Heaney_Track 09

Mike Heaney_Track 10

Mike Heaney_Track 11

Mike Heaney_Track 12

Copyright Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.

A Conversation with Astronaut Jerry Carr

To listen to the full 56:00 minute recording, click on the links below. 

Colonel Carr was one of the 19 astronauts selected by NASA in April 1966. He served as a member of the astronaut support crews and as CAPCOM for the Apollo 8 and 12 flights, and was involved in the development and testing of the lunar roving vehicle which was used on the lunar surface by Apollo flight crews.

Carr was commander of Skylab 4 (third and final manned visit to the Skylab Orbital Workshop) launched November 16, 1973, and concluded February 8, 1974. This was the longest manned flight (84 days, 1 hour, 15minutes) in the history of manned space exploration to date. He was accompanied on the record-setting 34.5-million-mile flight by Dr. Edward G. Gibson (science pilot) and William R. Pogue (pilot). The crew successfully completed 56 experiments, 26 science demonstrations, 15 subsystem-detailed objectives, and 13 student investigations during their 1,214 revolutions of the earth. They also acquired extensive earth resources observation data using hand-held cameras and Skylab’s Earth Resources Experiment Package camera and sensor array. They logged 338 hours of operations of the Apollo Telescope Mount, which made extensive observations of the sun’s solar processes.

From February 1974 until March 1978, Colonel Carr and his Skylab 4 teammates shared the world record for individual time in space: 2,017 hours 15 minutes 32 seconds, and Carr logged 15 hours and 48 minutes in three EVAs outside the Orbital Workshop.

In mid-1977 Carr was named head of the design support group, within the astronaut office, responsible for providing crew support to such activities as space transportation system design, simulations, testing, and safety assessment, and for development of man/machine interface requirements.

Carr was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1997.

SPI is making audio available to TED-Ed to create animated Lessons Worth Sharing.

The first to roll off the production line is Jerry Carr’s Life of an Astronaut, in which Jerry talks about astronaut training and his life during the Apollo years.  This short, animated educational video was created for students and teachers.  The animation is by Academy-award nominated animator Sharon Colman.



To view, link to:


Pictured:  Astronauts Gerald Carr, Donald Slayton, Neil Armstrong (seated left to right), and Harrison Schmitt and Edwin Aldrin (standing) compare mosaics of Lunar Orbiter photographs with scenes televised from the moon to Mission Control by Apollo 8 crewmen.

Listen to Jerry talk about his NASA experience.  Run Time: 56:00

Intro to recording

Jerry Carr_Becoming an Astronaut_Track 02

Jerry Carr_Designing the Lunar Module_Track 03

Jerry Carr_Capsule Communicator_Track 04

Jerry Carr_Commander of SkyLab_Track 05

Jerry Carr_Space Shuttle Design_Track 06

Jerry Carr_Camus_Track 07

Jerry Carr_The Earth from Space_Track 08

Copyright Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.