Over the 2012-2013 winter break, students at Irvine High were asked to interview a
person who lived during the World War II era. The idea was to gain an overview of the war’s
effects on people from all over the world. Students contacted relatives, family friends, and
organizations such as senior centers and veteran organizations in search of the story that they
would document, as well as the person who lived the tale.
Out of the 56 interviews collected, 19 are from the United States of America, 27 are from
East and Southeast Asia, 6 are from South Asia, and 2 are from the Middle East. We also have 1
from Peru and 1 from Africa. Each gives insight into the mind and experiences of an individual.
Taken together, they form a compendium of knowledge that, although short of comprehensive,
brings to clarity how the war defined an entire generation- the greatest generation.
As Europe and Asia fell into bloody conflict, the United States hoped to remain aloof.
Yet this neutrality would time and time again prove to be but a dream as the nation was drawn
into the war on December 7, 1941. Pearl Harbor brought the war home, and having experienced
Japanese aggression first hand, Americans everywhere rallied against the Axis. After a decade of
despair brought on by the Great Depression, the war would serve to unify the country and arouse
a great spirit of patriotism.
It was a totally different time…totally different concepts…and the war changed us, all
of us as a country so dramatically that it’s probably... the single most important event, I think…
that has ever happened the United States of America.”
Donald Cubbison (b. 1934), Hawaii
On Pearl Harbor
Yea. And my dad grabbed a, grabbed one of his helmets and started out the door…to
see what was going on. And I was concerned for him…so I actually followed. My mother was
shouting at me “Don’t you go out there!” but I followed my dad outside…and he was in the
trenches looking up at these planes. As they flew over-these Japanese zeros…we were in the
trench, together... A Japanese Zero, came directly over us, and actually fired at us. And after
everything happened and the Japanese Zeros finally peeled off and gone elsewhere I was able to
find one of the bullets the pilot fired at us… still have it… So it was a close call for me and my
dad. And the, the guy was, the zero pilot was so close was so, uh, close overhead that I was able
to see his face. There’s no doubt in my mind that I saw his face.”
Donald Cubbison (b. 1934), Hawaii
I remember everybody was all excited saying “Pearl Harbor, Pearl Harbor!” And they
were out there talking about it and I had a neighbor named Pearl Hower and I thought that it was
Joan Coate (b. 1932), Ohio
I don't really think we ever thought of it as ending, it just seemed like it was just going to be our life.
Irene Figley (b. 1926), Michigan
It is a big joke until you hear the first bullet.
Everybody was loyal to the United States. Everybody seemed to support the war. Everybody that we knew supported the war.”
Allen Coate (b. 1932), Indiana
We had to remake [the history textbooks]… they had to add that, you couldn't miss that.
Marylin Miller, Ohio
We were asleep when Japan hit us in Pearl Harbor… We had no idea. I mean, average kids, we weren't thinking about that.
Goldie Nannes, California
Before the war began, life was terrible.
Frank Puccilli, California
One goal. GOD BLESS AMERICA. YOU BET YOUR ASS. I was fighting for my country.
John Alleck, New York
Starving was as frequent as eating.
Sung Duk-hee, Korea
I was trained to be a kamikaze pilot. A suicide mission. Our planes only had enough fuel for a
one way trip to America… being a kamikaze was very honorable… after the pilot crashes, he is lifted by angels to heaven.
James Liang, Taiwan
“The only thing that [the Koreans] had good – that was first class&; was the brothels that the
Japanese officers went to.
Frank Puccilli, served in Korea
so proud of serving my country…we knew what we were doing was significant and we
valued it;it was an achievement!”
This necklace on my neck has a bullet on it; I was with my friends&; something bright and
fast passed. It hit a water barrel behind us&;I kept it, and for more than 75 years I’ve tried to
find the origins of the bullet.
Lionel Lopes, served in the Marshall Islands
I thought it was preventive. I agreed with it;but you hate to think of anybody being killed;
Its the civilian aspect
John Vrba, served in Washington DC
;The Japanese entertained us with Banzai attacks… I worked very good with my amusement
center [a machine gun]. BURUHRUHRUH.
Andrew Benjock, served around Asia
And suddenly everyone started shooting... [we] asked what was happening and they told us
that we had finally dropped the bombs and the war was over. So that’s how they celebrated, by
When the war was over, we just wanted to forget about it and move on doing our own personal
Barbara Green, Indiana
&The patriotism was very strong because the propaganda we had was strong.”
James Joseph King, Illinois
&The entire country was behind World War II, 100 percent.”
&Certain things would affect you, but the majority of things didn’t. I mean your life went on.”
Lorraince Clary, Washington
&What I thought is that the war made me a much better man. It matured me.”
Dean Peterson, veteran in Europe