Oral Histories and Quotes

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.

United States of America

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.

USA Quotes

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

Pearl Hower.

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.

Andrew Benjock

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!”

Frank Puccilli

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


Andrew Benjock

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.”

Donald Cubbison

&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

Stories and Histories
by Bryan Li
...ld. In academia today, we think of the war in the past tense, as a harrowing reminder of the culmination of human folly and greed. Indeed, several of the events of the war, such as the Holocaust and the atomic bombings of Japan, remain vivid in the public consciousness today. But through this lens, we easily lose sight of the people who lived during this time of such great human conflict. Few events in the scope of history have affected an entire generation of people such as WWII did. For them, ...

More Quotes
by Bryan Li
... 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 individu...

by Bryan Li
Andrew Benjock served all over Asia for 31 years, from World War II to the Korean War to the Vietnam War. For entertainment, he mentions “bullets, bullets.” He would be fired at by the Japanese in his bomb, and he had machine gun the entertainment right back.
Virginia Laddey joined the WAVES division of the navy in 1942 as a communicator. Horrified by Pearl Harbor, she nevertheless felt like there had been no cover up, since she had access to confidential documents....


United States

John Alleck left school to join the Navy. To his surprise, though, he became a Marine. At age 17 he was fighting on Guam and at 18 he was fighting on Iwo Jima. Building the psychological and physical profile needed to become a soldier, he became leader of his regiment.
Andrew Benjock served all over Asia for 31 years, from World War II to the Korean War to the Vietnam War. For entertainment, he mentions “bullets, bullets.” He would be fired at by the Japanese in his bomb, and he had machine gun the entertainment right back.
Virginia Laddey joined the WAVES division of the navy in 1942 as a communicator. Horrified by Pearl Harbor, she nevertheless felt like there had been no cover up, since she had access to confidential documents.
Lionel Lopes was a marine, and a member of the first division to go directly to combat from the United States. While stationed in Hawaii, he discovered that Japanese Americans were not traitors as the government thought, making many friends in the process.
Goldie Nannes joined the Marines to prove she was not the baby of the family anymore. Equipped with a Coco Chanel designed uniform and special Marine lipstick, she awaited being on the battlefront (unfortunately women were not allowed in WWII) by baking pies for the men, earning respect along the way.
Dean Peterson was the only boy out of four to go into the navy. Working on the quarterdeck, he remembers how his battleship scared off a German plane, without firing a shot.
Frank Puccilli was terrified when he was drafted in Los Angeles. Manning a howitzer in his battalion, in the Philippines he learned how war was hell, while in Korea he viewed firsthand the effects of Japanese occupation on a populace.
John Vrba visited Berlin in 1937 on a Naval Academy trip, impressed at its development. Little did he know what was truly going on. During the war, he worked in the secret and confidential files department in Washington DC.


Joan Coate lived in Ohio. With a neighbor named Pearl Hower, it is easy to see how her young mind did not understand what the fuss was all about.
Allen Coate was in a small factory town in Indiana. No one wanted to talk to him much about the war, but his interest was piqued listening to the grown-ups.
Irene Figley as a teenager in Michigan felt like the war was her life. She remembers all the crazy dances back then, but remarks how the war interrupted the partying.
Barbara Green lived in a farm in Indiana, and recalls the graphic pictures in Life Magazine of the war bringing the world closer to her.
James Joseph King was a high schooler in Chicago and recalls being barraged by a steady stream of propaganda. He particularly idolized John Wayne and how he was always on the right side in the war movies.
Marylin Miller lived in a town in Ohio. One birthday, because of rationing, she had to wait in line for hours to get the bananas for her grandaunt to make a birthday cake for her.


Lorraine Clary lived in Washington, where fear of a Japanese strike was especially high. She remembers how rationing forced her mother to limit the menu of the family restaurant.
Donald Cubbison was only 6 years old when the Japanese flew over his home in Hawaii en route to Pearl Harbor. He recalls a Zero plane shooting at him and flying so close that he could see the pilot’s face.
Casey Doorman remembers how as a child in Washington he agreed with everything his parents believed in, whether in Roosevelt or Eisenhower. Today, though, he is very much in tune with historical context.
Alan Dugard lived in California. Nearby was a small contingent of the army, and his family was nice enough to let them take hot water showers and eat breakfast.
Bob Juneman believes that kids during the war years grew up a bit faster because their family members were off fighting. In school in California, he particularly remembers learning about the military, world geography, and world politics.
Roland Olson was born in a little mining town in Utah. His face lit up when his parents would bring in 100 lb. bags of sugar from the grocery store, not understanding rationing at the time.
VaLoye Olson lived in a farming town in Utah. Though the war did not concern her too much, in her heart she knew that the USA would win.

Rosemary Dugard lived in Massachusetts, and was only seven when she heard about the war, not understanding what it meant. Excited at first, her family’s spirits were dampened hearing one of her uncles had been killed in action.

South Asia

Sukumar Banerjee was born in Calcutta, India. The first he heard of war was in school, where the older kids played a game called “war” by picking a country and beating each other up.
Oscar Fernando lived in Sri Lanka during the war. In 1940, he heard news that the island had been attacked at Colombo, and how hundreds had died.
Alamelu Gopalkrishna was born in Hyderabad, India. Though India was not directly involved in the war, she felt the crunch as the British would take supplies for their troops.
Bhagwan Dass Goyal got the little information he knew of the war by word of mouth. War never reached India, but he remembered how villagers would be scared if a plane flew by, expecting a bomb attack.
Chandrika Patel was born in Kenya to Indian immigrants. Alternating between the two countries, she found that the war did not concern her much, although she hoped Britain would win quickly and give India independence.
Siva Ranganathan first heard of the war in 1944 after moving to Bombay. She supported the British at the time, hoping that if they won, India would get room for independence.
Rana Muhammad Salim as a young child in India saw airplanes in the sky fighting, remembering how he had thought it was all fun and games.

Middle East

Ayten Amur was born in Turkey, and followed her parent’s attitude about the war that “it’s not in my country.” Still, they would pray to Allah that everyone would behave, and that the war would end soon.
Azniv Mekhanjian was born Armenian in Syria. Her village would paint the windows blue so planes above could not see light and find a target. In Lebanon, she remembered how visiting French and German soldiers would sometimes give her chocolate or food.

East Asia

Note: names are given in East Asian order, with the family name first, unless indicated with a *
Chang Jiuse (?) remembered how his previously idyllic life in Tianjin was crushed under Japanese occupation, as he went from eating lobster and fish to rotten corn and yams.
Chou Chiu-Hua was born in Liaoning Province in Northeast China, but as the Japanese invaded, ran with her family towards the south and west, ending up in Jiangsu. The whole time she thought of Americans as the good guys. .
Rose Hands* lived in Shanghai, but spoke Cantonese and English over the vernacular Shanghainese. Her father was able to improvise a radio so that it could receive short wave, uncensored information about the war.
He Zhengzhong was only a toddler when the Japanese began bombing his city, Wuhan, yet he recalls the body parts strewn everywhere after the bombing vividly. He saw his father as a courageous figure, both protecting and teaching his many students, inspiring patriotism in their country in the process.
Li Gu-yan was born in Beijing, and from her very first memory recalls having to hide from the Japanese. Her father was an officer in the Kuomintang army.
Lu Xiao Zhen and his family left their hometown in Shanxi after hearing his father was on a black list, and was a target for the Japanese. Living in a makeshift shelter in a temple, he looked forward to getting an education at school, no matter how poor conditions were.
Luo Xiang Zhao was born in an agrarian suburb in Southeast China. After fleeing the initial invasion, his family moved back after the Japanese took over. He felt like everyone was treated like slaves, with neither respect nor dignity.
Shen Yi Zhang acted as a minuteman of sorts running through his village near Shanghai and alerting the townsfolk that the Japanese had arrived. Luckily, the Japanese were more lenient on children, but he still was beaten for his audacity.
Shi Fengqi had a war hero in his uncle, who had been shot but made it back. Although Anhui Province had been occupied, and he went to school daily to the Japanese flag and the Japanese national anthem, he never forgot that he was Chinese.
Xu Jie had her school days punctuated by the sound of an alarm alerting everyone to go hide in caves. Evidently, the strategy worked, as her city in South China, Hunan, was never invaded
Mark Yuan* was in Manchuria; in 9th grade was sent to a factory where he sharpened swords every day in aching conditions. Thankfully, the Japanese surrendered 3 months later.
John Zhou* never got the chance for a formal education, the Japanese prohibiting it, and the resources being inadequate. In his town in Northeast China, eating rice became forbidden; that did not stop people from eating it in secret.


Paul Hu* was one of only a few students in his town in Taiwan that was able to continue schooling in a Japanese school. There he was subjected to “Japanization,” and was forced to learn, speak, and even think in Japanese.
James Liang* remembers how sometimes his school bus in Taiwan would drop them off to do labor instead. Later on, he was trained to become a kamikaze pilot, a position he describes as very honorable at the time. Luckily, the war ended before he fulfilled his duties.
Lin Ai felt like that Japan had done much to help Taiwan (unlike other interviewees). When the war came around, she and many of her friends were supportive of the Japanese, ever though they did not particularly support the effort itself.
WangChang Chan Wan had 12 siblings; sadly, half of them died due to the conditions under the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. She felt that the Taiwanese were completely submissive to Japan after five decades of rule.
Wen Long Wang was born into a very big family, though his father being the principal of the local grade school helped somewhat. Living in a city in Taiwan near a Japanese air force base, the war became real to him when an American plane fired, causing civilian casualties.


Young Susan Chin* was an elementary school student in Korea. Forced to change her Korean name into a Japanese one, she felt resentment for the entire war, and cheered when she was able to reclaim her identity.
Dong Myun (?) could not eat rice once the war began because it was such a rich food, and because the Japanese demanded it all. Her most joyous memory of the end of the war was the fact that she could reclaim her Korean name after going by a Japanese one for so long.
Kim Dukyoung grew up in a prosperous, Christian family in Korea. Though his life was not particularly affected by the war, he felt happy when it ended and Korea was free.
Lo Jung-o remembers how her own and other families were frightened, since all the men had been taken away, and the constant air raids her town in Taiwan endured.
Roh Young relates life under Japan-occupied Korea to North Korea today: there were little human rights and freedom, and food was distributed to households.
Sung Duk-hee and her village were so desperate that they would peel trees, then cook and eat the bark for food. She also remembers how Koreans were not allowed to wear white clothes under occupation.

Generosa Gatdula* lived in fear as a teenage girl in the Philippines because she had that the Japanese soldiers would rape any women they saw. Her family became poor because her father and brother could no longer work after a vicious beating by Japanese soldiers, although thankfully they at least had enough rice to feed everyone.

Kiyama Hayamo lived in Nagasaki and was lucky enough to live far enough from the town center that he survived. He recalls the bomb as a sound of thunder. Afterwards the smell of burning flesh permeated the air, and he recalls his family taking in a few of the injured, many of whom had maggots in their rotting flesh.

Tran Binh was caught in Vietnam during the war, a battleground between the French and the Japanese. After the Japanese left though, his life got worse, as the communists took over and threw him into a labor camp.