12 episodes

Veterans short stories from the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Collection.

Argot: The Veterans Short Story Collection The Social Voice Project, Inc.

    • Documentary

Veterans short stories from the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Collection.

    Argot: Audio Short Story Collection (Ep30): Julia Parsons – Top Secret

    Argot: Audio Short Story Collection (Ep30): Julia Parsons – Top Secret

    Julia Parsons



    Top Secret







    In this episode of the podcast, WWII Navy (WAVES) veteran Julia Parsons of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania talks about her experiences as a top secret codebreaker during WWII and for decades later until the program was declassified in 1997.



     







     







    Julia Parsons volunteered for the Navy WAVES—“Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service”—in 1942 after graduating from Carnegie Tech.  She studied cryptology at Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School at Smith College, and then she was ordered to Washington, D.C. for top secret duty.



    She joined section SHARK, whose job it was to de-code German U-boat message traffic sent via the ENIGMA machine.  Deciphering the messages involved working with “Bombe,” one of the first computers.  For most of the war, Julia knew the locations of German U-boats in the North Atlantic and, because of the personal nature of many of these messages, had intimate knowledge of enemy crews’ lives.



    After the war Julia lost her job as a cryptologist, which was one of the best and most exciting she ever had, although “I never spoke about what I did for many years.  Not even my husband knew what I did.”  Julia finally broke her silence about her top-secret work in 1997.



     



    In August 2020, CNN in partnership with Ancestry featured Julia Parsons (then 99-years old) in their online series dedicated to WWII veterans.



    The little-known story of the Navy women codebreakers who helped Allied forces win WWII







    



    This audio short story is based on the original oral history interview of Julia Parsons recorded October 6, 2012 as part of TSVP's Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Initiative at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  © ℗ Argot: Audio Short Stories Podcast/The Social Voice Project, Inc.  All rights reserved.



     







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    • 3 min
    Argot: Audio Short Story Collection (Ep29): Paul Hanna: There Was Nothing There

    Argot: Audio Short Story Collection (Ep29): Paul Hanna: There Was Nothing There

    Paul Hanna



    There Was Nothing There







    In this episode of the podcast, WWII Army veteran Paul Hanna of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania talks about visiting Hiroshima shortly after the atomic bomb destroyed the city in 1945.



     







     







    Paul Hanna is among the very few Americans to have personally witnessed the atomic aftermath at both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.  Like many WW II veterans, Paul has little doubt that the bombing was justified.  For him, it was necessary . . . or else.  Had the invasion of Japan proceeded as planned, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people on both sides would have died.  In the late fall of 1945, Corporal Hanna was in the breach of this impending attack on Japan, prepared to follow orders.



    Paul Hanna grew up in West Newton, a small town fed by the Youghiogheny River some twenty-five miles southeast of Pittsburgh.



    The Hanna family was large and close.  Patriotic.  The Hanna’s contribution to the war effort was unselfish; four sons served simultaneously.  Moe the oldest flew with the Army Air Corps as a navigator in North Africa; he eventually fulfilled his mission quota and returned home early in the war.  Pete became a career naval officer, getting his start as a cadet at Carnegie Tech.  Paul was drafted into the Army, as was younger brother David who saw extensive combat in both Germany and France.  The youngest brother Donald would serve in the Army during the Korean War.  In answer to their parents’ prayers, all of the Hanna brothers returned home to West Newton—one by one and unharmed.



    Paul speaks matter-of-factly about of his military service, as do a surprising number of WW II veterans.  He calls himself one of the “unattached and unassigned” members of the Army.  It was as if the Army needed him (he was drafted in 1943), but then couldn’t decide how.  After induction he was sent to a half dozen different training bases to learn how to do a half dozen different jobs.  As much a lowly corporal as anyone, he was even briefly put in charge of more seasoned, senior, but segregated “colored” troops during one of his stays in the Deep South.  Back then, rank and race had its privileges.







    Eventually the Army found a useful assignment for Paul and it shipped him across the Pacific to be part of a diversionary force that would attack Japan’s backside.  He was to land on the main island and fight long and hard enough until US forces could make their main assault.



    Like many GIs hurriedly sent to the Pacific in preparation for the invasion, Paul witnessed one of the largest military assemblages of manpower and machines the world has ever seen.  At the island of Ulithi, he says, “There were so many ships you couldn’t count them.  Thousands of them.”



    After the atomic bombs were dropped and Japan surrendered, Paul finally made a landing onto Japanese soil in October 1945.  He went ashore at Kure, about twenty miles from Hiroshima.  There was nothing there.  The city was just like you see it in pictures he says.  The Army also told him that it was safe, as long as he didn’t stay too long in the city or pick up anything as a souvenir.  Paul wasn’t about to.  Not there or in Nagasaki, which he also visited.



    After only a few months in Japan, Paul was sent home.  Without much fanfare, he was quietly discharged in February 1946.  After arriving by train at Pennsylvania Station, Paul promptly got into his father’s waiting car and that was it.  The war was over.  Going to war was a necessary thing to do, but after it ended it was time to get on with their lives, Paul contends in that same matter-of-fact tone.



    Like many of his fellow veterans, Paul used the GI Bill after the war.

    • 3 min
    Argot: Audio Short Story Collection (Ep28): Victor Miesel: In All Those Years

    Argot: Audio Short Story Collection (Ep28): Victor Miesel: In All Those Years

    Victor Miesel



    In All Those Years



    In this episode of the podcast, WWII Army Air Corps veteran Victor Miesel of Tionesta, Pennsylvania talks about his coming home from the Pacific Islands at age 26.  At age 80, Victor realized that his family had never asked him about his service, and so he decided to share his story so that future generations will not forget what he and his fellow soldiers endured.



     







     







    Victor Miesel spent the war years in the South Pacific serving with the Army Air Corps. His support role kept planes flying and helped move forward the massive Allied build-up towards Japan. Although he served in the rear of the front lines, his squadron repeatedly came under attack and suffered tremendous casualties. Yet, despite the dangers, Victor and his outfit carried out their duties with speed and efficiency–they had to. “We assembled thirty trucks one day,” he says proudly. “The boys up front needed them and we delivered.”



    Like so many other GIs after the war, Victor put his experiences behind him and started a new life with his family. Only decades later–at age 80–did he realize that no one had ever asked him about his service. Then, after so many years he began to share his story. At the time of this interview, Victor was 94 and still telling his story so that future generations will understand the sacrifices veterans made during WWII.



    Victor Miesel died in January 2019 at the age of 98.  His obituary reads: "Vic loved to help other people and was always willing to offer his advice or service. His last years were spent being extremely proud of his military service and could always be seen wearing his World War 2 Veterans Hat. He loved when people stopped him and thanked him for his service which happens quite often."



      __________________________________________



     



    This episode was produced October 15, 2019.  It is based on the oral history interviews with Victor Miesel originally recorded in February 2014 in Tionesta, Pennsylvania.  Audiography: Kevin Farkas. Music (available on SoundCloud.com): Daniele Casolino ("November While Time is Dropping Down"). ©Argot: Audio Short Stories Podcast/The Social Voice Project, Inc.  All rights reserved.



     







    SUPPORT LOCAL HISTORY



    Let’s keep local history alive for future generations!  If you like our podcast, please help us continue this great educational program--for today and tomorrow.  Show your support by making a financial donation, underwriting the podcast, or advertising your business or service on the show.












     











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    • 2 min
    Argot: Audio Short Story Collection (Ep27): That’s Loss

    Argot: Audio Short Story Collection (Ep27): That’s Loss

    That's Loss



    WWII Voices from Lighthouse Pointe



    On this episode of Argot: Audio Short Stories from the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Collection, we hear the voices of six WWII veterans from Lighthouse Pointe independent living community in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania--all of whom are no longer with us to share their stories and experiences.



     







     







    This sample from the oral history collection of WWII stories features the voices of (in order of appearance) Robert Riethmiller (US Army), Charles Kelley (US Army Air Corps), Paul Hanna (US Army), Jack Rominger (US Marines), William Fisher (US Navy), Francis Burket (US Marines).



    The Lighthouse Pointe series captures the first-and historical experiences of WW II veterans.  In addition to talking about their war-time service, these veterans also share stories about the homefront and what it was like living in Pittsburgh during the war years, their thoughts about WW II, President Truman and the atomic, patriotism, and today’s youth.



    In June 2011, The Social Voice Project conducted a series of audio interviews with veterans living at the Lighthouse Pointe independent living community in O’Hara Township, Allegheny County.  Resident Emily Drake, herself a WW II veteran (WAC), was the originator of the project, and she assisted with the production of the interviews by scheduling the recording sessions.



     



      __________________________________________



    This episode was produced July 25, 2019.  It is based on the oral history interviews with Robert Riethmiller, Charles Kelley, Paul Hanna, Jack Rominger, William Fisher, and Francis Burket recorded June 2011 at Lighthouse Pointe, O'Hare Township, Pennsylvania.  Audiography: Kevin Farkas. Music (available on SoundCloud.com): Tristan Scroggins (“Dipsomaniacal Dreams”), Choir+Cello (“Don't Lose Hope”), S.O.G. (“Delta”), Kaelan Gillick (“Ember of Battle”), The Naughty Step (“Malhamdale”), Naoya Sakamata ("Atmosphere Op2"). ©Argot: Audio Short Stories Podcast/The Social Voice Project, Inc.  All rights reserved.



     



     







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    • 4 min
    Argot: Audio Short Story Collection (Ep26): Vittorio Zippi

    Argot: Audio Short Story Collection (Ep26): Vittorio Zippi

    Vittorio Zippi



    Shoot My Cousins



    On this episode of Argot: Audio Short Stories from the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Collection, WWII veteran Vittorio Zippi of Jeannette, Pennsylvania grew up in the mostly Italian community of Crabtree and was among the first to be drafted into the army during WWII.  “Would you shoot the Italians?” asked his officers.  “Hell yes if they were shooting at me,” Vittorio replied.  “But they’re my cousins, you know,” he added, proudly recognizing his ancestry.  The army was suspicious and questioned his American loyalty; that hurtful mistrust stayed with Vittorio for the rest of his life.



     







     







    Vittorio Zippi grew up the son of Italian immigrants in Crabtree, Pennsylvania, learning to speak English in first grade.  Six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was drafted into the Army—serving as a cook, musician, medic, and barber.



    “Would you shoot the Italians?” asked the Army.  “Hell yes if they were shooting at me,” was his reply.  “But they’re my cousins, you know,” he added, proudly recognizing his ancestry.  The Army was suspicious.  They questioned his American loyalty.  It was a mistrust that still deeply disturbs him.



    After spending twenty-seven months overseas during WWII–taking care of horrific D-Day casualties and dodging deadly V2 bombing raids in England–Vittorio was asked to re-register for the draft in preparation for the Korean War.  Married with two kids, he felt the full weight of another war experience bearing down on him.  “How lucky can I get the second time?” he wondered.



    Time moves in one direction,” writes William Gibson, “memory in another.” And so, on the darkest edge of their twilight years, many WWII veterans want to reach into the past and share memories they once quietly put away after the war–the untold stories, still morally painful after all these years.



    After sitting down with the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative, Vittorio began to talk more openly to his family about his WWII experiences.  His daughter Carole Zippi-Brennan writes, “My dad said one of his biggest regrets was that he never got the name and address of a 19 year old soldier who died in his arms. He said he wanted to write to his parents and let them know that their son died in the arms of a fellow soldier and not out in the field someplace. He cried when he told me that story.”



      __________________________________________



    This episode was produced July 3, 2019.  It is based on the oral history interview with Vittorio Zippi recorded January 19, 2015 by the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative at the Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Audiography: Kevin Farkas. Music (available on SoundCloud.com): Tristan Scroggins (“Dipsomaniacal Dreams”), Choir+Cello (“Don't Lose Hope”), S.O.G. (“Delta”), Kaelan Gillick (“Ember of Battle”), The Naughty Step (“Malhamdale”). ©Argot: Audio Short Stories Podcast/The Social Voice Project, Inc.  All rights reserved.



     



     







    SUPPORT LOCAL HISTORY



    Let’s keep local history alive for future generations!  If you like our podcast, please help us continue this great educational program--for today and tomorrow.  Show your support by making a financial donation, underwriting the podcast, or advertising your business or service on the show.












     











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    • 3 min
    Argot: Audio Short Story Collection – Episode 25

    Argot: Audio Short Story Collection – Episode 25

    CBI Mules | Al Armandariz  



     



    On this episode of Argot: Audio Short Stories from the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative Collection, Pittsburgh WWII veteran Al Armandariz recalls the humane treatment given to army mules used in the China-Burma-India Theater.



     







     







    Since he was a kid, Al Armendariz had always been fascinated by medicine.  He joined the army after the attacks on Pearl Harbor and entered basic training and medic training.  He remembers his drill sergeant taking role call at 4:30 A.M.  His motto?  “We break you, or you’ll break us.”



    As a Latino who grew up in Los Angeles, Al experienced discrimination in the army.  He was always chosen to be the one in the kitchen cleaning dishes.  “I didn’t join the army to be washing forks and spoons.”  He remembers how other Latinos he knew felt.  “We were like prisoners,” he says.  “Even when you were in your barracks, you were on call . . . it was very depressing.”



    Al was shipped overseas in 1944.  After landing in Bombay, he worked as a medic, treating people who had been in accidents, had malaria, or even burn cases.  He cared for locals too, despite being ordered not to.  Al recalls the animals he saw in India, from the army mules to Bengal Tigers.  He also had two pet monkeys, Tojo and Mike.  Al says he was just an ordinary sergeant.  “So I taught Tojo to salute me!”



      __________________________________________



    This episode was recorded December 15, 2018 in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. It is based on the oral history interview conducted April 9, 2012 by the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative, in cooperation with the Veterans Breakfast Club.  Audiography: Kevin Farkas. Music (available on SoundCloud.com): Naoya Sakamata (“Atmosphere Op2”).  Other Sounds:  Dept. of War: “U.S. Army Drafts Missouri Mules” (1943). ©Argot: Audio Short Stories Podcast/The Social Voice Project, Inc.  All rights reserved.



     



     







    SUPPORT LOCAL HISTORY



    Let’s keep local history alive for future generations!  If you like our podcast, please help us continue this great educational program--for today and tomorrow.  Show your support by making a financial donation, underwriting the podcast, or advertising your business or service on the show.












     











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    • 2 min

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