War Stories

UNC Charlotte alumni, faculty, staff and students share memories of and stories about family members whose contributions to World War II—on the front lines and behind the scenes—helped shape the course of world history.


Angelo “Kayo” Mandarano

Quick-acting Angelo "Kayo" Mandarano saved the lives of several fellow soldiers.

Chester Lapa

Wounded in battle, Chester Lapa prayed to live; 70 years later, he returned to Europe and was given a rosary.

Colonel W.D. Williams

Helping to change the way artillery is deployed, W.D. Williams rewrote the artillery manual in two languages.

Darrell Larlee and members of Stalag Luft 111

Darrell Larlee, shot down over Germany, survived "The Great Escape" POW camp.

David Vance Sadler

David Vance Sadler fought in the Battle of the Bulge and saved his entire battalion from encroaching German forces.

Dorothea Van der Sande

Vivian Kincaid’s parents not only defied the Germans but saved many people from their clutches.

Douglas Filbeck

Douglas Filbeck made his mark in WWII driving a tank-destroying M18 “Hellcat” in France.

Edward Baker

Edward Baker was stationed at Fort Kamehameha on Hawaii the day Pearl Harbor was bombed, an experience that colored his approach to life.

Funeral of Ethel Dillon's brothers Steve Switch and Frank Perfin, 9/12/1948

Ethel Dillon’s six brothers served in WWII; two came home in coffins.

Fred L. Meacham

Held as a prisoner of war for 30 months, Fred Meacham taught business classes to fellow prisoners.

Gerald Houston Helms

He wrote a lot about how scared he was of the Japanese submarines in the waters that were chasing the ship.

Harold Mitchell

An ambulance driver in North Africa, Italy, Sicily, Germany and Austria, Harold Mitchell was recognized with a Bronze Star and other medals.

Tony and Charlotte Harrison

Alumni Brian and Cathey Harrison had several family members in WWII, including three uncles as well as Brian’s parents.

Henry H. Chambless

Henry Chambless contributed to the war effort at home by managing refineries that produced shortening, essential in the production of munitions.

Homer Hunter

Chemist Homer Hunter was relocated to a "Secret City" near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to work on the Manhattan Project.

Jack Poulton

Jack Poulton served in the South Pacific with the Seabees, whose experience was captured decades later in a published book.

Joan and Ralph Earnhardt

Both parents served in World War II: Joan as an Army nurse in France and Ralph as an Army medic. They worked with Allied troops and German POWs.

John Nolan Culp

Bataan Death March survivor John Nolan Culp endured much as a prisoner of war in the Philippines.

John P. (Paul) Lentz

After the Battle of the Bulge, Lentz received the decoration he deserved.

Levi Frank Caldwell

Frank Caldwell and six of his brothers served in WWII at the same time.

Matthew Crawford, Jr., in his P51-D Mustang

Matthew Crawford, Jr.’s plane was a P51 Mustang fighter. He was shot down and died on March 5, 1945, following a bombing run over Berlin.

Matthew Reid and other prisoners of war in Stalag 7A, Moosburg, Germany

Captured after the Battle of the Bulge, Matthew Reid endured hardships as a POW helping others to escape.

Norman Brown and the Canadian Armored Corps

Tank crew member Norman Brown died during the Juno Beach landing.

Raymond W. Cromer

Raymond W. Cromer entered the war as a Second Lieutenant infantryman in the 71st Division of the U.S. Army, and eventually walked across Europe.

Crew of the USS Finback

Renaud Lebonville served in the Pacific Theater in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Maggie Harrison and Speed

The Harrison family loaned their German Shepherd, Speed, to the Army Air Corps for the duration of the war.

Thomas Ganatsiou

As a member of the Signal Corps, Thomas Ganatsiou received many "top secret" messages. One was a notice that Germany had surrendered.

Staff Sgt. Walter A. Knapp

Killed in battle, Walter Knapp was respected by his men and inspired a legacy of military service in his family.

William George O’Brien, Jr.

Underaged orphan William O’Brien ferried soldiers ashore during D-Day and later served in the Pacific.

William T. Stevenson

A latecomer to World War II, William Stevenson still helped rout the Germans.


36 cousins from one family served during WWII, all of whom returned home safely

Of 73 cousins in Tyler Wessel's family, 36 served during WWII.

Alan Jones

Alan Jones, a ball turret gunner in WWII, was shot down during one of his missions, but he didn't talk about it.

Alexander Burt

Burt was a member of “MacArthur’s Jungaleers” in the Pacific, battling in New Guinea, Philippines and Japan.

Ben R. Wetenhall Sr. presents the Silver Star, awarded for gallantry in action, to his son, Ben R. Wetenhall Jr.

From tragedy to bliss: American soldier and Ukrainian refugee meet in the aftermath of war.

Cornelius "Neil" Christiancy received a Silver Star similar to this.

Bronze star recipient Cornelius "Neil" Christiancy was known as a "wonder" among infantrymen.

Dean Scarborough

Landing Ship Tank crew member Dean Scarborough never forgot what he witnessed during the D-Day invasion.

Dr. Susan Cernyak-Spatz and Bernard Fishman

Professor Emerita Susan Cernyak-Spatz was a teenager caught in the Holocaust; her future husband was a Midwestern GI with the second wave of D-Day.

Ernest John Sabol

After the invasion of Okinawa, Sabol led the return of several Marines and their service dogs to the U.S.

Foster R. Renwick and his wife

Foster R. Renwick was part of the Army Air Corps squadron who liberated Sainte-Mère-Église.

Staff Sergeant Frank Freeman

Staff Sergeant Frank Freeman flew 50 missions bombing Nazi oil refineries in Italy and Russia.

Frank Mraz

Sometimes pulling the short straw is the luckiest of events.

 Frank Rutherford (far right) and his crew after a crash landing on return from the Ploesti oil fields June 24, 1944

He was a bomber pilot shot down over Hungary in 1944. Captured by the enemy, he spent the rest of the war as a prisoner.

Helen Karvan

Great Aunt Helen Karvan worked at Ford's Willow Run Aircraft plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Henry J. Bultman, Jr.

Naval engineer Henry Bultman survived the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Herman C. Giersch

Band leader Herman Giersch helped liberate the concentration camp at Dachau.

Major Herndon M. “Don” Cummings

As a Tuskegee Airman, Major Herndon Cummings was involved in an event that foreshadowed the Civil Rights Movement.

Howard Allred

After flying photo reconnaissance missions alongside FDR’s son, Howard Allred followed a calling to become a Methodist minister.

J. Bryan Sims, Jr.

Glider pilot J. Bryan Sims made a heroic landing during D-Day.

James E. Furr

A veteran of action in the Pacific Theater, James Furr corresponded with his family and others proudly and colorfully.

James Edward Reinsel

James Edward Reinsel dove into the flooded engine room of the USS Kidd, retrieving bodies that were trapped.

Lt. Col. James Marshall Buck

A father and son, one serving in Belgium and the other in Italy, became wounded and reported missing, respectively, the same week.

Jean Warner Baer and Maddy Baer

After escaping Nazi Germany, Jean Warner Baer would enlist in the U.S. Army and help free Paris.

John "Jack" Davis Sugg, Sr.

Sailor John Sugg, Sr. helped liberate the Aleutian Islands.

John George “Jack” Schill, Jr.

After 60 missions, Jack Schill was killed in action in 1944 over Hungary while attempting to outmaneuver German war planes.

John L. Pierce greeting General George Patton

Career Army officer John L. Pierce was a pioneer in tank warfare.

John Witt

John Witt left the hills of Kentucky to enlist in the Marine Corps, where he served during the Pacific War.

Kenneth Wilson Baumgardner

Like many returning soldiers, Vivian Lord’s father didn’t talk much about his war experience.

Michael James Scepanski

Seaman Michael Scepanski watched the original raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima.

Pete Wolfe

During WWII, Dick Wolfe's grandmother had three sons and a son-in-law serving in the Navy.

Ralph Henry Little

Flying Fortress gunner Ralph Little survived a crash landing and endured time as a POW.

Wendel Leeman

He did not see a lot of action, but he endured some tough conditions on the frozen turf.

William G. "Bill" Presnell

Mill worker turned soldier Bill Presnell fought in Europe and photographically chronicled his infantry company’s movements.


Herman Zeller

One family's war heroes included a paratrooper, a naval logistician, and an airstrip builder.

Capt. Edward G. Horvath

One of the "Iron Men of Metz," Edward Horvath was a respected infantry officer.

Francis T. "Frank" Baldy (left) and Butch O'Hare

Frank "The Barber" Baldy survived Pearl Harbor and later befriended famed Naval ace, Butch O'Hare.

The Snapper and de Hartog families pose together after liberation in Naaldwijk

My grandparents risked their lives to conceal Jews during the German occupation of the Netherlands.

Joseph Owen White

Joseph Owen White was captured by the Japanese and taken to Burma and was held captive on the “Death Railway.”

Ovilla Joseph Leo Dominique Soucy

Ovilla Soucy, a naturalized U.S. citizen, saved General George Patton by driving a tank over him so he could climb in its escape hatch.

William Evans

Staff Sergeant William Evans was a decorated turret gunner with the 432nd Bomb Squadron, 17th Bomb Group, Army Air Corps.

William James Rasberry

Retrieving soldiers wounded or killed in battle placed William Rasberry in harm’s way.

William Patrick Shannon

Air Force Sgt. William Patrick Shannon flew 20 missions in "The Flying Fortress."

Zigmund Janus

Ziggy Janus fought for the Germans and later for the British.