May 7, 2013
SUBJECT: College Students to Travel with WWII Veterans to Commemorate 70th Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic and the Air War over Europe with Veterans of the Navy Armed Guard, Merchant Marines and 8th U.S. Army Air Corps.
The Battle of the Atlantic, at its height from mid-1940 through the end of 1943, is often credited as a dominating factor through World War II. Because every effort in Europe depended on the constant arrival of supplies, the Germans made a full-throttle effort to block the shipping routes. In the end the Allies were victorious, but at the cost of 36,200 sailors and 36,000 merchant seamen’s lives. The 8th Army Air Corps, at the loss of thousands of lives, protected England and Europe from the air and ultimately aided in achieving victory in Europe. Sixteen College of the Ozarks students and seven WWII Veterans that participated in the Battle of the Atlantic and the Air War will travel to England May 17-28 to commemorate its 70th anniversary.
The Veterans slated to participate include, Thomas Easterly (Army Air Corps) of Hot Springs, Ark.; William Ryan (U.S. Merchant Marine and U.S. Army) of Melbourne, Fl.; John Haynes (U.S. Navy) of McCordsville, Ind.; Walter Fitzmaurice (U.S. Army Air Corps) of North Reading, Mass.; Austin Dale Deaver (U.S. Army Air Corps) of Levant, Kan.; Harold Gilbert (U.S. Army Air Corps) of Lewiston, Maine; and Don Elwood (U.S. Merchant Marine and U.S. Navy) of Pendleton, Ind.
The contingent will arrive in Cambridge and visit nearby Parham Airfield, a former 8th Air Force Base. There, they will see re-enactors and British locals who were there during WWII. The group will also visit the Cambridge American Cemetery, where the graves of 3,812 American military dead and 5,127 names of missing Americans from the air war over Europe and the Battle of the Atlantic are found. They will also visit London to tour the city, Churchill Museum and the famous Cabinet War Rooms, from where the Prime Minister directed the war effort. In Liverpool, the students and Veterans will take part in the special commemoration activities for the Battle of the Atlantic’s 70th anniversary.
These sights and activities will provide the students and the Veterans ample opportunity to reflect and commemorate the longest continuous military campaign in WWII. The students will have a special opportunity to learn from the men who were there to experience it. It is likely that Mr. Easterly will share with the students his witnessing the 1942 Christmas bombing of London, or Mr. Haynes’ will recall his account of being aboard the S.S. Eldena bound to Murmansk, Russia, in the first convoy to feel the impact of German attacks. The students will also have the unique experience of witnessing American Veterans and Veterans of the Royal Air Force (RAF) reunite, 70 years after they united to defeat tyranny that threatened the world. In a war speech, Churchill said of the RAF that “never was so much owed by so many to so few.”
“For those of us who did not get to learn from our family members who served, the Veterans who participate in the trips give us a second chance to express gratitude to real, American heroes,” said Matthew Matney, College of the Ozarks junior and trip participant.
This trip is part of the College of the Ozarks Patriotic Education Travel Program, wherein students travel with Veterans to their fields of battle in order to learn about history and sacrifice from the men and women who lived it. During the trips, students thoroughly document the Veterans’ stories through photography, voice recorders, personal journals and a group blog. For more information on the Patriotic Education Travel Program or to follow the blog for this 70th anniversary commemorative tour to England, please visit www.cofo.edu.