Lt. Arthur Staymates
US Army, 1st Infantry Division | 26th Infantry Regiment (Big Red One)
Born in Murrysville, Pennsylvania in 1925, Arthur Staymates was drafted into the US Army in 1943, and on June 6, 1944, led his men of Co. B 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Division to assault Omaha Beach during the Allied invasion of Normandy. After six months of combat and a short rest period, Staymates’ unit was moved to the Ardennes front during the German offensive commonly called “Battle of the Bulge”. Staymates continued with his unit into Germany, where he was promoted to lieutenant. Stationed in Nuremberg after the war, he commanded a detachment that guarded high-ranking Nazis who were being tried for war crimes, including Martin Bormann, Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess, and Julius Streicher. Staymates met his wife, Maria, in Germany. After the war, they returned to his hometown in Pennsylvania and relocated in 1962 to Hagerstown, where Staymates operated a financial advising firm.
Holocaust Survivor: Kovno ghetto, Dachau Concentration Camp
Born in Ukmerge, Lithuania in 1927, Arthur “Art” Pais is among the ten percent of Lithuanian Jewry to survive the Holocaust. Pushed into the Kovno ghetto after his town was destroyed, Arthur vividly remembers the atrocities committed at the hands of the German soldiers. After being loaded into boxcars, Arthur’s mother and sister were rerouted to Stutthof, a concentration camp in Poland while Arthur, his father, and his brother were sent to Dachau. After working fifteen-hour shifts for weeks on end and surviving on watery soup and a daily slice of moldy bread, the inmates at Dachau heard rumors about the advance of the American Army. The Germans evacuated the camp, forcing the prisoners into a death march. Starving, exhausted, and ill, Arthur and his brother pressed on toward the Bavarian Alps. After being abandoned by the guards, they wandered to the nearest town and a few days later, American troops took them to Munich. It was there that Arthur found his father, just barely alive, and learned that his mother had at least lived long enough to see her home once again. | www.tennesseeholocaustcommission.org
8th Air Force, 490th Bomb Group, 849th Squadron
Born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1921, Jerry Neal served in WWII as a B-17 and B-24 pilot in the 8th AF. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for accumulated deep penetration flights into Germany. After the war Jerry remained in the Air Force Reserve, serving in administrative positions. He retired after 20 years as a captain. His professional career included sales and marketing positions with Honeywell and ownership of a distribution business. He currently resides in Nashville, TN.
USS Indianapolis survivor, USMC
Marine veteran Edgar Harrell survived the most devastating disaster in US naval history: the sinking of the USS Indianapolis on July 30, 1945. Torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-58, the ship and its 1,196-man crew sank in 12 minutes. Left floating in open sea, Harrell and 316 other survivors battled shark attacks, hypothermia, severe dehydration, and saltwater poisoning, until their miraculous discovery and rescue five days later. After the war, Harrell owned and operated the Pella Window Company, Inc., Rock Island, IL, for thirty-five years and served on the board of trustees of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL, while also serving as a lay Bible teacher. He currently resides in Paris, Tennessee with his wife Ola, together enjoying their two children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Harrell’s story is a truly riveting one of survival, political intrigue, and faith in the providence of God. He has written about his experiences in the book Out of the Depths. | www.indysurvivor.com
Norman Weber: An American Boy in Germany During WWII
Mt. Juliet, TN
Born in New York, young Norman Weber and his family returned to Germany shortly before WWII and experienced the ravages of war in Europe. Although an American citizen, Norman was inducted into the Hitler Youth and spent nearly two weeks learning weapons operations and Nazi indoctrination. Norman lived with his family in Munich till he joined the American army and returned to the United States at the age of 17. After a long, varied & successful career, Norman is now retired and enjoys being a Nashville tour guide with his wife, Sandy. Norman has recently published a book about his experiences of life in Germany entitled: Bombs, Basements & Bunkers: An American Boy in Germany During World War II.
My Father’s War: A Story of War, Survival & Grace
Robert & Carol Ponder Kiefer
Seasoned performing artists Carol Ponder and Robert Kiefer bring the past to the present with “Ponder Anew: My Father’s War.” The piece, based off the memoirs of Ponder’s fighter pilot father, “evokes the essence of war and warriors, their victories, sacrifices, loyalty to each other, and the sweet pain of coming home.” It is presented as a reader’s theatre play with music and covers the gamut of emotion. | www.carolandrobert.com
Letters from the Heart: WWII Through my Father’s Eyes
Carole Webb Slater
Carole Lee Slater, author of “Letters from the Heart 1943-1946”, has compiled her father’s WWII correspondence into a touching, personal account of his experiences as a P-51 Mustang fighter pilot in Europe during the war. The book is part love story, part history lesson, and part a simple account of life, love, and the thrill of flying airplanes. Carole was motivated to compile the book not only out of a desire to share her father’s story, but by her belief that the WWII era has a great deal to teach us today about what it means to be American. Carole is retired after working for thirty-five years in the disability field, and lives in Franklin, TN with her husband of thirty-five years. | www.p-51lettersfromtheheart.com