Jackson Center Hosts Program Featuring Six Area Vets

Conrad King

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Robert H. Jackson Center

The Robert H. Jackson Center, a non-profit dedicated to promoting liberty under law through the examination of the life and work of Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson and its relevance to current events and issues, will host a program entitled “Six Faces of WWII,” a video presentation of personal stories related by six area World War II veterans. Robert H. Jackson Center President Susan Moran Murphy made the announcement.

These veterans’ stories have been preserved through the Defenders of Freedom project which recorded interviews with over 225 local veterans conducted by Greg Peterson, co-founder and board member of the Robert H. Jackson Center and the driving force behind the project. The program will be presented at the Robert H. Jackson Center, 305 E. 4th Street, Jamestown, NY, on Saturday, February 3, 2018, at 11am. Veterans, spouses, family, and friends are encouraged to attend. The program is open to the public and offered free of charge through the sponsorship of the Robert H. Jackson Center, Fenton History Center, Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, and the Chautauqua County Veterans Service’s Dwyer Program.

The presentation uses filmed interviews and archival footage to provide a vivid portrayal of the veterans’ experiences. The six local veterans featured were selected by Phil Zimmer, who assisted with the “Defenders of Freedom” project. Zimmer is a veteran and local historian who has written extensively on WWII for numerous nationally distributed journals and magazines. “The half dozen veterans I chose were among those whose stories personally resonated with me,” noted Zimmer. “Others with equally compelling wartime experiences could have been singled out as well.”

Conrad King is one of the veterans featured in the “Six Faces of WWII” video presentation. “It was a miracle,” is the way Conrad King described his WWII experience when a Japanese bomb exploded in his eight-man gun position aboard the USS South Dakota. The seven other seamen died but King escaped without a scratch, which he attributed to divine intervention. He and the others aboard the 680-foot long battleship went on to conclude the war watching the Japanese surrender on the USS Missouri in Tokyo harbor.

Dominic Spitale, a marine, was shot in the neck by a Japanese sniper and miraculously found alive later in a pile of dead Americans. He was shipped stateside for extensive rehabilitation. Airman Lester Bishop was shot down over France and captured by the Germans before being eventually freed by advancing Soviet troops toward the end of the war. Decades later, Bishop’s voice cracked with emotion as he discussed his wartime experiences and brushes with death.

One of the more colorful and comprehensive interviews was with Anthony Costanzo who fought across North Africa, in Sicily, and on D-Day with the Army’s “Big Red One” division. “Costanzo’s memories of getting Italian troops to surrender in North Africa, his time with his Sicilian grandmother after the fighting had ended on that island, and his views on Generals Mark Clark and George Patton are well worth hearing,” Zimmer adds.

Other featured veterans include Vivian Taylor, an African-American draftee who describes his wartime experiences in a segregated U.S. Army, and Angelo Zanghi who discusses his service aboard the USS O’Bannon in the Pacific.

All of the individual Defenders of Freedom interviews are available on the Robert H. Jackson Center YouTube channel and on Chautauqua County TV’s Access Channel 5 website, https://accesschautauquacountytv.org/shows/defendersOfFreedom.
The Robert H. Jackson Center is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization that envisions a global society where the universal principles of equality, fairness and justice prevail. The Center invites and engages students of all ages, scholars, educators, national officials and international dignitaries to analyze contemporary issues of peace and justice through the lens of Justice Jackson’s body of work.