War Stories
by Frank Stephenson

Dr. Elston Roady | Dr. Gene Nichols | Dr. Imre Friedmann | Dr. Martin Roeder & Dr. Charles Nam | Dr. Hans Plendl | Dr. Raymond Sheline | Dr. Charles McArthur | Dr. Pasquale Graziadei

Fifty years ago this summer, the guns of World War II fell silent.

For the surviving millions touched by the conflict, the end of history's first truly global war signalled a new beginning--a chance to get on with one's life, even to appreciate it for the first time in years.

Heartened by the sudden prospects of a peaceful future, people on five continents began a slow recovery from trauma on a scale humanity had never seen. It was a universal time of healing, and the experiences of friends, foes and victims alike began to coalesce into a common resolve to put the past behind and make the best of what peace now offered.

The experiences of nine Florida State University faculty members caught up in the war, recounted herein, illustrate the point. All of them parlayed their survival into rich, remarkably productive careers in teaching and research--work which continues to enrich the lives of hundreds of students and scholars living both here and abroad today.

With this special report, Florida State University salutes these individuals and others like them whose courage, spirit and determination ably testify that something exceedingly good, lasting and important did indeed come from the worst of all wars. --Frank Stephenson, Editor

Hell in the South Pacific

Dr. Elston ("Steve") Roady is a member of the first faculty assembled at FSU in September 1947. He retired in 1984 from the Department of Political Science, capping a distinguished career as a teacher and researcher.

In his own words, Elston Roady had been "keenly raised in the scriptures," a product of midwestern isolationism and the guid-

ing hands of parents steeped in the peace-loving traditions of the Church of Christ.

But when, without warning, Japanese bombers rained death on Pearl Harbor early one Sunday morning, Roady's conversion from man of peace to righteous warrior was all but complete. Shunning a bona fide deferment as a conscientious objector, Roady enlisted in the Army, eager to do his bit for country, if not God, too.

"When the Japs attacked Pearl, I thought that a particularly egregious act," he said. "So, I just couldn't go the C.O. (conscientious objector) route. And once I got in (the Army), they wanted me to play in the band. That was good for morale and all, but nope, that wasn't why I signed up."

Fresh out of an Illinois college with a degree in political science, Roady soon rose from private first class to a commissioned communications officer (2nd lieutenant) in the Army Air Corps. His chance to join the fray overseas came while he was stationed at Boca Raton, Florida, amid special training in night-time applications of airborne radar. He snapped it up, and six months later he found himself being unloaded onto the beaches of Milne Bay on the southeastern corner of New Guinea.

"The first thing I saw were stacks and stacks of caskets," he remembers. Gen. MacArthur's embattled forces were well along in their bloody campaign to wrest control of the island from the Japanese. Roady, attached to a forward, ground-based night-fighter squadron, would soon see all he wanted of war.

Following assault troops into the island's interior, Roady's unit struggled to coordinate night-fighter attacks against fierce resistance from an enemy whose tenacity and will utterly amazed him. "The Japanese were not the kind to surrender, believe me. They were excellent fighters, very courageous. You just had to kill them, period."

Slugging inland across Wakde Island, off the New Guinea coast, Roady's unit was hit by enemy bombers. Incendiary and fragmentation bombs tore through the exposed troops. At a portable surgical hospital where he went to have a burned hand attended to, Roady saw his first man die.

"He was a young man who had caught a hand grenade in his stomach. There was nothing they could do for him, really. So they just marked him to die. He cried for his momma in a rather loud voice, over and over. His cries soon faded, and he was dead. That was quite a traumatic experience for me."

By October 1944, the last remnants of Japanese resistance on New Guinea were being mopped up. MacArthur had talked FDR into retaking the Philippines, and doing it his way--which meant a surprise, round-house punch to the archipelago's midsection, the island of Leyte.

Roady's unit was in the third wave of transports (LSTs) to hit the beach on Oct. 22. Now a captain, Roady had survived a number of amphibious invasions of outlying islands around New Guinea. But nothing he'd seen prepared him for the hell of Leyte.

Before Roady's LST made the beach, a landing craft full of G.I.s next to him blew apart, victim of a terrifying new Japanese weapon--the kamikaze suicide bomber. Roady and his men helped the wounded as best they could amid a ghastly scene of mangled bodies writhing in crimson foam.

Shortly after, with his LST finally aground, Roady and his three-man crew began the task of unloading their equipment onto the beach. Suddenly, a shell exploded among them, knocking Roady unconscious. When he came to, his three companions lay dead. He suffered only superficial wounds.

"If nothing else, the war taught me about the randomness of life. If you're there, you're dead; if you're here, you're alive. There's no understanding--no rhyme or reason for what happens."

The battle for Leyte wouldn't end for three long months. Roady's luck stayed with him, despite the worst that the Japanese and nature could throw his way--which he soon learned was considerable. He recalls being subjected to "more or less constant strafing, bombing and infiltration" from the day he landed to the end of December. Making matters worse, three typhoons struck the island within a stretch of six weeks that fall, turning coconuts and tree limbs into lethal projectiles.

Outside Tacloban, Leyte's capital, Roady figured his luck had finally bottomed out. For three weeks, his entire unit was pinned in their foxholes by machine-gun and sniper fire. From sunup to sundown, the Americans were forced to lie motionless in their personal hell holes, full of water and--to every man's horror--large, hungry Manchurian rats.

"My God, those rats! You didn't dare sleep. We'd been conditioned to the enemy, but here was a terrifying thing we'd never seen. I thought I'd had it then alright."

Later, when the struggle began to shift in the Americans' favor, the Japanese resorted to massed, suicidal assaults--the famous banzai charge. One set the stage for Roady's first fire fight.

He'd been told to expect it. And sure enough, late one afternoon they simply rose up and charged across a rice paddy directly toward us. Hundreds of them, yelling, making a lot of noise. It was a sobering sight."

From his radar unit's position in the third defensive line, Roady lent supporting fire from a Thompson submachine gun. The assault surged past the first line, only to be annihilated by the second. This was Christmas Day, 1944.

Leyte would soon be secure, at the cost of 3,500 U.S. dead and another 12,000 wounded. Records show that of an estimated 65,000 Japanese troops on the island, only 389 were captured--all the rest were killed by G.I.s or by their own hand.

Roady's unit eventually moved north into Subic Bay, near Manila. There, aboard a radar-training flight, Roady got "banged up" when his plane crashed on take-off. By the time he got out of a New Guinea hospital, Truman was running the war and staging operations for the final assault on Japan proper were in the works.

At Palawan, near Borneo, Roady's unit began to prepare for the invasion of Kagoshima on Kyushu, Japan's southernmost isle. At a briefing, an admiral told the troops to count on 100,000 or so casualties during the operation. But he assured his audience that "for every one of us, we'll take five or six of them," Roady remembers.

"I said, 'Gee, thanks a lot.' There goes Roady--I'm not going to make this one."

He figures his ship was about a quarter loaded when two atomic bombs brought a sudden end to the war. "My prayers since then have always included 'thank God for Harry S. Truman.' I'm living today because he dropped the bomb."--F.S.

A Polish Exodus

Dr. Gene Nichols was born Eugeniusz Niczyporuk (nitchy-POH-ruck) in Rovno, a small town in western Poland, in 1923. Soon after the war he came with his family to America, where he entered the University of Chicago. In 1956, he joined the faculty of FSU's College of Education. Nichols is chief author of more than 300 math textbooks. He retired from the university last year.

Eugeniusz ("Gene") Niczyporuk learned to hate Russian communists as a teenager.

When Hitler's armies invaded Poland in 1939 and started driving east toward his hometown of Rovno--and the Russian heartland--Stalin sent his own troops into western Poland as part of a deal with Hitler to split the country in half. Gene was obliged to finish high school under Russian occupation.

Today, he still vividly recalls Russian atrocities that occurred in Rovno in the early days of the war.

"I had a very fine literature teacher who refused to teach any communist literature. The Russians shot him, along with several other high school teachers. All of the Catholic and Greek Orthodox priests were killed. It was a terrifying time."

Because of his father's work as an evangelical Christian minister, Gene's family was marked for careful watching by the Soviet regime. In fact, the notorious Russian secret police, the NKVD, had compiled a list of Rovno citizens to be killed should the Germans attack, and Gene's father learned that his name was on it.

On June 22, 1941, Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the surprise invasion of Russia on an 1,800-mile front. The NKVD soon came calling on the Niczyporuk family. But no one was home. At the first news of the German attack, without a word to neighbors about what he was up to, Gene's father had spirited his wife, daughter and two sons out of town to a small village, and, for the moment, out of harm's way.

Within a few days, a German spearhead had flushed the Russians back into the Ukraine. The Niczyporuks returned home, where they would enjoy an uneasy peace for nearly two years. But by fall 1943, Hitler's eastern front lay in tatters. The Russians were coming back, and with a vengeance.

"We were caught between two great evils--the communists on the one hand, the fascists on the other," says Nichols. "We were committed to taking our chances with the fascists--we really had no other choice."

They joined hundreds of others eager to board any train headed west. Since they weren't Jewish, the Niczyporuks weren't overly concerned about persecution at the hands of the Nazis, whose lust for such was grounded more by race and nationality than by religion. Still, there was plenty of reason to be worried--and every family member knew it.

The family soon found out that the agitated Germans in eastern Poland weren't all that picky about who they marked for maltreatment or death. The SS had quietly begun funneling desperate Polish refugees onto trains bound for concentration camps. At a rail switchyard west of Rovno, Gene's father sensed something was up, even though no German troops were yet in sight. He asked a Polish railway worker where the train he was on was headed. "Oswiecim (Auschwitz)," came the crisp reply.

"At that, a businessman traveling with us flashed some gold coins at the worker and asked 'is there any way for us to get out of here?'"

The worker assured the group that during the night he would detach their "ghetto wagon"--slang for a railcar designed for hauling cattle--and hook it to a train bound for Warsaw. To the family's amazement, he did just that.

"In the morning, here is this train going to Warsaw with a little cattle car tied to the end--a strange sight to be sure."

Despite odds against it, in the Polish capital the family found stability for a time. A minister friend of Gene's father found the family an apartment; Gene and his brother found work at a textile factory. But one August morning in 1944 the veneer of tranquility vanished in an instant.

"My father told us to grab what we could--we were leaving the city immediately. We caught the last streetcar and train out of Warsaw before the uprising began that afternoon."

Only the night before, Gene's father had learned from his friend that the next day the Polish underground was planning to attack--with promised support from nearby Russian troops--the German garrison in Warsaw. As the Niczy-poruks fled, the city erupted in what would be the last of two bloody revolts against the Nazis in Warsaw. Like the first (in June 1943), this one, too, was doomed. Russian support somehow never materialized, and the Red Army sat across the Vistula River and watched the Germans methodically annihilate the Polish forces, razing 85 percent of the city in the process.

Pandemonium greeted the family on the next road west, to the town of Lodz. There, German troops were frantically trying to sort people, still doggedly looking for escaping Jews and young Poles capable of work. Crowds of people, loaded with their belongings, jammed the roads and thoroughfares. Again sensing trouble, Gene's dad fashioned a plan should the family get separated. When they could, each would write to another minister friend of his, this one in west Germany--he had the address--in the hopes of regrouping sometime later.

Presently, what they feared most happened. German soldiers grabbed Gene and his brother Walter and snatched them away from their family. In a flash, Gene's parents and sister vanished amid a panic-stricken throng driven by machine gun-wielding soldiers.

For the next month, the brothers were obliged to be part of a Berlin-bound German wagon train--as drivers in a convoy of confiscated horse-drawn wagons, commodities deemed valuable by the Reich. Poorly fed, the brothers each lost 40 pounds before the trip finally ended in a refugee camp on the outskirts of the besieged capital.

Being fluent in German, Russian and Polish helped the Niczyporuk brothers into jobs as interpreters for the camp's commandant, whose task was to direct the building of temporary housing for Berliners bombed out of their flats by Allied warplanes. The work allowed a cadence, of a sort, to return to their lives for the next several months. Then early one morning in April 1945 the entire camp held an impromptu exodus when Gene spotted a group of Russian soldiers setting up an artillery piece just down the road. The camp and its startled commandant hastily joined thousands of others west-bound on a highway already choked with people, livestock, cars, trucks and wagons.

"It was bedlam. Nobody wanted to be caught by the Russians."

The terror from what lay behind was matched by the terror from above. As long as there was daylight, British and American fighter planes strafed the fleeing column unmercifully. The sight burned itself deeply into Nichols' memory. Bodies of horses, cows and pigs lay strewn amid human corpses spilled from rows of burning wagons and vehicles.

"A Luftwaffe officer just ahead of us was helping a woman get down off a wagon as a plane was coming. A bullet caught him right across the chest. Imagine--he had survived the whole war in the Luftwaffe, and died like that."

Desperately the march went on, through the mangled streets of downtown Berlin ("Fire was everywhere. At the bottom of huge craters in the streets, the subway rails looked like noodles..."), and ever westward toward whatever lay ahead. One morning about 90 miles outside the city, the marchers awoke to a strange sound--silence. No bombs, no planes, no war noise of any kind.

Back on the road, they were soon met by a lone U.S. Army sergeant brandishing a sidearm. He ordered them to throw any weapons into the ditch. The war was over.

A few weeks later in an American refugee camp, Gene and his brother were shocked to hear the Americans say that "every effort" was being made to return them to their homes "as quickly as possible."

"That's the last thing we wanted--to go back to the Russians."

By the time the sorting-out process came around to them, the brothers had hatched a plan. They used their best German to convince the interviewer that they were from Dingelfing, a small village in west Germany, in the Allied sector.

"By this time, we had written to my father's minister friend, and had received a reply. We knew our family was waiting for us in Dingelfing."

The brothers were turned over to an all-German camp on the Elbe River. A month later, they crossed on makeshift bridges, found some bicycles and pedaled 10 days to a joyous reunion with their family.


Nazi Hungary: A Story of Loss & Salvation

Surviving a stretch in a forced labor camp during the last year of the war, Friedmann returned home to find he had fared far better than most of his family. After the war he became active in the Zionist movement in Vienna before moving to Israel and leaving Europe for good. In 1962, he joined FSU's Department of Biological Science, where he remains, having established international credentials in the study of endolithic (literally "inside rock") algae, a topic of considerable implications relating to fundamental questions on the origin and distribution of life.

Marching, always marching. For days on end now, day and night, stopping little to rest, even less to eat, a nightmare with seemingly no end.

But today would be different for Imre Friedmann. In the dead of night, he had been approached by a Hungarian soldier and warned that in the town just ahead, German soldiers were lying in wait for Jews. If he was caught, he'd be whisked off to a death camp, if not shot on the spot.

Bewildered by the kind and completely inexplicable gesture, Friedmann thanked the young soldier, whom he'd never seen before, nor would again. By daylight, he and a friend had a plan.

The march had begun in October 1944 from a Hungarian-run labor camp in the Carpathian Mountains in eastern Hungary. For months, since he was rounded up by Hungarian military in his hometown of Budapest, Friedmann had been forced into dangerous work clearing mines, building railroads, rigging demolition, and whatever else highly expendable humans were deemed fit for.

The inmates were all Hungarian Jews, branded by obligatory yellow arm bands sewn to their shirtsleeves. Each had long since been stripped of even the slightest priviledge that native sons living in their own country might well take for granted. By day they toiled under the gaze of their Hungarian guards; by night they slept, stacked like sardines, in cattle cars--a rolling stock of misery and pain.

Suddenly one morning, the guards simply walked away. A shout went up that the Russians were coming. The inmates felt they had no option but to hit the road, too, so like their panicky guards, they soon joined hundreds of their countrymen streaming their way west.

With the road jammed with fleeing soldiers, inmates, horses, cannons and trucks, who would notice two men slipping off the road and into hiding in the ditch? As the town he'd been warned of neared, Imre and his comrade made their move.

A Hungarian army officer spotted them almost immediately. "Dogs of Stalin, you Jews!" he yelled at them, drawing his pistol. Friedmann stood frozen, afraid for his life.

The officer walked up to Friedmann and put his pistol to his nose. He told him he was going to shoot them both. "Actually, I was surprised when he didn't," said Friedmann.

Instead, the officer ordered the pair to march in front of him, at gun-point, all the way into the German-held town. Friedmann's heart sank.

Then, an incredible stroke of luck turned his life around. Just as they entered the town limits, they were met by a column of Jewish inmates just like themselves, being marched along by a Hungarian officer. "Jews!" the officer shouted, pointing at them. "Come here! You're under arrest!"

Friedmann recognized the Hungarian "officer" immediately. He was an inmate from his old camp, who somehow had gotten hold of an officer's uniform and was putting it to good use. As ordered, Friedmann and his comrade fell in line and off they went in a new direction, scarcely believing their luck.

Their "guard" promptly marched his charges into an empty cellar in an abandoned farm house, where for three days they hid in total darkness, with no food or water, as the Russian front swept over them. A German field cannon set up near the house soon opened up, its concussive racket making sleep impossible. Finally on the third day, someone above them opened the cellar door. A flashlight burned down into squinting eyes.

"They were Russian soldiers. They shouted things at us, maybe a liberation speech, I don't know. Then they made us line up along the wall. We didn't know what they were going to do next."

All the Russians did was take their wristwatches, then set them free.

For the next two months, Friedmann walked toward Budapest, finding food and shelter where he could. Once, he was arrested by a Russian army officer on suspicion of being a member of the SS. "I was walking alone, with no papers, no I.D. They searched me for the (familiar) SS tattoo, and finding none, let me go."

The road to Budapest, still in the grip of the Nazis, went through the university town of Dubrecen. For Friedmann, it was a good place to stop while the war wound down. Incredibly, even with war still raging only miles away, the university was opening back up for the start of a new term. With help from sympathetic townsfolk, Friedmann enrolled and spent a full semester there before resuming his homeward trek to a liberated Budapest in the spring. Like a triumphant member of a repatriated army, he rode the final distance atop a boxcar, like a scene straight out of the day's newsreels.

What little news of the war he'd come by in his 15 months away ill prepared him for what he soon encountered. The beautiful old city he'd known as a child and young adult lay in piles of rubble. Hitler had ordered his army to defend the capital at all costs, so the Red Army had been compelled to pound much of it into gravel.

When he finally found her, Friedmann's mother told of survival in a filthy ghetto, where she and the rest of the city's Jewry were jammed 20 to a room by Hungarian Nazis, who denied them adequate food, medicine and anything else that might help ease their plight.

Then the hammerblow: his mother informed him that his father, his only brother, both grandparents and most of his aunts, uncles and cousins were dead.

"We had a large family. Of the number, about 70 percent was lost. The Hungarians killed my father. My brother died at Buchenwald. Other relatives went to other death camps in Germany. My grandparents died in the ghetto, from disease, starvation and lack of medical attention."

Friedmann's murdered relatives figured into the 300,000 Hungarian Jews later estimated to have been killed by the Germans and their Hungarian lackeys during the waning months of the war. Most of the butchery was orchestrated by Adolf Eichmann, arguably Hitler's most adroit Jew killer, who in 1944 ruled in grand style from palatial headquarters in Budapest.

Since 1962 (coincidentally, the year Eichmann went to the gallows in Jerusalem), Friedmann has served on the faculty of FSU's Department of Biological Science. His research on algae, conducted at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, had caught the attention of Dr. Lutz Wiese, himself a well-known algologist (a biologist who studies algae) and for some years a scientist at Florida State. In 1960, Wiese invited Friedmann to give a seminar in Tallahassee. He soon talked him into staying.

Wiese had a war history, too. He had been a German soldier. He and Friedmann, roughly the same age, became close friends and colleagues before Wiese died of complications from polio in 1989.

Friedmann confesses holding no animus toward any person or country for the tragedy that befell his family half a century ago, though it figures he's surely earned the right.

"What I hate is the system itself--the horrible system that makes it all possible.

"I cannot hate a nation as a whole, because I realize that if I do, I will become like them--the butchers--judging a person because of his group.

"I just don't accept that. Never have and never will."--F.S.

Fore & Aft: The Bulge Remembered

Before dawn on Dec. 16, 1944, the German military launched a surprise counteroffensive in the Ardennes region of Belgium and Luxembourg. The ensuing Battle of the Bulge became the largest pitched battle ever fought by American arms. Dr. Martin Roeder (exteme left), on FSU's biological science faculty since 1964 (now retired) and FSU sociologist and demographer Dr. Charles Nam (retiring this year) were among 600,000 American troops sucked into the conflict. Both men agree that the experience was the pivotal event of their lives.

Hitler was trapped, and he knew it.

To the south and west, British and American ground forces were steadily grinding his troops into dust, their air forces turning his cities and factories into cinder piles. Pressure from the east, applied by the Russians, was literally pulling apart what remained of his military muscle.

Down to his last trump card, Hitler decided to play it in the dead of winter 1944, in the snow-covered Ardennes, a mostly forested, hilly region just beyond the German border between Luxembourg and Belgium. At least on the surface, the plan was simple: resurrect a blitzkrieg attack on thin American lines in the region, drive straight through and capture Antwerp, cut off and destroy Allied supplies and communications, and kill as many Americans and British troops as possible in the process. Such a bold strike surely would upset Washington and London, even to the point where a peace settlement could be negotiated, Hitler reasoned. Then, all he'd have to do was beat the Russians.

It was fine madness, his ablest military advisors hinted. Germany didn't come close to having the supplies necessary to pull off such a stunt, and besides, what resources were left were desperately needed to defend the Fatherland. But in the end, they were stoically resigned to doing their Fuhrer's bidding in what each of them privately knew were the Reich's last days.

The jump-off went well for the Germans. In the pre-dawn darkness of Dec. 16, three German armies comprising 200,000 troops assaulted 83,000 Americans loosely strung across a 60-mile front. By the time the American high command realized what was happening, the push had extended 15 miles into Allied lines, more than 15,000 G.I.s had been captured, and thousands more lay dead or wounded in the snow.

But when Gen. George Patton's Third Army rescued trapped airborne troops in the town of Bastogne the day after Christmas, the tide began to shift. An aroused American army, reinforced by heavy air support, swung into gear and by Jan. 3 was pounding the Germans backward. By Jan. 28, the "bulge" had disappeared, and Allied forces were relentlessly pursuing Hitler's retreating army back into the homeland.

Hitler had spent his last round, at a cost of 100,000 dead and wounded. American casualties were put at 81,000, including 19,000 dead--the heaviest battle toll in U.S. history.

Two FSU faculty members saw glimpses of what it was like at both the start of the battle and its aftermath, when American and British forces drove a dispirited and dying German army eastward.

Martin Roeder and Charles Nam, both teenage enlistees from New York, arrived in Europe several months apart. Trained as a machine gunner, Roeder wound up in the 87th Infantry in Patton's Third Army. He was thrust into combat around Metz, France in December 1944, on the eve of the German offensive in the Ardennes.

The war became real for him when he heard his first shell whistle overhead and explode behind him. "At that point, I knew it wasn't practice," he recalls.

He spent his first night in combat in a burning farm house on a captured hilltop, grabbing sleep even as it continued burning, and lying next to an abandoned Tiger tank that only a few hours earlier he had watched blow two Shermans to pieces. He watched as buddies around him died from terrible wounds, and he quietly wondered what in hell he'd gotten himself into.

Two weeks later, with his unit attacking toward the east, the order came down to turn due north, and on the double. The Germans had broken through in the Ardennes, and suddenly it was Patton in his favorite role--as dashing, damn-the-torpedoes savior. Patton's sudden, 90-degree turn put Roeder's outfit on the road to Bastogne, already nearly encircled by a German Panzer corps. On the forested outskirts of the town, Roeder's unit was ordered to dig in and prevent the Germans from enlarging their advantage.

"But the Germans quickly pinned us into a ditch with machine guns. We had no air cover, because of the fog, so we just couldn't move. Half of me was under water for three days."

In the bitter cold, Roeder soon lost feeling in both feet. Unable to walk due to advanced frostbite, Roeder was evacuated to a hospital in England. It was March by the time he rejoined his company near Pilzen, on the Czech border. The remnants of the Reich impressed him.

"I visited a small town--Zwickau--in the Russian sector (of Germany). The entire place was blasted flat--five square miles of complete devastation. Right in the middle of all that rubble, the Russians put up a great big billboard quoting Hitler--'Give me 10 years and you won't recognize Germany.' The Russians had a great sense of humor."

As Roeder was re-entering the war, Charles Nam was just arriving in time to give chase to the fleeing Germans. When the Bulge broke out, Nam had been yanked from the Army's Special Training Program at Harvard and thrown into infantry training. He soon would have many opportunities to be thankful that he had wound up in an artillery outfit, and a crack one at that.

Nothing but battle-hardened vets were left in the artillery unit he joined--upwards of 80 percent of the outfit had been wiped out in the first days of the Bulge. Nam's job was as a surveyor for positioning his unit's 105mm howitzers. The task required traveling on the heels of advancing troops, scoping out the best vantage points for setting up the guns.

Aboard a troop truck rumbling toward the front near the Rhine, Nam's first impression of war was similar to Roeder's--the thunder of big guns told him it was the real thing. Then his second shock: corpses.

"We were moving very fast at this point. So we encountered a lot of dead Germans lying along the road. I was barely 17, and I'd never seen anything like that. I realized it was time to start paying attention to what I was doing."

At Remagen, site of a strategically important railway bridge spanning the Rhine, Nam's outfit was called on to pour fire on Germans intent on blowing the bridge and thus slowing the Allied advance. To scout the German positions, Nam crossed the bridge, but too late. The very next day, German engineers blew it up. Heavily damaged, the bridge eventually collapsed, but not before U.S. troops--often under fire--had established reliable pontoon bridges to the eastern shore. The gateway to the German heartland was thus opened, and the sorry end of the Reich was finally at hand.

"Streams of Germans caught in the Ruhr Pocket gave up and started coming out to us. Some guys wanted to fire at them, but they were obviously surrendering. A lot of them were just kids." (One was 17-year-old Pvt. Hans Plendl, who only a few years later would become one of Nam's and Roeder's colleagues at FSU).

After VE Day, the scuttlebutt Nam heard had his unit moving out soon to the South Pacific. Roeder's company, meanwhile, already had begun staging in England for a Pacific invasion. But the atomic bombs of August changed all that. Their youthful passion for glory long gone, both men readily confess to their great relief when they heard the war was over. "Anybody tells me that Truman made a mistake, I say, thank God he made that mistake," Roeder said. "There are a lot of us still alive who wouldn't be if we had been forced to invade Japan."

Both men credit, too, another federal war decision that dramatically impacted their lives--the G.I. Bill of Rights. Nam used it to start night school at NYU; Roeder used his to get a masters degree at the University of New Mexico.

"I didn't come from a family with a lot of education," Nam said. "The war gave me a chance. I matured in Europe, and then with the bill I was able to start college."

In sum, the war profoundly changed both men's lives, and for the better. But Roeder offers this cautionary note:

"I would not recommend war as a rite of passage for any young person. Getting shot at is no fun at all.

"But for me, it was a great experience--having survived. It changed my perspective on life. I don't worry about the little things anymore."


Lost Youth Regained

Dr. Hans Plendl joined FSU's developing physics department in 1956 as an assistant professor. Born in Berlin, Plendl was 12 when the war started. Like countless other children of the Reich, as a teenager Plendl faced compulsory service in the Hitler Youth. At 17 he was pressed into military service in the last desperate months of Hitler's war.

Trapped along with thousands of his comrades-in-arms by a steel Allied noose drawn around the Ruhr industrial region in western Germany, 17-year-old Pvt. Hans Plendl anxiously watched the death throes of Hitler's Reich, and nervously awaited his fate.

Hastily thrown into service in March of 1945, Plendl witnessed complete air dominance by British and American warplanes, making his job as a radar man in an air defense unit something of a joke.

"You simply could not move during the day-time without a plane swooping down and trying to get you," he recalled. "Only at night could you do anything at all."

As panic began to sweep through the ranks, units of the once-mighty Wehrmacht began dissolving left and right. The much-feared SS kept busy by rounding up reluctant soldiers and ordering them back to their posts--shooting them on the spot if they refused. Several times Plendl thought of shedding his uniform and fleeing the chaos into the forest, maybe walking his way to Switzerland and freedom.

"It was a pipe dream. We knew we'd be captured. So, outside Duesseldorf, we just sat down and waited. We had already thrown our weapons away. Soon, the tanks rolled in and we put up our hands."

Once again, the young soldier had time to reflect on how he and his fellow countrymen had wound up in such an awful mess. Raised in a Catholic home in North Berlin, Plendl remembers the onset of war with its social antecedents that greatly concerned his family. A gradual loss of latitude in what one could say and do soon led to harsh treatment of family friends and Plendl's schoolmates.

"You did not dare speak your mind, of course," he remembers. "One day a kid in my class did, and the next day he was gone. We never did find out what happened to him."

After war broke out, things got much worse. The Plendls' priest, a family friend, would often visit their home and speak openly of his distrust of the Nazis. He eventually carried the theme to his Sunday pulpit. It was a fatal mistake. Without warning, he was whisked away one day by authorities. Some time later he was killed in a concentration camp.

General euphoria over his country's early blitzkrieg successes was short-lived, Plendl recalls. "We were told the war could be won in 18 days, and with a minimum of loss. But that idea didn't last very long."

Even before the U.S. jumped into the conflict, his family and closest school chums questioned the wisdom of fighting such a war. "We realized the world was against us. You could just look at a globe--it pretty much told the story. It showed the utter craziness of it all. We wondered if the Fuhrer realized what we did."

Surrendering to the U.S. Ninth Army on April 16, 1945, Plendl was one of more than 100,000 German soldiers captured in the so-called "Ruhr Pocket" alone. He was soon to discover that for him and countless others, the worst of the war lay ahead. For the next 13 months, Plendl survived a series of P.O.W. camps along the Rhine River and in France where starvation and disease killed, by some estimates, up to 30 percent of an estimated 630,000 German prisoners swept up by U.S. and British forces in the final days of the European war.

Only when he was declared "unfit for useful work" in May 1946 was he released. The ordeal had cost him his health--he weighed less than 90 pounds, having lost 50--and a bulging stomach signaled acute malnutrition. But he was alive.

"I was very fortunate, because the mortality rate in the camps was very high. We had maybe 60 men to a barracks, and nearly every morning someone would be carried out dead. Even young people 18, 19 years old. They died from diarrhea, dysentery, malnutrition--but not from wanton cruelty. I saw very little physical mistreatment from our captors."

Only years later did Plendl learn that he was nearly starved to death--at least in the early days of his capture--on direct orders from Gen. Eisenhower. Shocked by what he saw and heard of Ohrdruf, Mauthausen, Belsen, Auschwitz and dozens of other German death factories, Eisenhower slashed P.O.W. rations, hoping to give German prisoners a taste of the same medicine their Fuhrer had meted out to millions. Later, inside French compounds near Cherbourg and Chartres, prisoners' scant diets reflected the region's general malaise more than retribution, Plendl says.

Upon his release, Plendl found his way to his grandparents'

home in Bavaria, where he learned that his parents were

living in a small village in Austria, 90 miles away across a sealed border. After regaining his strength, he eventually sneaked across the border one night--dodging searchlights--and walked 20 miles to the village near Salzburg, where he rejoined his family. They were stunned to find him alive. "One of my sisters approached me as I was coming toward the house. She didn't recognize me."

Two years later, the Plendl family would scarcely recognize their world. By fall of 1948, they were resettled in America, led there by Hans' father, whose U.S. connections landed him a job in basic research at an Air Force research center near MIT in Cambridge, Mass. Only 24 months after leaving a P.O.W. stockade, Plendl found himself entering Harvard University.

"Looking back, that's amazing," he said. "I found that in this country you had opportunities that most people elsewhere never dream of--even if you were once an enemy."

By 1956, when he arrived at FSU as an assistant professor in physics, Plendl had found something else about his adopted country--a pervasive sense of forgiveness. Even survivors of death camps bore him little if any animosity despite his connection with Germany's malignant regime. In fact, it was a Jewish refugee, Dr. Guenter Schwarz--whose family fled Germany in 1938--who was responsible for Plendl's decision to come to Tallahassee. The first chairman of physics installed at the brand new Florida State University in 1947, Schwarz lured Plendl from his teaching post at Yale.

"Only years earlier he and I were on completely different sides (in the war). I wasn't hunting down Jews, but I was on the German side. To Guenter, it was a thing of the past. There was a feeling of forgiveness, not only from him but from others, whose families had suffered greatly. Never a word of reproach." --F.S.

Inside the Manhattan Project

The ink on Raymond Sheline's college diploma was barely dry when he was summoned by the U.S. Division of War Research for a special assignment in the service of his country. He soon became one of the youngest members of a secret team assembled to build the world's first atomic bomb. His subsequent exposure to such men as Robert Oppenheimer, the project's chief scientist, convinced him to pursue a career in science teaching and research. Today, Sheline is semi-retired from twin appointments in chemistry and physics at FSU, where he has taught since 1949. In 1967, the university named him a Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor.

Though he hardly knew it at the time, he was staring at the most important telegram he would ever receive.

In the fall of 1942, Ray Sheline was all set to start a promising career in industrial chemistry. His chief credentials--a shiny new summa cum laude bachelor's degree in chemistry from West Virginia's Bethany College--already had landed him a job with a nearby firm. What in the world could the War Department want with him?

More specifically, Harold Urey? Sheline instantly recognized the name--an American Nobel laureate in physics and chemistry, the discoverer of heavy water. He studied the telegram again.

Urey was inviting Sheline to join a top secret research project being organized under the direction of the War Department's Division of War Research. He was urging Sheline to report immediately to Columbia University.

It was just too intriguing an offer to pass up. Granted a release from his new employer, Sheline arrived at Columbia in January 1943. He soon signed on with a super hush-hush war project functionally under the control of the Manhattan District of the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

From the get-go, Sheline's curiosity was sky-high. Initially, he was told only that his group would be working on a project to separate a rare isotope of uranium, specifically U235, from the element's most common form, U238. The project seemed plausible enough. But why? What was the big deal with all the secrecy?

Sheline learned early that the overall project involved much more than the task assigned his small group. His was but one of several such groups, in fact--and none were allowed to talk to each other.

"We started hearing all sorts of rumors, but we really had no idea what we were working on. Finally, the head of our project relented, and told us--probably illegally--what was going on."

They were told that U235 had certain properties that made it a candidate for fission--the actual splitting apart of the atomic nucleus itself by mechanical means of some sort. If such were possible, the result would yield a new and extremely powerful weapon. Or so the theory went.

European physicists--principally Germans--had discovered fission in 1939. If such a weapon were possible, it was imperative that the Allies get their hands on it before Hitler did. Therefore, the War Department had a mandate signed by FDR giving this research project a high priority in the war effort. For a year now, some of the best scientific minds on the planet had been trained on nothing else.

Heady stuff for a young chemist, to be sure. Spurred by the mission's urgency, Sheline's group tore into their assignment. Within six months they had a working pilot plant to help solve a corrosion problem in the diffusion process. By the fall of 1944, a full-scale model was up and running behind federal gates at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Sheline left Columbia for a short stint at the Tennessee lab in May 1945, just as the war ended in Europe. From there, he traveled to Los Alamos, arriving only two days before the successful test of the world's first bomb on July 16 at Alamagordo. He recalls the reactions from local citizens who had witnessed the blast from a distance.

"People far away knew that something amazing had happened. They had seen the sudden, bright light. The base commanders tried to fool people by putting out a story that an ammunition dump had blown up."

At Los Alamos, Sheline had become part of a group working on a triggering method using shaped charges, one of two basic triggering schemes under study. It was the most exciting time of his life.

"Here I was, just a kid, surrounded by some of the world's greatest scientists," he said. "Teller, Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, Niels Bohr--they were all there at one time or another. Was I excited? You bet."

After the test, Sheline studied the reaction of these and other scientists involved in the project.

"Most everybody was elated that the thing actually worked. But there was also considerable concern about how the rest of the world would regard the U.S. for dropping the first atomic bombs."

Such concern ran deep among many project members, especially since Germany's defeat, Sheline said. For more than two years, they had been driven by the conviction that Hitler was closer to getting the bomb than the U.S. was. Now that he, and most of his henchmen were dead, how could the U.S. justify using the weapon against Japan, which posed no similar threat?

"There was an attempt to get a petition drawn up to give to Truman, in fact," says Sheline. "But he had already made his decision. On August 6th, the first bomb fell on Hiroshima."

The second, a plutonium bomb, fell on Nagasaki three days later. The combined blasts killed at estimated 200,000 men, women and children. On Aug. 14, Emperor Hirohito issued an order to the Japanese military to surrender arms. And just that quickly, the bloodiest war in history was over.

On the eve of worldwide commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan, Sheline confesses to be more in touch with his feelings on the matter than he has been in years.

"I know that the average scientist at Los Alamos had a sense of guilt over dropping the bomb," he says. "I certainly did, and still do."

Though he didn't play a central role in creating the bomb, Sheline did help develop the process for separating fissionable uranium, a "fairly important" contribution, in his view. It was more than enough involvement to provoke personal guilt feelings that the subsequent fallout of rationalizing by government and military analysts over the years has done little to assuage.

"You can argue that the number killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was much smaller than what would have resulted from a mainland invasion. I can rationalize like that, but it's never entirely worked for me."

But he has no regrets whatsoever about his country's decision to build the bomb.

"I have no doubt that making the bomb was certainly necessary. We had every reason to believe that Hitler was doing just that, and if he had gotten the bomb before we did, he probably wouldn't have lost the war." --F.S.

Air War: Luck & Endurance

On Dec. 6, 1944, 1st Lt. Charles W. McArthur swung down from the belly of a B-24 Liberator for the last time, surviving his 35th and final mission as a bombardier over enemy targets in France and Germany. After retiring from FSU's math department in 1986, he wrote a book detailing the contributions of a civilian-based, operational research program that turned the U.S. Eighth Air Force, in which he served, into a weapon of inestimable value in destroying the German war machine.

He's a bona fide lucky bastard, with the papers to prove it.

Fifty-one years ago this fall, Charles W. McArthur beat

the odds by surviving 35 combat missions with the 493rd Bomb Group of the U.S. Eighth Air Force. His service had carried him from the skies over Normandy to the verge of Hitler's do-or-die gamble in the Battle of the Bulge. Walking away from it all with barely a scratch, McArthur hardly needed his unit's official "Lucky Bastard" citation (a rare and coveted memento) to remind him just how fortunate he'd been.

The Allied air war over Europe would prove to be among the bloodiest ventures in the annals of American military history. Between October 1942 and April 1945, an estimated 40,000 U.S. combat flyers and crewmen died over German-held territory ranging from Rumania to Norway.

Ironically, soon after he signed up in the Army reserves as an eager, fledgling airman, McArthur mightily cursed his luck. Having just won his wings as a civilian pilot, he was hoping--expecting--to go right into pilot training, like his kid brother Sam. "When they sent me to bombardier school it broke my heart," he says. "I just couldn't believe it. Sam became a fighter pilot, which was all I dreamed about, and I became a crewman, of all things."

Apparently what sent McArthur into bombardier training was his transcript from Louisiana State University, where he was a junior when he finally got called up. His record showed high marks in math, his major subject. Basically applied trigonometry, strategic bombing was seen as a fitting task for anyone with math smarts.

At 22, aboard a B-17 "Flying Fortress" McArthur flew his first mission out of Sussex, England just a few days after D-Day. Though he didn't fully realize it at the time, the timing of his entry into the war was another lucky stroke. Germany's Luftwaffe was already on the run, having suffered horrendous losses in 1943. Though still murderously effective, anti-aircraft batteries around key military and industrial complexes, too, had been extensively reduced, albeit at great cost to British and American air forces.

McArthur quickly learned to appreciate Allied air superiority. By July 1944 he was in line to participate in what Gen. Omar Bradley would later call "the most decisive battle of our war in western Europe"--the Allied break-out near St. L, France.

For seven weeks since their spectacularly successful invasion in June, U.S. and British ground troops had largely remained bottled up in Normandy, unable to slug their way through stiffened German lines. On July 18, British forces launched a major offensive at Caen, only to be thrown back.

It was the Americans' turn. As planned, Operation Cobra called for an assault on German positions massed near St. L to open with a gigantic carpet-bombing attack. McArthur's was one of 1,507 B-17s and B-24s that attacked the entrenched Germans on the morning

of July 25. Nearly five decades later, in his book on the operations side of the Eighth Air Force, McArthur included the following eyewitness account:

"As bombardier...I hit the switch which released over two tons of the more than 4,000 tons of bombs aimed at German lines that day. We had been extensively briefed to exercise the utmost care (in dropping our bombs). We knew that dropping them too soon would mean dropping them on our own troops....

My group was not among the first waves of bombers....By the time our turn arrived, a great cloud of smoke, fire and dust had arisen which obscured details of the target area. Perhaps German antiaircraft guns had been silenced by the time we arrived, for we experienced no flak....

As we flew away...we could see the waves of bombers behind us....It was a sight one does not forget."

The bombing that day killed more than 1,000 crack German troops, flattened the enemy's Panzer command posts, and blew a gaping hole in the enemy line through which American armored divisions poured "at breathtaking speed," in Bradley's words.

The bombs also fell on American troops, killing 102 and wounding nearly 400. Among the dead was Lt. Gen. Lesley J. McNair, a popular leader credited with training the bulk of America's ground forces in Europe. The news enraged Eisenhower, who swore he'd never again use heavy bombers in support of ground forces.

It was just one of a number of "friendly fire" tragedies during the war. McArthur never doubted his plane hit its assigned target at St. L. But it's not a subject he dwells on today, nor one he could afford to worry about in the summer of 1944. Like thousands of other men of war, he had a job to do, and he was damned well doing it the best he knew how. "I just remember the mission as being successful," he says. "And indeed it was."

Freed from the bottleneck, Allied forces quickly fanned out into what amounted to Hitler's front door, taking Paris in only a month. Priority No. 1 for Allied bombers became Germany's fuel-making capacity, distributed among several key industrial centers in the Reich. Two major oil refineries--at Ludwigshafen and at Merseburg--stood out as prime targets, and McArthur quickly learned to dread both.

Both plants were considered vital to the Reich's survival, so Hitler had ordered them to be virtually ringed by antiaircraft batteries. Stationed in the glass-walled nose of his B-24, McArthur early on had learned that German flak posed a far greater menace than German fighters. Over Caen, a piece of shrapnel from a flak burst smashed through his plexiglas canopy where it "ricocheted around," narrowly missing him. Several times his plane returned to base pierced by flak hits.

"Over Merseburg, the flak was just ungodly--it was one of our most hated targets."

On November 2, 1944, McArthur flew his first of four missions--including his last--aimed at knocking Merseburg's fuel-making capacity out for good. Since May, the plant had withstood a terrible shellacking from the air--but a total of 14 raids had been unsuccessful in putting it out of action completely.

Although put down in the Air Force record books as "a minor raid," the Nov. 2 air battle over Merseburg (a plant that was still operating when the war ended) proved to be a short but vicious encounter. German fighters showed up in greater strength that day than had been seen since June, McArthur was to find out later. This, combined with an accurate flak barrage, took a heavy toll on the attackers. In his book, McArthur recounts another sight that has stuck with him for half a century:

"I remember looking around the horizon through the bright haze and seeing planes, near and far, bombers and fighters, friend and foe, falling."

In all that day, 40 heavy bombers--including two from McArthur's group--and 28 fighter aircraft, along with most of their 390 crew members, were lost. McArthur's crew, as usual, came back untouched.

Sadly, his happy-go-lucky world wouldn't extend to his brother. Shortly after his 35th and final mission on Dec. 6, McArthur learned that Sam's fighter had been shot down over Italy. His body was eventually recovered and buried in Florence. --F.S.

A Flight from Italy's Insanity

Italian-born Dr. Pasquale Graziadei (GROTZ-uh-day) spent the worst of the war dodging the SS in the mountains of Northern Italy, after fate dealt him a fortunate hand early in the conflict. In 1962 he left a medical practice for a research position in England. Since 1963, he's led a distinguished career at Florida State as a pioneer investigator of the neurological pathways governing the sense of smell.

Pasquale Graziadei thought he heard someone shout his name.

He sat, with dozens of conscripts just like him, in a crude crude barracks with little heat, contemplating the events scheduled for the next morning. It was March 1942. After three months of basic training, Graziadei's entire regiment was shipping out the next day to join the German army in its glorious campaign in Russia.

"Graziadei! Graziadei! Where are you?"

The sergeant doing the shouting was making his way toward Pasquale, who jumped to his feet and saluted.

"You're not going tomorrow," he announced. "You're staying here."

Why? the private wanted to know. Wasn't he good enough? Was he in trouble?

Somebody in regimental headquarters had discovered that Graziadei had been in medical school before being drafted. Thanks to several tragic misadventures in recent months, the king's regular army and Mussolini's Black Shirt Militzia needed all the medical personnel they could lay hands on.

Graziadei protested. He was no doctor. No, came the reply, but he was training to be one, and that was close enough. The private said arrivederci to his comrades, picked up his belongings, and followed the sergeant out the door.

"The next day, they all boarded trains for the eastern front," Graziadei recalls. "Maybe 1,200 men in all. Boys, really. None of them came back. They're still frozen in Russia."

To Graziadei, the war's insanity had been apparent for some time. Eighteen and a senior in high school when the war started, he figured he'd be forced into a uniform sooner or later. Mussolini was an idiot, he figured--but a dangerous one. He opted to stay in school as long as he could, so he applied for entry into a local medical school, at the university in his hometown of Pavia. The decision saved his life.

He managed to complete nearly a year before getting called up. At least he was going into the regular army. If he was to fight, Graziadei convinced himself it would be for king and country, not for the cocky fool of Forli--Il Duce--whom he despised. With this attitude, he endured three months of "pitiful" basic training by pro-Mussolini officers too scared or confused to be otherwise. What he saw disgusted him.

"I was issued an 1891 bolt-action rifle and taught to shoot at B-17s while lying on my back. We were given boots made of cardboard--war profiteers had made off with all the leather. Such was our training for the Russian front."

Spared his regiment's terrible fate, he became an orderly in Pavia's military hospital. For a year he cleaned bed pans, wrapped bandages, swept up, and--with the front only seven miles away--witnessed at close hand the carnage of war. "I saw every kind of wound imaginable. The surgeons often were forced to operate with no anesthetics."

By July 1943, Italy was collapsing from within and without. Graziadei again faced the prospects of military service--and his options were few. The king's army being virtually dissolved, service meant signing on with Mussolini's fascists. One sunny morning he made up his mind. On a discarded military bicycle, he took to the back roads of Pavia, headed for the Apennines of northern Italy. The region was rapidly forming into a partisan stronghold that would plague the Nazis for the remainder of the war.

In the mountains, Graziadei tried to join a partisan band--there were several. But none he found suited him. "Sorry to say, many of the partisans were nothing but communists and bandits. They were looking for whatever they could get out of the situation for themselves."

He proceeded to live "like an animal," he says, roaming the countryside mostly alone but at times with friends, dependent on the charity of farmers for food and occasional shelter. Not a day passed, he recalls, when he was free from fear of capture by the SS, whose systematic sweeps through the region--often with dogs--kept him constantly on the move.

Twice he came close to being caught. Once he was caught in the open when an SS patrol suddenly appeared. With his bare hands, he dug a shallow hole under a nearby bush and squeezed into it. The Nazis passed within a few yards and never glanced his way.

His biggest scare came at Christmas, 1944. A group of SS officers suddenly drove up to the farmhouse where he was hiding in a barn loft. The officers had brought food for a Yuletide dinner, which the farmer's wife was obliged to cook for them. The "guests" stayed seven days. Members of the family smuggled bits of food out to the barn, which Graziadei knew the Germans would inspect sooner or later. They never did.

"That was the longest week of my life. I'm a nervous person to this day because of that experience."

Graziadei credits the kindness shown by such farm families as saving his life. "These people who helped us ran a grave risk. If we had been caught there, the Germans would have killed us and all of them, too. They knew that, but helped us anyway."

Would that his old friends and neighbors back home in Pavia had been half as noble, he says. The war over, in May 1945 he rode the same bicycle back home, only to be sickened by what he found. People he knew and once respected had become fascist collaborators, conveniently saving their necks--and making some nice dough in the process. One old chum had made enough money off the war to buy a yacht, in fact.

"He was doing this while I was risking my life in the mountains. From that day on I had no use for him, and others like him. I lost a lot of friends that way."

When self-proclaimed "partisans" he'd met in the mountains returned to heroes' welcomes, his cynicism was complete. By this time, Graziadei had learned about the German death camps. "I knew these people. They were nothing but fascists. They didn't kill people, but they turned them in to the bastards who did, and for money."

Graziadei, too, was hailed as a partisan and offered an official certificate of service for his pains. He refused it. "I simply could not be associated with these people in any way. They revolted me."

He was able to put his anger behind him long enough to finish medical school and eventually engage a lifelong passion for biological research. But the bonds between native son and country were snapped, never to heal. A naturalized American now for more than 30 years, Graziadei has prospered professionally, and today is recognized as one of the world's foremost authorities in the fields of olfaction (the sense of smell) and nerve regeneration.

"Had there been no war, eventually I would have come to this country anyway. But for so long, it seemed like an impossible dream.

"Believe me--I know how lucky I am to be here."