The Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative, in partnership with The Veterans Breakfast Club, is a nonprofit educational media organization dedicated to capturing, preserving, and sharing the stories of Pittsburgh area veterans through an array of audio, video, photographic, artistic, and literary techniques and across various media platforms.
The project’s goal is to engage the public with these important life stories and to make them memorable and meaningful living history “experiences” for current and future generations.
Since 2012, we’ve located and documented over 300 local veterans, conducted more than 195 audio/visual interviews, collected over 4,000 photographs, and we’ve preserved over 200 hours of footage in our archive. Our website presents over 25 hours of audio and video stories.
Take a listen . . .
VETERAN: Joseph Capone
In 1945, Joseph Capone’s infantry outfit was the first to discover Dora-Mittelbau, one of thirty slave labor subcamps near the town of Nordhausen. Its inmates worked to build secret underground factories for the production of V-2 missiles. By 1944, nearly 12,000 slave laborers were confined underground in dangerous, unsanitary conditions. As they died or became too ill to work, the inmates were removed to Dora-Mittlebau and surrounding subcamps. It is believed that Dora-Mittlebau had one of the highest death rates of any concentration camp. Joseph Capone survived the war. He is now a retired school teacher and lives in Turtle Creek, PA. This story was recorded in May 2012 at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
VETERAN: Fran Rifugiato
Francis Rifugiato entered the US Army in February 1943 and became an infantry rifleman until October 1945. In this audio story, Fran talks about his fortunate luck to have made it home from the war–unhurt–unharmed–unlike his good buddy Charlie, who had a feeling that he wouldn’t make it. Fran Rifugiato survived the war. He now lives in Monroeville, PA. This story was recorded in May 2012 at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
VETERAN: Robert Rose
Robert Rose entered the US Army during WW II and thought he was going to the tropical pacific. Instead, he found himself fighting in the Battle of the Bulge during the winter of 1944. In this audio story, Robert talks about fighting two wars in Europe—one against the Germans and the other against the deadly cold. Robert Rose survived the war. He lives in Rochester, PA. This story was recorded in December 2012 in West Mayfield, Pennsylvania.
VETERAN: Julia Parsons
Julia Parsons served as a WAVE Naval intelligence officer during WW II. Her job decoding German “Wolfpack” submarine communications using the notorious Enigma Code was so secretive that she never told her husband until 1997. In this audio story, Julia talks about her top secret duties in Washington, DC and what it meant to the war effort. Julia Parsons survived the war. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA. This story was recorded in October 2012 at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
VETERAN: Lester Snyder
Lester Snyder served as a field artillery support officer during WWII and Korea. He arrived in Europe as the war was winding down, helping the war effort transition into peacetime. However, it was only a few years later that his reserve unit was called into active duty on the Korean Peninsula. In this audio story, Lester talks about the first time he heard about Pearl Harbor and what it was like to be whisked into active duty from the ROTC program at the University of Pittsburgh. Lester Snyder survived the war. He lives in Vandergrift, PA. This story was recorded August 16, 2012 at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Brentwood, Pennsylvania.
VETERAN: Barbara Duffy
Barbara Duffy always wanted to be a nurse and to take care of sick people. In fact, she turned down a scholarship from Harvard University so that she could attend nursing school. During WW II, Lt. Duffy served as an Army field nurse in the South Pacific. In this audio story, Barbara, who is 91 years old, emotionally talks about the care she once gave to a scared young soldier–holding his hand and promising not to leave his side while doctors removed his bullet-torn leg; it was uncommon compassion granted to a Japanese POW. Barbara Duffy survived the war. She lives in McCandless Township. This story was recorded September 1, 2012 at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
VETERAN: Ralph Carrington
Unlike his three friends, Ralph Carrington was rejected by the Army Air Corps because he was colorblind. But as the war went on, he was eventually drafted into the Army. Eager to join the fighting overseas, Ralph volunteered for service with the 549th Night Fighter Squadron, bound for duty in the Pacific. In this audio story, Ralph, who is 89 years old, talks about trying to enlist in the Army and his stay on Iwo Jima, including surviving the last Japanese banzai attack on US troops. Ralph Carrington survived the war. He lives in Scott Township, Pennsylvania. This story was recorded February 9, 2013 at Providence Point Retirement Community, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
VETERAN: Alex Sopka
Alex Sopka grew up on Pittsburgh’s Northside, the son of Russian immigrants. His father fought in WW I and was granted American citizenship. During WW II, Alex Sopka was drafted into the Army, where he volunteered as a paratrooper. He fought and was wounded in northern Europe. Alex Sopka survived the war. He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This story was recorded by the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative, October 20, 2012 at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum, Pittsburgh, PA.
VETERAN: Howard Pfeifer
When Howard Pfeifer joined the US Merchant Marine Service he had three choices: to work above deck managing the ship, to work below deck running the ship, or to serve food. He wanted to be on deck where the action was. As an Able Bodied (AB) Quartermaster, he stood on the ship’s bridge and steered the ship around the world in vulnerable convoys. He brought vital supplies, ammunition, and troops to the war fronts–including a trip to Iraq that resupplied the Soviet Red Army. Howard Pfeifer survived the war. He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This story was recorded February 3, 2012 at Father Ryan Arts Center in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania.
VETERAN: Robert Gale
Robert Gale served as an Army counter intelligence agent during WW II. We could tell you more, but that might not be a good idea. One story we can share involves a secret mission to test airbase security. Ironically, had Mr. Gale been shot by Army sentries, the mission still would have been a success. Robert Gale survived the war. He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This story was recorded 20 October 2012 at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
VETERAN: Alfred Krasnow
Alfred Krasnow admits that he didn’t join the Navy during WW II to fight fascism because he is a Jew. ”I wanted to fight because I was an American,” he says without hesitation. “And I wanted to join the Navy to see the world.” On both accounts he got what he wanted–some of the most dangerous, close-quarters combat experiences in the Navy running blockade patrols against German ships. In this audio story, Alfred talks about a PT boat mission gone badly in the Mediterranean, and his reaction to seeing the first comrades to fall. Alfred Krasnow survived the war. He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This story was recorded October 20, 2012 at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.