After WW II, Hartley H. Baird Jr. of Pittsburgh was discharged from the Army (Army Air Corps) as a Private First Class. He served with the 9th Air Forces’ 30th Air Depot, but he wasn’t an airman. His job throughout the war was to keep the ground machinery in good working order—anything with wheels that moved planes, parts, personnel, or payloads.
Hartley’s contribution to the war effort was exemplary, but it wasn’t glorious. Not all soldiers were Hollywood heroes, braving enemy fire, undergoing dangerous missions, rescuing the innocent and helpless. Most soldiers—simply by doing their jobs with diligence and commitment—contributed to the heroic effort to win the war, even if that meant changing a flat tire, overhauling a jeep engine, gassing up the next truck convoy, or typing out a parts request. It all added up to victory.
We frequently get the opportunity to record our veterans’ interviews at the venerable Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum. Situated in the busy Oakland section of Pittsburgh, the great Hall is a central landmark that sits high above 5th Avenue, like a citadel.
Yet, despite its urban location for a hundred years, many residents still don’t know much about the museum. As if hidden in plain sight, Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum is the nation’s only military museum dedicated to honoring the men and women of all branches of service.
That mission complements our own commitment to preserve the stories of local veterans from all branches of service and eras—including the often forgotten Cold War. Of course, because time is running out we prioritize working with the WW II generation, as was the case during this recording session; seven of the eight veterans we interviewed served during WW II.
Over two days (November 21st and 22nd) we welcomed our participating veterans to the museum’s grand Gettysburg Room, where we set up our mobile recording studio. It’s a popular recording space, often seen in local documentaries; the History Channel likes to record here as well.
Again this year the recording project was joined by the 354th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, a communications unit in the Army Reserve located in Coraopolis, Pa. The mission of the 354th is to publicize the Army and its history.
“In addition to our own interviews,” said director Todd DePastino of the Veterans Breakfast Club, “each year we arrange for the 354th MPAD to interview Army veterans. It’s a wonderful experience for our WW II vets to talk with today’s uniformed soldiers, and I think the Reservists feel the same way.”
We were also joined by Nick Wells of Mt. Lebanon, an active member of our volunteer creative team. Nick was instrumental in helping us greet veterans and prepare them for their interviews.
KEYWORDS: 30TH AIR DEPOT; 9TH AIR FORCE; 9TH AIRFORCE MOTOR POOL; ANNISTON, AL; BAVAY, FRANCE; BONUS MARCH OF 1932; CAMP KILMER, NJ; FORT MEADE, MD; FT. MCCLELLAN; GOUROCK, SCOTLAND; HUNTLEY, SGT; INFANTRY REPLACEMENT TRAINING CENTER; LA HAVRE, FRANCE; MESTA MACHINE COMPANY; WEST HOMESTEAD, PA; NEW YORK, NY; OXFORD, ENGLAND; PRIVATE 1ST CLASS; RED BALL HIGHWAY; RED DIAMOND DIVISION (1918); RMS QUEEN MARY; TAYLOR ALDERDICE HIGH SCHOOL (1942); TIDEWORTH PERMANENT INFANTRY BASE