Audio Short Stories

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Visit the Argot Podcast, where you can listen, download,
and subscribe to more audio short stories from the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Collection

These audio short stories are inspired by actual events. This growing collection represents some of the most heartfelt moments from our oral history interviews with veterans throughout Western Pennsylvania.

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Bernie Pular

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Anthony Sercel

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Ralph Carrington

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Joseph Capone

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Francis Rifugiato

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Guy Prestia

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Barbara Duffy

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Julia Parsons

Joel Laudenslager: Re-Adjustment

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Cody Haas)

Joel Laudenslager of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania served with the Marine Reserves in Iraq and Afghanistan. Returning home after the war and making the re-adjustment back to civilian life has been a struggle.  Despite the obstacles, “I’ve decided to change things in my life,” Joel says with determination.  “Now I’m making a positive difference in my life–and the lives of others.  I finished school, started a financial advising practice, and I volunteer with many local veterans organizations such as The Mission ContinuesCheckpoint, and the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania.”

The original interview was recorded July 6, 2015 by Kevin Farkas.  Interviewer: Todd DePastino.  This audio short was engineered and produced by Kevin Farkas/Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative.

Jay Sukits: Good Soldiers

1280px-ARVN_Rangers_defend_Saigon,_Tet_Offensive (1)As a young Army officer, Jay Sukits of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania served two tours of duty in Vietnam training and fighting with South Vietnamese soldiers. Contrary to what many believe, South Vietnamese troops were good soldiers, he says. The United States taught them to fight like we do, and that was a big mistake when we eventually abandoned them.

The original interview was recorded May 28, 2015 by Todd DePastino of the Veterans Breakfast Club.  This audio short was engineered and produced by Kevin Farkas/Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative.

 

 

Ernie Ziga: I Outlived Them All

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In the end, long life is the reward, writes Grace Paley, but it has its price. During our oral history interview, WWII veteran Ernest Ziga of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania browses through memorabilia collected from the war years and he reminisces about old friends. At 92, he’s outlived most everybody he’s ever known.

The original interview was recorded May 4, 2015 by the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative.  This audio short was engineered and produced by Kevin Farkas.

 

 

 

Vietnam Veterans of America: Silent Night – A Christmas Vigil

IMG_2856-sm“Christmas is the day that holds all time together,” wrote the Scottish poet Alexander Smith. And so every December, local Vietnam veterans—and veterans of other eras, along with community members, family and friends of veterans—are drawn to a small memorial park to keep time from unraveling the memories of those who have served and sacrificed in uniform.

Each year at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Beaver, Pennsylvania, members of Chapter 862 of Vietnam Veterans of America hold a Christmas Tree Vigil. From Christmas Eve through Christmas Day, veterans gather at the memorial to erect a Christmas tree in Quay Park “to honor those who sacrificed their lives for our country and cannot celebrate Christmas with their families or loved ones.”

Profound feelings of camaraderie run deep among the men and women who volunteer to stand watch at the memorial. Never again, they say, will one generation of veterans abandon another. Not today, not on Christmas—that sacred day devoted to heartfelt giving, good will towards others, hope, and remembrance.

“Silent Night” features (in order of appearance) the voices of Al Whitehill, Drew Grivna, Jerry Fisher, Dale Gower, Frank Petz, and Ida May Gower. Soundtrack includes Rusty Wellington (No Christmas Tree in Vietnam, 1967), Soul Searchers (Christmas in Vietnam, 1967), Bob Hope’s final USO show in Vietnam – 1973 Christmas Tour, the music of Ernest Peters (Kiwibird Sunset), and sound from “US Marines vs Vietcong in Vietnam” (1966 USMC documentary, National Archives). Recorded December 25, 2014.

This audio short was engineered and produced by Kevin Farkas.

Jonathan Robison: I Was As I Am Still

Vietnam Vets Against the WarDuring the Vietnam War in the mid 1960s, Jonathan B. Robison was a self-described conscientious objector and peace activist. But he joined the Army National Guard anyway, serving in the Reserves for over six years but never on active duty. Despite serving honorably and at the ready should the nation need his service, the government does not recognize his veteran status. Denial of veteran recognition and benefits for many dutifully serving National Guardsmen is a little known fact of government bureaucracy.

The original interview was recorded May 2014 by Anna Samuels for The Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative. This audio short was engineered and produced by Kevin Farkas.

 

Lew Weingard: Special Weapons

F-84G Thunderjet 1950sAt the tail end of the Korean War, Lew Weingard left Erie, Pennsylvania and wanted to fly planes in the Air Force.  But it was not meant to be.   So, after getting his commission from the enlisted ranks he was sent to post-war Japan and served with the 9th Fighter Bomber Squadron minding its top-secret atomic bomb arsenal.  “No one knew we had these ‘special weapons,’ as we called them,” Lou confides, “not even the Japanese government.  My wife didn’t even know what I did.”  The Cold War was heating up.

Lou’s mission in Japan may have been covert, but he and his family openly enjoyed living there for three years, travelling, making new friends, and experiencing the culture.  “The Japanese people were very kind to us,” he admits.

The original interview was recorded March 2014 by The Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative. This audio short was engineered and produced by Kevin Farkas.

Victor Miesel: In All Those Years

EC61Victor Miesel spent the war years in the South Pacific serving with the Army Air Corps. His support role kept planes flying and helped move forward the massive Allied build up towards Japan. Although he served in the rear of the front lines, his squadron repeatedly came under attack and suffered tremendous casualties. Yet, despite the dangers, Victor and his outfit carried out their duties with speed and efficiency–they had to. “We assembled thirty trucks one day,” he says proudly. “The boys up front needed them and we delivered.”

Like so many other GIs after the war, Victor put his experiences behind him and started a new life with his family. Only decades later–at age 80–did he realize that no one had ever asked him about his service. Then, after so many years he began to share his story. Now, at 94, Victor Miesel is still telling his story so that future generations will understand the sacrifices veterans made during WW II.

The original interview was recorded March 2014 by The Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative. This audio short was engineered and produced by Kevin Farkas.

Lewis Cooke: I’m Much Different Today

IMG_7330-bwLewis Cooke of Tionesta, Pennsylvania grew up in Rhode Island.  As a young man he was a merchant mariner, but in the mid 60s he was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War.

“That year in Vietnam was the worst of my life,” he says with humor rimmed sincerity.  “I can’t believe I made it out alive.  Just stupid luck maybe.”

Lewis’ infantry job was to “seek and destroy” the enemy.  That meant countless helicopter trips deep into the jungle, where his squad would roam the countryside for days and weeks with one goal—to kill the enemy.  “We weren’t on good will missions, and I’m not proud of that,” Lewis says.  “I had a job to do, but I never wanted to hurt anyone.”

The original interview was recorded March 2014 by The Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative. This audio short was engineered and produced by Kevin Farkas.

Robert Rose: We Were Human Beings

Robert Rose (36)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.

The original interview was recorded December 2012 by The Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative. This audio short was engineered and produced by Kevin Farkas.

 

 

Alfred Krasnow: Fighting Boat

Alfred Krasnow_Oct 20 2012 (12)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 . . . and I wanted to be on a fighting boat.”  On all accounts he got what he wanted–some of the most dangerous, close-quarters combat experiences in the Navy’s PT fleet 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 his fallen comrades.

The original interview was recorded October 2012 by The Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative. This audio short was engineered and produced by Kevin Farkas.

 

 

 

 

Alex Sopka: My Dad

Alex Sopka (30)Alex Sopka grew up on the rough streets of Pittsburgh’s Northside, the son of Russian immigrants.  His father’s path towards American citizenship was to fight in WW I, where gas destroyed his lungs.

Like many young men, the news of Pearl Harbor inspired Al to action but the government drafted him first–for good measure.  After an unhappy stint with an Army artillery unit, Al anxiously volunteered for infamous Airborne duty as fighting against the Germans heated up in late 1944-1945.

The idea of jumping out of planes to fight the enemy seems glamorous, but only in Hollywood movies.  Once on the ground, if a paratrooper survives the fall, he then becomes a regular infantryman dangerously engaging the enemy nearby.  “Don’t shoot ‘em until you’re up close,” they were instructed.

Of course, the scared, young lads of Al Sopka’s unit carried out their orders as best they could.  It was tough going; kill or be killed.  Well into his 90s, Al Sopka still dreams about the horror.

The original interview was recorded October 2012 by The Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative. This audio short was engineered and produced by Kevin Farkas.

Veterans Day Voices

IMG_2351-2_smThe “veteran experience” is a profound institution of American life.  On November 11th each year, Veterans Day recognizes the men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces during times of war and peace. Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day. While we celebrate Veterans Day, we respectfully observe Memorial Day by remembering the men and women who died while serving.

This audio short features historical sounds and the voice of local WW II veteran, Al Sopka.  It was engineered and produced by Kevin Farkas.

 

 

Lester Snyder: Seventeen Weeks

42-Les Snyder 8-16-2012 12-15-21 PM 3906x2602After his University of Pittsburgh ROTC unit was activated in 1943, Lester Snyder of Dormont, PA, found himself at Ft. Bragg, NC, undergoing artillery training.  But instead of being shipped overseas, Lester enrolled in the controversial Army Specialized Training Program, where he attended college classes six days a week.  After the Army cancelled that program because of a manpower crisis in Europe, Les was assigned to a number of odd jobs, including removing the covers from Army brochures before they were discarded.  “If the Army thought it was necessary,” he contemplates, “I guess somebody had to do it.”

The original interview was recorded August 2012 by The Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative. This audio short was engineered and produced by Kevin Farkas.

 

 

 

Veteran Voices from the Memorials€”

WWII Mem (179)Pittsburgh area veterans visit the National WWII & Korean War Memorials in Washington DC on October 4, 2011. Featuring the voices of Jack Rosenberger (Army/Korea), John Baumgartner (Army/WWII), Bob Moore (Navy/WWII), Pete Schramm (Army/WWII), and Ted Flora (Army/WWII).

This audio short was engineered and produced by Kevin Farkas.

 

 

 

Howard Pfeifer: Where the Action Was€”

Howard Pfeifer shipHoward Pfeifer wanted to be on deck, where the action was. At age 19 during WW II, Howard left Pittsburgh PA to serve as a Quartermaster with the United States Merchant Marine Service. Sailing 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.

Often overlooked by veteran memorials, the United Merchant Marine Service has been involved in every major war since the Revolution. During WW II, the Merchant Marines suffered the highest rate of casualties of any service; 1 out of every 24 mariners never made it home.

The original interview was recorded February 2012 by The Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative. This audio short was engineered and produced by Kevin Farkas.

Chuck Kelley: When Your Time Comes€”

Charles Kelley | Army Air CorpsAfter high school, Chuck spent two years at Duquesne University but enlisted in the Army in the fall of 1942.  He was not called up for service until February 1943. It would be five years until Chuck would return to his accounting studies at Duquesne, supported, like thousands of his fellow veterans, by the GI Bill.

During the war Chuck Kelley was a bombardier, first aboard the A-20 attack bomber and then the newer A-26—the Army Air Corps’ supreme twin-engine tactical bomber.  By the summer of 1944, Chuck was flying regular missions against Nazi targets—sometimes twice a day.  He first flew from airbases near Corbeil-Essonnes in the north, and then Cucuron in the south of France.  Unlike the rotation for long-range strategic bombers, the mission quota for the more agile attack bombers was an astounding 62 missions.

“Sometimes your could tell when I guy…just cracked,” Chuck says softly.  He would get quiet.  If the Flight Surgeon took note, the affected man would quickly disappear from the unit.  The other men understood.  They were respectful.  No one knew how they would react on their next mission.  “When your time comes,” Chuck recalls a common sentiment among the flyers, “you’re gonna get it.”

The original interview was recorded June 2011 by The Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative. This audio short was engineered and produced by Kevin Farkas.

Paul Hanna: There Was Just Nothing There€”

nagasaki_bombPaul Hanna is among the very few Americans to have personally witnessed the atomic aftermath at both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.  Like many WW II veterans, Paul has little doubt that the bombing was justified.  For him, it was necessary . . . or else.  Had the invasion of Japan proceeded as planned, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people on both sides would have died.  In the late fall of 1945, Corporal Hanna was in the breach of this impending attack on Japan, prepared to follow orders.

The original interview was recorded June 2011 by The Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative. This audio short was engineered and produced by Kevin Farkas.

 

Robert Gale: Infiltration€”

Bob Gale_Oct 20 2012 (10)After graduating from Dartmouth College in May 1942, Bob Gale applied to become a Navy  cryptographer.  He failed the physical because of his glasses and a shoulder injury.  He volunteered for the Army Air Corps and eventually was assigned to the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC).  He served as an agent in civilian clothes in the US,  and then in 1943 he shipped to England where he roomed in a boarding house owned by a disagreeable woman who often protested that Bob should be off fighting the war, like the other boys.

The landlady did not know that Bob’s job was to look for instances of spying, sabotage, and disloyalty among Allied forces and to investigate all prospective marriages between GIs and British women.  He also interviewed wounded soldiers returned from the Normandy invasion.  After serving in southern France, he married Maureen Dowd, a British citizen, and returned to the US after the German surrender.

The original interview was recorded October 12, 2012 by The Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative, in partnership with the Veterans Breakfast Club.  To hear the complete interview, visit http://veteranvoicesofpittsburgh.com.

The original interview was recorded October 2012 by The Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative. This audio short was engineered and produced by Kevin Farkas.