<< All News

Raymond Spicer enlisted in World War II at the Grand Forks Post Office in 1942.

On Wednesday, the World War II vets registered for the North Dakota Victory Roll Call workshop through the Grand Forks County Historical Society at the Myra Museum.

The Victory Roll Call is an effort to create a roster of WWII veterans who live in North Dakota as the number of veterans still living dwindles. The roster is being created to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

About 60,000 men and women from North Dakota served in the military during World War II. Shirley J. Olgeirson, an organizer for the roll call, said there are an estimated 200 World War II veterans left in Grand Forks and 2,000 in North Dakota.

"We hope to get all of the World War II veterans in North Dakota to be registered," Olgeirson said.

Written stories and journals are elso encouraged to be donated. Olgeirson said the roster and any documents donated will be placed in the state archives in Bismarck.

Wayne Rowe will donate a journal he kept as a signal radar operator in the European theater, and Reginald Urness already donated one of his uniform shirts.

The veterans joked with each other while taking a group photo during the workshop, playfully arguing whether captains or generals should get to sit for the photo.

The men were happy to tell their stories.

Urness, 88, served in Germany as part of the occupation troops. He returned to Germany 20 years after World War II ended to where he was stationed, and an army major gave him a tour of his old barracks and the church he attended on base.

"It was very emotional to go back there, but I'm so glad I did," Urness said.

Even across the Atlantic Ocean, Urness had a connection to his hometown, Leeds, N.D. When he arrived in Europe, he had to register his name in a book. A U.S. combat soldier, Louie Stuberg, who was also from Leeds, saw Urness' name and tracked him down when they both returned to North Dakota. The two became lifelong friends.

In fact, Stuberg's grandson works on Urness' farm.

Wayne Rowe, 93, served as a radar technician, starting with the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. He helped modify the radar on U.S. weapons to better track "buzz bombs." Rowe, originally from Cavalier, N.D., went to Belgium, France and Germany as a radar technician, and stayed on as an occupation soldier.

While Urness and Rowe served in the European theater, Gerry Joyce, 91, served stateside.

"Most people don't realize that both coasts (of the U.S.) were heavily guarded," Joyce said.

He was sent around the U.S. to help protect naval bases, such as Fort Lauderdale and Port Everglades in Florida. While serving, Joyce said he was exposed to unfamiliar customs in the U.S., such as "Southern slang" and segregation in the south.

"I was fortunate that I didn't go overseas, but I sure got an education," he said.

Meanwhile, Jim Corbit, 90, served in the navy in the South Pacific. His ship was mostly in the Guadalcanal, and it was his job to keep a ship home to 860 soldiers clean.

Corbit said he had a top bunk, which was good so he wasn't squished by people in beds above him, but it also meant he had to wipe off asbestos on his bed every night that had fallen from overhead pipes.

The Victory Roll Call of North Dakota veterans and their stories is part of a bigger celebration for the end of World War II. A victory celebration program and USO-style dance will be held Oct. 10 in Bismarck.

For more information, visit ndwwiivictoryceleb.wix.com/victory.

Published by the Grand Forks Herald

<< All News