Posted: Feb. 14, 2003


They have been called the Greatest Generation and we are losing them at a staggering pace.

About 1,500 World War II veterans die every day in this country.  And with each one that passes goes the story of what they saw and experienced as they made great sacrifices for their country.

According to the most recent census data, somewhere between 13,000 and 15,000 World War II veterans live in Delaware.  We need help finding them because we want to make sure the stories of what they did live on for future generations.

Three days before Veterans Day last year, I announced the start of an oral history project intended to memorialize the accounts and experiences of World War II veterans in Delaware.  Since that announcement we have contacted more than 400 veterans of that war.  About a quarter of them have returned a questionnaire developed for the project.

We are planning to use those questionnaires as the basis for a videotaped oral history as told by a handful of those veterans as well as a written document that will include all the responses we receive.

Iím working on this initiative in conjunction with Secretary of State Harriet Smith Windsor and the Delaware Commission on Veterans Affairs.  The first step of the project is to contact as many World War II veterans as we can find and have them fill out the questionnaire.  The Commission on Veterans Affairs has tapped its database and reached out to veteranís organizations to identify additional WWII veterans.  In the coming days and weeks, we will be contacting other community and senior organizations in an effort to find even more veterans.

We owe it to the men and women who bravely served in so many capacities.  We owe it to our children and future generations, who will benefit greatly from having access to the words and stories of these veterans.

Delaware played an important role in World War II.  Whether it was military personnel at New Castle County Army Air Base, Fort DuPont or the Dover Army Air Field, or soldiers manning the observation towers along the beaches, or women serving as airplane spotters in communities like Arden, or locals building ships at the Dravo yards, Delaware was active and important to the war effort.

And we sent our best to Europe and the Pacific to fight the enemy.  We live in a different world, a better world because of what those veterans did and it is important for all of us to remember that.

If we donít move quickly, though, those memories will be lost.  Many of these men and women have gone years without talking about what they saw and did.  They are simply not the kind of people who look for publicity or reward.  For some, itís painful to recall those days.

At the project announcement last year, six veterans from Delaware joined me.  Louis Spitzfaden and Werner Schlaupitz of Dover, Stanley Slusark of Smyrna, Richard Drummond and Vaughn Russell of Seaford and John Ross of Georgetown spent about an hour or so with me before the formal announcement.  It was among the most intriguing and inspiring hours I have ever spent as Lt. Governor.

All of them shared brief snippets of their stories.  A few said they had revealed things they hadnít spoken about since the war and they found it cathartic.

I found it fascinating and inspiring and I think my fellow Delawareans will feel the same.  That is why this project is so important.

Any World War II veterans or others interested in this project can call my office at (302) 577-8787 or (302) 744-4333, or the Commission on Veterans Affairs toll-free at (800) 344-9900.