GREENBURGH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — For their service, sacrifice and selflessness, journalist Tom Brokaw dubbed the men and women of World War II “The Greatest Generation.”
With the world engulfed in the flames of war, they were ordinary people called upon to face a monumental challenge.
“Combat is no picnic and war is no fun,” said World War II Solomon Brizer, who on Memorial Day remembered the Marines with whom he fought side by side in the Pacific. “Just like your own family, you’re never closer to anybody, you always think of them.”
Brizer and Melvin Goldstein were among veterans saluted at Yonkers City Hall recently.
“We saw the ruins of what the bombings had done to the city of Manila,” said Goldstein.
Max Jacobowitz, a gunner’s mate on the battleship Iowa, remembers the terror of a kamikaze attack.
“Coming to crash into us and we opened up broadside, we had a lot of firing power and he kept coming and coming, we blew him up,” Jacobowitz said.
The Town of Greenburgh is preserving these stories, recording more than 150 interviews with World War II veterans recounting their war days.
Some of the stories are harrowing.
When a torpedo sank the USS Indianapolis, 900 went in the water and were adrift for days. Only 317 made it. Among the survivors was, Donald Blum from Westchester.
“When the sharks brushed up against him he said he always remembered that it felt like the roughest sand power,” said Vietnam veteran Steve Wittenberg, who heads the video project.
Wittenberg said the veterans all in their early 90s and each has a story to tell.
“Somebody should know what they’ve done and where they were,” Wittenberg said.
“They’re a very proud generation,” he added. “They didn’t say much about it when they came back, they just went back to the business of starting their lives over, getting married, having children, very proud and not really thinking that they had done anything special.”
But they witnessed history and now their memories are preserved for posterity.
“You can’t get that out of a book in a classroom,” Wittenberg said.
The videos were broadcast on public access all Memorial Day weekend and are available online and at the Greenburgh Library.