WW II – NEBRASKA VETERANS’ STORIES


UNL LIBRARIES SPECIALIST’S PROJECT PRESERVES NEBRASKA VETERANS’ STORIES

Lincoln, Neb., July 3, 2013 – Kathy Berrick grew up knowing her father served in World War II. Beyond that, details were hard to come by.
“He was just one of those veterans who did not want to talk about the war,” Berrick said. “I took pride knowing he served, but really, I knew little else.”
During a function at St. Teresa’s School in Lincoln, Berrick started talking to Brian O’Grady, an interlibrary loan borrowing specialist with the University Libraries. As they talked, O’Grady mentioned that he was recording conversations with veterans to document war experiences. Berrick thought of her father.
“I thought, ‘Gosh, if I could get someone to talk with my dad about the war, that would be great,’” Berrick said. “I mentioned that my dad served in World War II. I just hoped (Dad) would be willing to talk.”
O’Grady’s veteran recording project grew from a fascination with the Battle of Tarawa. He hoped to write scholarly articles on the obscure, three-day World War II battle over a tiny spit of Pacific Ocean coral and sand. His attention turned after learning the battle had been sufficiently dissected by scholars.
“Those personal stories are what I found most interesting in my Tarawa research,” he said. “I decided to start interviewing veterans to document their own unique stories.”
The first interview was in 2006 with Tarawa veteran Eugene Horst of Halsey, Neb., a machine gunner with the Second Division, Sixth Marines.
“We talked for three hours. It included his experiences in Tarawa, Saipan and Guadalcanal. At that point, I decided that the interviews should be about the entire experience of the veterans and not just about one battle,” he said.
O’Grady has recorded the war stories of 20 Nebraska veterans. He focuses on World War II vets, documenting the stories before members of the Greatest Generation are gone. He also has talked to veterans from the Korean and Vietnam conflicts and plans to include more recent conflicts in the Middle East.
“When I talk to these people about their experiences, it reminds me that these events really did happen and they were there,” O’Grady said. “They’re walking history. And these interviews make the event more real to me.”
He provides copies of the interviews to families. O’Grady also plans to publish the stories and possibly donate the recordings to a historical archive.
“The main reason I do this … is to capture a story that otherwise would have been lost,” he said. “This project is all about preserving an oral history for future generations.”
Berrick’s father, Gerald Bichlmeier, did eventually talk with O’Grady. Berrick said she couldn’t believe her father agreed. Her surprise grew after watching the interview.
“My dad was a very shy, humble man. But, he opened up so much,” Berrick said. “Brian did his research beforehand and that helped. Dad got more comfortable through the interview, and afterward he was glad that he went through with it. It meant a lot to us, too.”
Bichlmeier, who entered the Army on April 9, 1943, served in Europe with the 76th Infantry and was honorably discharged on Nov. 9, 1945, died in March. After the memorial, Berrick gave her brother a copy of their father’s video interview. Though he had farmed with his father for years, Berrick’s brother knew only a little about his father’s service.
“We had lost a father and it meant so much to see him sharing a part of his life that he had not shared with us,” she sad. “We wouldn’t have had that without Brian.”
Anyone interested in sharing a veteran story can contact O’Grady at bogrady1@unl.edu or 402-472-7696.

http://newsroom.unl.edu/releases/downloadables/photo/20130703ogrady1.jpg

Brian O’Grady, an interlibrary loan borrowing specialist with the University Libraries at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, stands next to the Vietnam War memorial at Lincoln’s Veterans Memorial Garden. O’Grady is recording stories of Nebraska veterans. He makes the videos available to the families of the veterans and plans to publish the stories. (Troy Fedderson, University Communications)

http://newsroom.unl.edu/releases/downloadables/photo/20130703ogrady2.jpg

Brian O’Grady, an interlibrary loan borrowing specialist with the University Libraries at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, stands next to the World War II portion of Lincoln’s Veterans Memorial Garden. O’Grady is recording stories of Nebraska veterans. He makes the videos available to the families of the veterans and plans to publish the stories. (Troy Fedderson, University Communications)

http://newsroom.unl.edu/releases/downloadables/photo/20130703bichlemeier.jpg

Kathy Berrick’s father, Gerald Bichlmeier, is one of the veterans interviewed by UNL’s Brian O’Grady. Bichlmeier served with the Army’s 76th Infantry during World War II. (Courtesy photo, Kathy Berrick)

University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Office of University Communications
321 Canfield Administration Building
Lincoln, NE 68588-0424
Telephone: (402) 472-2211 

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