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Veterans' Stories

Veterans' Stories

Explore the grit, heroism and heart of America’s soldiers and wartime workers, from World War One to the Iraq War

World War I

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6 Famous WWI Fighter Aces

1. Manfred von Richthofen The British called him the “Red Knight”; the French, the “Diable Rouge” (the “Red Devil”); but German pilot Manfred von Richthofen is best remembered by the immortal sobriquet the “Red Baron.” Born into a family of Prussian nobles in 1892, Richthofen ...read more

1914 Christmas Truce

What Happened When WWI Paused for Christmas

On Christmas Eve 1914, in the dank, muddy trenches on the Western Front of the first world war, a remarkable thing happened. It came to be called the Christmas Truce. And it remains one of the most storied and strangest moments of the Great War—or of any war in history. British ...read more

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A Harlem Hellfighter's Searing Tales from the WWI Trenches

Like many veterans of the killing fields of World War I, Horace Pippin had a tough time shaking off the memories. So in the decade after the war he captured them, and tamed them, inside sketch-filled journals. He had no dearth of stories to tell. There was the terrified young ...read more

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8 Battlefield Poets of World War I

1. Wilfred Owen Wilfred Owen only published five poems during his lifetime, but his harrowing descriptions of combat have since made him into one of the towering figures of World War I literature. Just 21 years old when the war broke out, he enlisted in the British army in 1915 ...read more

Henry Gunther

The Last Official Death of WWI Was a Man Who Sought Redemption

Shortly after 5 a.m. on November 11, 1918, German, British and French officials gathered inside a railroad dining car in a dark forest north of Paris and signed an armistice to end World War I. Rejecting German calls to immediately halt hostilities, Allied commander Ferdinand ...read more

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Going to Summer Camp in 1913 Meant Practicing for World War I

In the years leading up to World War I, audiences flocked to silent movie theaters and danced to ragtime. But an affluent young man was just as likely to spend his summer vacation preparing for war as learning the Turkey Trot or the tango. Beginning in 1913, thousands of American ...read more

Public Domain

Innovative Cosmetic Surgery Restored WWI Vets' Ravaged Faces—And Lives

The blue benches outside London’s Queen’s Hospital were reserved for men with shattered faces and smashed dreams. The colorful paint job warned the locals that they might want to avert their eyes, shielding them from coming face-to-face with the awful reality of the war and ...read more

WWI Dogs

26 Photos of Dogs Being Heroes in WWI

On February 5, 1918, the U.S. 102nd Infantry reached the front lines of France at Chemin des Dames, north of Soissons. Heavy artillery gunfire and grenade assaults from the Central Powers soon followed. After days and nights of shelling, the exhausted U.S. ...read more

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The WWI Origins of the Poppy as a Remembrance Symbol

From 1914 to 1918, World War I took a greater human toll than any previous conflict, with some 8.5 million soldiers dead of battlefield injuries or disease. The Great War, as it was then known, also ravaged the landscape of Western Europe, where most of the fiercest fighting took ...read more

World War II

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9 People You May Not Know Were WWII Veterans

1. Sir Alec Guinness Some 35 years before he counseled Luke Skywalker to “use the Force” as Obi Wan Kenobi, Sir Alec Guinness was piloting infantry landing craft in the Mediterranean. A trained thespian, Guinness put his theater career on hold in 1939 to join the Royal Navy. He ...read more

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Heroes of Pearl Harbor: George Welch and Kenneth Taylor

Kenneth Taylor, a newly minted second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps’ 47th Pursuit Squadron, received his first posting to Wheeler Army Airfield in Honolulu, Hawaii in April 1941. His commanding officer, General Gordon Austin, chose Taylor and another pilot, George Welch, ...read more

Pearl Harbor Survivor and WWII Veteran Paul Kennedy

Pearl Harbor Veteran Recalls Coming Eye-to-Eye With a Japanese Bomber

Paul Kennedy was expecting to sleep in on the morning of December 7, 1941. He had been on deck duty on board the U.S.S. Sacramento at Pearl Harbor until 4 a.m., then grabbed coffee with a buddy and hadn’t gone to bed until 5:30 a.m. So, when alarms sounded at around 8 a.m. as a ...read more

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Two Japanese American Veterans on Fighting the Nazis—and Discrimination at Home

Like most Americans, Don Seki and Frank Mitoshi Wada remember the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii as a dark day. For these two “Nisei” (American-born children of Japanese immigrants), December 7th, 1941 was darker than for most, since it led to their ...read more

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WWII Hero Audie Murphy: 'How Come I'm Not Dead?'

On January 26, 1945, Audie Murphy and some 40 U.S. troops sat shivering in a frigid, snow-covered clearing near the Alsatian town of Holtzwihr. The battle-weary soldiers had been ordered to hold a vital roadway until reinforcements arrived, but the operation was delayed and the ...read more

6 Renowned Tuskegee Airmen

6 Renowned Tuskegee Airmen

As the first Black aviators to serve in the U.S. Army Air Corps, the Tuskegee Airmen broke through a massive segregation barrier in the American military. Their success and heroism during World War II, fighting Germans in the skies over Europe, shattered pervasive stereotypes ...read more

A tank and crew from the 761st Tank Battalion in front of the Prince Albert Memorial in Coburg, Germany, 1945. (Credit: The National Archives)

The Original Black Panthers Fought in the 761st Tank Battalion During WWII

In October of 1944, the 761st tank battalion became the first African American tank squad to see combat in World War II. And, by the end of the war, the Black Panthers had fought their way further east than nearly every other unit from the United States, receiving 391 decorations ...read more

Waverly Woodson Jr.

A Black Medic Saved Hundreds on D-Day. Was He Deprived of a Medal of Honor?

Heavy machine-gun fire greeted a nauseous and bloody Waverly B. Woodson, Jr. as he disembarked onto Omaha Beach the morning of June 6, 1944. A German shell had just blasted apart his landing craft, killing the man next to him and peppering him with so much shrapnel that he ...read more

The Liberators: The Emotional Reunion of a Holocaust Survivor and the G.I. Who Freed Him

Watch the Emotional Reunion of a Concentration Camp Survivor and One of His Liberators

The first time Joshua Kaufman met Daniel Gillespie was April 29, 1945, when American liberators marched into the notorious Dachau concentration camp 12 miles outside Munich, Germany and smashed in the prison doors. Gillespie, a gunner with the 42nd Rainbow Division, was deeply ...read more

Black Americans Who Served in WWII Faced Segregation and Second-Class Roles

Black Americans Who Served in WWII Faced Segregation Abroad and at Home

When the Selective Training and Service Act became the nation’s first peacetime draft law in September 1940, civil rights leaders pressured President Franklin D. Roosevelt to allow Black men the opportunity to register and serve in integrated regiments. Although African ...read more

Frank DeVita Describes Landing on the Beach

Frank DeVita Describes Landing on Omaha Beach

Frank DeVita was in charge of lowering the ramp on the USS Samuel Chase on D-Day. The role would haunt him for the rest of his life.

Guy Whidden, Paratrooper

Guy Whidden, Paratrooper

Guy Whidden was one of the first to parachute into Normandy on D-Day. A moment of divine intervention would save his life.

Waverly Woodson, Jr., the Wounded Medic

Waverly Woodson, Jr., the Wounded Medic

Waverly Woodson Jr., was a medic on D-Day in the only all-black battalion to storm the beach. He worked for over 30 hours straight saving lives while he himself was wounded.

Korean War

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10 Famous Korean War Veterans

1. Neil Armstrong The first human to walk on the surface of the moon was studying aeronautical engineering at Purdue University on a U.S. Navy scholarship when in 1949 he began flight training to become a naval aviator. On September 3, 1951—five days after flying his first ...read more

Korean War

The Most Harrowing Battle of the Korean War

For Robert Whited and Jean White, there was never a question that they would serve in the military. And they never doubted the merit of the war they were sent to fight in Korea. It was this unbending faith in their service as U.S. Marines that carried both men through America’s ...read more

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The Four-Legged Marine Who Became a Korean War Hero

The United States Marine Corps has endured few firefights as savage as the Battle for Outpost Vegas in the waning months of the Korean War. With a roar that sounded like “twenty tornadoes tearing at a countryside,” according to one serviceman, more than 500 mortar and artillery ...read more

Vietnam War

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Famous American Vietnam Vets

Of the nearly 1 million Americans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces during the Vietnam War era (1964-75), many were or went on to become famous in diverse fields such as politics, entertainment, sports and journalism. The young Navy pilot John McCain, son of a ...read more

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John McCain in the Military: From Navy Brat to POW

When John McCain made his first bid for public office in 1982, running for a House seat in Arizona, critics blasted him as a carpetbagger, pointing out that he’d only lived in the state for 18 months. “Listen, pal, I spent 22 years in the Navy,” the exasperated candidate ...read more

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Missing in Action: How Military Families Spurred the MIA Movement

“MIA” stands for missing in action, a term used to refer to members of the armed forces who have not returned from military service and whose whereabouts are unknown. Since ancient times, soldiers have gone to war and never returned, their fate unknown. In the wake of the Vietnam ...read more

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Real ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ DJ Offered Escape for Young Troops

The early morning Armed Forces Vietnam Network radio show was called Dawn Busters, and began with a greeting that boomed forth into the dawn. Each day, host Adrian Cronauer would start his show with the salutation—“Goooooood morning, Vietnam!”—with the “good” stretching out for ...read more

Iraq War

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The Death-Defying Challenges of Military Logistics in Iraq

The first time A.J. Luna escaped death while serving in Iraq, it was thanks to a Marlboro menthol. It was a blisteringly hot day, and his unit was headed from Baghdad toward LSA Anaconda, an Iraqi air force base about 40 miles north. As part of a mile-long convoy of moving ...read more

Lori Piestewa

Why This Pioneering Hopi Soldier Has a Mountain Named After Her

Since U.S. Army Private Lori Ann Piestewa died in a Humvee ambush in Iraq in 2003, her name—and her legacy—have spread throughout the three mesas of Hopi land in northeastern Arizona. The first American Indian woman to die serving the U.S. Armed Forces, in the first war that ...read more

Presidents at War

U.S. Presidents in Uniform

See Images of 20 US Presidents Who Served in the Military—in Uniform

When the United States chose its first president in 1788, Americans turned to George Washington who, as an army general, had led them to victory over the British and independence. The acclaim that he had received as a war hero made him a unifying figure and gave him tremendous ...read more

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How Gen. Eisenhower Spun a Humiliating WWII Defeat Into a Winning Military Strategy

As the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the European theater, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower is remembered as one of the most masterful military figures in history, the man behind the bold and superbly-executed Normandy invasion in June 1944 that led to Nazi Germany’s defeat less ...read more

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The Navy Disaster That Earned JFK Two Medals for Heroism

John F. Kennedy’s heroics during World War II earned him a Navy and Marine Corps Medal and a Purple Heart—he is the only U.S. president to have earned either of those honors. Kennedy’s political supporters made a big deal of JFK’s military honors, but when asked exactly how he ...read more

Lyndon B. Johnson

How a Luckily Timed Bathroom Break Saved LBJ's Life During WWII

If not for Naval Reserve officer Lyndon Johnson’s sudden need to relieve himself before a bomber flight during World War II, he might never have taken over the Oval Office after John F. Kennedy’s death, and there might never have been a Great Society program, Medicare or an ...read more

George H.W. Bush during World War II

George H.W. Bush’s Dangerous Role in WWII

With the wings of his plane on fire and smoke pouring into the cockpit, future President George H.W. Bush parachuted into the Pacific Ocean, where he floated for hours on a life raft, vomiting uncontrollably and bleeding profusely from his forehead. Still, Bush could count ...read more

Women in the War Effort

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How Women Fought Their Way Into the US Armed Forces

“Why be behind when you could be in front?” an unnamed woman, newly promoted to Army private, asked the Army Times’ Meghann Myers in 2017. She was one of the first women to join the U.S. Army’s infantry, undergoing grueling training along with male recruits and preparing for the ...read more

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World War II’s Most Dangerous Allied Spy Was a Woman With a Wooden Leg

During World War II, Nazi officials were constantly hunting down resistance fighters and the allied spies who aided them. But there was one foreign operative the Third Reich held special contempt for—a woman responsible for more jailbreaks, sabotage missions and leaks of Nazi ...read more

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Women of the WWII Workforce: Photos Show the Real-Life Rosie the Riveters

When the United States entered World War II after the 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor, men shipped overseas by the millions to serve in the war. This left many of the civilian and military jobs on the home front unfilled—and that's when women stepped in. Before the war, some women ...read more

Black 'Rosies': How African American Women Contributed on the WWII Homefront

‘Black Rosies’: The Forgotten African American Heroines of the WWII Homefront

Rosie the Riveter—the steely-eyed World War II heroine with her red bandanna, blue coveralls and flexed bicep—stands as one of America’s most indelible military images. Positioned under the maxim “We Can Do It,” the “Rosie” image has come to broadly represent the steadfast ...read more

Lt. Florie E. Grant tending to a patient at a prisoner of war hospital, 1944

When Black Nurses Were Relegated to Care for German POWs

Before President Truman desegregated the U.S. military on July 26, in 1948, black nurses had fewer—and less desirable—opportunities in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps.

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WWII Mail Delivery Would Have Been a Mess Without These Black Female Army Heroes

An army unit known as the “Six Triple Eight” had a specific mission in World War II: to sort and clear a two-year backlog of mail for Americans stationed in Europe. Between the Army, Navy, Air Force, the Red Cross and uniformed civilian specialists, that amounted to seven million ...read more

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Uncovering the Secret Identity of Rosie the Riveter

In 1942, 20-year-old Naomi Parker was working in a machine shop at the Naval Air Station in Alameda, California, when a photographer snapped a shot of her on the job. In the photo, released through the Acme photo agency, she’s bent over an industrial machine, wearing a jumpsuit ...read more

Carol Rogers Pitula of Chicago (facing camera) hugs fellow Army nurse Judy Baker Williams near the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial on Veteran’s Day.

Women in the Vietnam War

Women in the Vietnam War served as soldiers, health workers, and in news-gathering capacities. Though relatively little official data exists about female Vietnam War veterans, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation estimates that approximately 11,000 military women were ...read more

Coming Home

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Pensions for Veterans Were Once Viewed as Government Handouts

The Department of Veterans Affairs, which provides services for nearly 10 million veterans each year, currently handles health care, benefits and burials for those who have served. But nomination battles and standards of care haven’t always been the most controversial thing about ...read more

The Red Summer of 1919

Red Summer of 1919: How Black WWI Vets Fought Back Against Racist Mobs

The ink had barely dried on the Treaty of Versailles, which formally ended World War I, when recently returned black veterans grabbed their guns and stationed themselves on rooftops in black neighborhoods in Washington D.C., prepared to act as snipers in the case of mob violence ...read more

WWII-Veterans

Filipino Americans Fought With U.S. During WWII, Then Had to Fight for Veterans Benefits

On an early December morning in 1941, waves of Japanese bombers roared through American airspace. While air sirens wailed and guns blazed, American nationals took cover as a surprise attack in the Pacific sank U.S. battleships and crippled the largest aggregation of American ...read more

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How the G.I. Bill’s Promise Was Denied to a Million Black WWII Veterans

When Eugene Burnett saw the neat tract houses of Levittown, New York, he knew he wanted to buy one. It was 1949, and he was ready to settle down in a larger home with his family. The newly established Long Island suburb seemed like the perfect place to begin their postwar ...read more

Vietnam War Veterans

Why Were Vietnam Vets Treated Poorly When They Returned

Twenty-one-year-old Steven A. Wowwk arrived as an infantryman in the Army’s First Cavalry Division in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam in early January 1969 to fight in an escalating and increasingly unwinnable war. By June, Wowwk had been wounded twice—the second time seriously—and was ...read more

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VIDEO: After the War, A Soldier’s Struggle to Come Home

War is ugly, but it’s not the worst part of military service. I like to explain war as the “easy” part. The “hard” part is getting out. Transition is by far the biggest battle. In war your only worry is death, you don’t have to worry about bills and food and all the other small ...read more