'We got the hell out of there'
James McElroy caught a lucky break when his infantry unit got sent to Normandy a few days after D-Day. It was the first of many close calls he saw fighting across Europe.
'Good luck, Yanks'
The words, "Good luck, Yanks," sent off Richard McGathey as he boarded the vessel that took him, and other troops, across the English Channel in June 1944, bound for the invasion of Normandy.
Couldn't fight this war alone
But for a friend, John Merlini wouldn't have made it to Normandy. Practicing in the English Channel for the D-Day landing, he got bogged down in deep water by his heavy field pack and steel helmet. His buddy saved him, pulling him up into the shallows.
'We were taught ... be loyal to your country'
When the draft board came for Takanori Mizuta in late 1944, they found him with his family in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans. He was sent to Florida for basic training with all of the Japanese draftees who were kept in the same unit - the ones who opted out of Japanese language intelligence work.
Walter O'Keefe's uniform
Walter O'Keefe began his 25 years in the Marine Corps during World War II, the first of three wars for him. For his portrait, he showed up in his dress blues.
'It was a wonderful adventure'
Pearl Harbor was bombed while Joan Schechner was in nursing school at Roseland Hospital. But she enlisted in the Army as a nurse for the war's duration, plus six months, as soon as her training ended. She spent her time in the war – including her 25th birthday – in a field hospital on Okinawa.
'We made the landing'
Robert Schuld's ship had pulled off three gutsy invasions in the South Pacific. Then, two hours before U.S. ground forces were to storm the beach of a Phillipine Island, his landing ship was struck by a Japanese boat, taking out 28 feet of the stern.
'I feel like I'm a different person'
At 89, John Swick still fits into his original Army dress uniform issued to him in 1943. He won't tell war stories from his time in combat in Europe; his memories are just too painful. "There were thousands and thousands before me. I'm not a bragger. I don't do that."
'It was unbelieveable that I would live'
Louis Venditti's perilous entry into World War II started in the cloudy, moonlit sky over Normandy, France, just after midnight June 6, 1944. He plunged, parachute and pack on his back, from the small plane, a C-47, as soon as the green light inside its cabin popped on. Go, it told the paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division.
'They really did a job on us'
Long after he left Europe, Bill Woodrow continued to fight the Nazis in his sleep. He battled at night, unconscious in his Orland Park home, his subconscious flashing back to the years he spent in Italy during the war. "They really did a job on us."
Read their storiesRobert Burns