Over half-century later, POW corresponds with liberator

photoDon Menard shows a letter and gifts he received in 2004 from Vasily Bezugly, a Soviet soldier who helped liberate Menard at Stalag Luft 1 near the end of World War II in Europe. (Photo used by permission of The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.)

By George Morris

After leaving a prisoner of war camp near the end of World War II, Don Menard never expected he’d get to know any of the Soviet soldiers who liberated him.

Yet, several years, that is exactly what he was able to do.

In 2001, Menard began corresponding with Vasily Bezugly, part of the Soviet force that liberated Stalag Luft 1 in Barth, Germany, on May 2, 1945, just days before Germany’s surrender ended the war.

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Occupying Nagasaki

peo walsh pd 19.jpgLeo Walsh spent three months as a Marine occupying Nagasaki, Japan, where the second atomic bomb blast led to Japan’s surrender. (Photo used by permission of The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana)

By George Morris

In more than 3½ years of combat, countless thousands of servicemen passed through Pearl Harbor, where World War II began for the United States.

Leo Walsh, of Baton Rouge, is in a more select company. He saw where it essentially ended.

Walsh was a private first class with the 2nd Marine Division when it was assigned to occupation duty at Nagasaki, Japan. There, on Aug. 9, 1945, an atomic bomb was used in warfare for the second and, so far, last time. Japan’s surrender was announced six days later.

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The Glider Boys

Glider (CG-4A) in flightAmerican Waco CG-4A glider being towed in flight (National Archives)

By George Morris

After a half century, World War II aircraft and airmen remain famous. Jimmy Doolittle’s B-25 raiders bombing Tokyo. Claire Chennault’s Flying Tigers dueling Japanese Zeros. British Spitfires and Hurricanes fighting off the German blitz. The Memphis Belle.

Less well known is another group of combat aviators — glider pilots. Yet, they were part of some of the war’s biggest, most dangerous missions.

“A bunch of us are lucky guys to be here,” said W.T. Owens of Baton Rouge in advance of a reunion of about 100 other World War II glider pilots.

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