The War in Kentucky

More than 300,000 Kentuckians served in World War II, and more than 7,900 died.

Kentucky WWII Veterans: In Their Own Words

At midnight on June 6, 1944, Robert L. Williams of Independence was one of 12,000 members of the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions who parachuted behind enemy lines to begin the D-Day invasion. “It was very dark, a partly moonlit night,” Williams remembers. “You couldn’t see where you were going to land, and I had no idea I was going to land in water.”

Williams is one of the Kentucky veterans who tell their stories in the KET documentary Kentucky WWII Veterans: In Their Own Words. Narrated by Nick Clooney, it was produced as part of KET’s programming related to Ken Burns’ film The War, an epic seven-part examination of World War II from an American perspective.

In poignant and insightful interviews, the Kentuckians spotlighted in Kentucky WWII Veterans recount experiences ranging from Pearl Harbor through the last days of combat, in every theater of the war and from a variety of front-lines and support perspectives. They include Lee Ebner of Louisville, who was stationed at Pearl Harbor; Lexington’s June Rollins, who served in the war as an MP; John Gatton of Louisville, who guided a landing craft to Omaha Beach on D-Day; Owensboro’s Jack Darnell, who flew with the Army Air Corps in Italy; Bill Shuffett of Greensburg and Reed Potter of Pikeville, both of whom survived the Battle of the Bulge; and Alan Legear of Berea, who served with the Marines in the Pacific Theater.

Other veterans seen in the program:

  • Richard Alvey, Clarkson, Army tank reconnaissance, Europe
  • Jim Brown, Lexington, Air Corps, Burma
  • Frank Cassidy, Lexington, Air Corps, Europe
  • Terry Caudill, Morehead, Navy, Norfolk
  • Tony Cecconi, Frankfort, LST, Normandy and Iwo Jima
  • Bill Cornish, Lexington, Tuskegee Airmen
  • Dr. Fred Coy, Louisville, P-47 pilot, Europe
  • Morton Dickerson, Madisonville, Air Rescue, Europe and the Pacific
  • Helen Evans, Lexington, WAC, Washington and Europe
  • Pete Gleich, Nicholasville, Los Banos Rescue
  • Lawrence Hagar Jr., Owensboro, Army, Europe
  • Robert Haney, Louisville, radio operator, Army, Europe
  • Charles Lowe, Pikeville, Marines, training and Pacific combat
  • John Spears, Ashland, Navy, Pearl Harbor and the West Virginia
  • Frank Weaver, Louisville, Tuskegee Airmen
  • Byron Wentz, Morehead, Air Corps, Italy
  • Bob Williams, Independence, D-Day paratrooper
  • Charles Wilson, Carlisle, 4th Tank Division, Europe

Kentucky WWII Veterans: In Their Own Words is a KET production, produced by Tom Bickel. It is available on DVD or videotape from KET. Call (800) 945-9167 or e-mail for information.