"That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion."
President Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863
Gettysburg National Cemetery is the final resting place of 590 soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and other enlisted personnel who died during the Second World War. From the wartime years—when burials occurred for servicemen who died during training accidents—to the post-war years, which saw a massive repatriation of American World War II dead from nearly every corner of the globe, these burials in Gettysburg tell the vast and complex story of American involvement in the Second World War.
In the aftermath of World War II, the United States government embarked upon an effort to repatriate the bodies of its military dead based upon the wishes of their next of kin. Over 270,000 questionnaires were sent to Gold Star families across the United States. Ultimately, over 171,000 families chose to have their loved ones brought home for burial in the United States.
Starting in 1947, at the cost of $545 per serviceman, the U.S. government brought these honored dead home for their final burial. Some families chose to have their loved ones buried in plots in private cemeteries, while others chose national cemeteries such as Gettysburg. National Park Service officials in Gettysburg believed that it was because of Gettysburg’s status as “a national shrine” that so many families chose to have their loved ones buried here.
This video series highlight specific stories of World War II soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who were buried in Gettysburg National Cemetery during and after the Second World War. These individuals served and died in places such as Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, North Africa, Normandy, the Ardennes Forrest, and Okinawa. Their stories remind us of the multiple ways the legacy of World War II can be felt in Gettysburg. Included in these videos are stories of veterans, as well, and the ways they continued to serve after the war.
The connection between these World War II stories and Dwight Eisenhower is significant. Not only did Eisenhower make Gettysburg his retirement home—no doubt strolling past these many graves in the National Cemetery from time to time—but Ike spent much of his post-war life reflecting on the sacrifices so many had made. In his Guildhall Address in London, on June 12, 1945, Eisenhower reflected that he and the Allied powers would not have achieved Victory in Europe at all if not for the sacrifices of so many, sacrifices which were then still on-going in the Pacific Theater. Early in his remarks, Eisenhower noted the following:
“Humility must always be the portion of any man who received acclaim earned in the blood of his followers and the sacrifices of his friends. Conceivably a commander may have been professionally superior. He may have given everything of his heart and mind to meet the spiritual and physical needs of his comrades. He may have written a chapter that will glow forever in the pages of military history. Still, even such a man, if he existed, would sadly face the fact that his honors cannot hide in his memories the crosses marking the resting places of the dead. They cannot soothe the anguish of the widow or the orphan whose husband or whose father will not return.”
It is in this spirit that we remember and honor these World War II dead of the Gettysburg National Cemetery.
Gettysburg National Cemetery is the final resting place of three servicemen who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941—Seaman First Class George Stembrosky, Yeoman First Class Regis Bodecker, and Private Eugene Bubb. Join Park Ranger Dan Vermilya to explore their stories.
At just fifteen years of age, PFC Paul Heller could likely be the youngest American killed in action during WWII. Heller grew up in Allentown, PA, and forged his way into serving in the United States Marine Corps at a young age. He was killed on Guadalcanal in October 1942. Park Ranger Philip Brown brings us Heller’s complicated and tragic story.
Alva Johnson is one of at least a dozen African American servicemen buried in the Gettysburg National Cemetery. From teaching at the historic Storer College to his service in the U.S. Navy, Alva’s life was spent pursuing the “great task” of which Lincoln spoke in his famed Gettysburg Address. Alva was a Seabee who served in the 34th Naval Construction Battalion. He was killed in the Solomon Islands in February 1943. Join Park Ranger Dan Vermilya for Alva’s story.
For Dwight Eisenhower and the Allied Expeditionary Force, the long road to Victory in Europe in World War II started in North Africa in 1942. The campaigns there required sacrifice and taught the Allies lessons that helped to erode the German foothold on the Mediterranean. 2nd Lt. James Pogue—an airman from Pittsburgh, PA—was one of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the North African Campaign. He was killed on May 12, 1943, the day before the German surrender.
The eldest of seven children born to Austrian immigrants, John Zuk was born in New York City but grew up and lived in Schuykill County, PA. He was killed fighting in Sicily in July 1943 as Allied forced pushed back the German hold on the Mediterranean. Join Park Ranger Dan Vermilya to explore the story of this first generation American who gave his life for his country in World War II.
Hospital Apprentice First Class George Pilewski gave his life saving others aboard the USS Savannah off the coast of Salerno, Italy, in September 1943. For his actions, he was posthumously awarded the prestigious Navy Cross, the second highest honor a Navy serviceman can receive. Join Ranger Dan Vermilya to discover more on George Pilewski’s heroic sacrifice during WWII.
PFC Clairus L. Riggs—a native of Cambria County, Pennsylvania—is one of 12 soldiers who were killed on D-Day who are buried in the Gettysburg National Cemetery. Riggs fell in the waters off of Omaha Beach in the early hours of June 6, 1944, and is one of several casualties from the 116th Infantry Regiment that day buried in Gettysburg. Park Ranger Jon Tracey brings us Riggs’s story, and reminds us of the enduring significance of D-Day.
Adams County, Pennsylvania sent many of its native sons to fight in WWII--not all of them came home. A Gettysburg native, Cpl. Horace Bushman was deeply ingrained in his community. He was killed in action outside of Cherbourg, France, in June 1944, and was buried in the Normandy American Cemetery. Park Ranger Andrew Frantz brings us Horace’s story, and reminds us of Gettysburg’s sacrifice during WWII.
Countless families across the United States were impacted by having multiple loved ones serving in uniform during WWII. For the Kundla and Materewicz families, the cost of victory was all too real, as each lost two sons in WWII. Join Park Ranger Jon Tracey for the stories of Stephen and Andrew Kundla and Edward and Frank Materewicz—they were brothers at war, and now rest side by side in Gettysburg National Cemetery.
A Gettysburg College graduate and native of Altoona, PA, 2nd Lt. Ralph Stehley’s life was spent serving his community, his family, and his country. Stehley served in the 4th Infantry Division and was killed in action in France in August 1944. Join Park Ranger Dan Vermilya to discover more of Stehley's story of service and sacrifice.
Over 100 servicemen from Adams County, Pennsylvania were killed in action during World War II. Staff Sergeant Earl Swope Jr. was one of them. A native of Gettysburg, Swope was killed in the opening assaults of the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. Join Park Ranger Philip Brown for more on Earl's service and sacrifice.
How do we remember loved ones we have lost? For Tech/4 William C. Olson’s family, the power of words kept his memory alive. Join Park Ranger Dan Vermilya for the story of Olson’s service, his death during the Battle of the Bulge, and his final journey home to be buried in Gettysburg National Cemetery.
The son of Italian immigrants, James Logero’s war took place in the skies above Europe. Tech Sergeant Logero's service came to an end when his plane was shot down during a bombing run amidst the Battle of the Bulge. Park Ranger Jon Tracey brings us Logero's story.
Pvt. Henry Wardenski was one of millions of first-generation Americans who took part in World War II. He signed up to avenge the loss of his family at the hands of his Germans and served as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. Park Ranger Daniel Vermilya brings us this story of one family’s sacrifice during WWII.
Tec/5 Lewis Flanigan exemplified the service and sacrifice that led to the Allied victory in WWII. A combat medic with the 30th Infantry Division, he was killed on Christmas Day, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge. Join Park Ranger Dan Vermilya for more on Lewis’s story.
Sergeant Stanley Wolinsky exemplified the servicemen who won WWII. He fought in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, and was ultimately killed in Germany in early 1945. Park Ranger Eva Blankenhorn brings us along on Stanley’s journey through WWII, and how his family kept his memory alive after the war.
On May 1, 1945—while Dwight Eisenhower and the Allied Expeditionary Force were on the verge of Victory in Europe—the war in the Pacific still raged on. That morning, Seaman First Class Joseph Coradetti was one of dozens killed during a kamikaze attack on the USS Terror near Okinawa. Join Park Ranger Dan Vermilya for Coradetti’s story of service and sacrifice.
What does it mean to serve a cause greater than yourself? Robert and Dorothy McCormick were part of a family of service. Both were veterans of the U.S. Navy during WWII. Dorothy’s father was John Stewart Bragdon, a graduate of the West Point Class of 1915—the same class as Dwight D. Eisenhower—and had a decorated military career of his own.
Join Park Ranger Dan Vermilya for the fascinating story of one family’s service during WWII, and their continuing service afterwards.