5 area veterans who have inspired with their experiences

WWII Navy Veteran Baylor Kirk served on the USS Loy as an electrician in the Atlantic and Pacific.  Kirk has saved this flag that flew above the ship.  TY GREENLEES / STAFF
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WWII Navy Veteran Baylor Kirk served on the USS Loy as an electrician in the Atlantic and Pacific. Kirk has saved this flag that flew above the ship. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

World War II veterans in the Miami Valley faced life-changing experiences.

This collection of videos and stories is a selection of the inspiring people featured on anniversaries of Victory in Europe, Victory in Japan and the attack on Pearl Harbor. Each had fascinating stories to tell. One theme sticks out with all of them – duty to country.

Rolla “Ed” Malan

Navy Petty Officer Rolla “Ed” Malan was 21 and sleeping in the submarine barracks at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. His ship, the U.S.S. Preble, a mine layer, was in drydock for repair.

“The noise woke us up,” he said. “Planes flying around banging, banging. We didn’t know what it was. One of the fellas got up, went to the window and a plane went by because he said, ‘That’s Japanese.’ And nobody believed him.”

“I looked up and saw some bombers flying high, and just a few seconds after that, the Arizona blew. Just the biggest explosion. Black smoke, flame, everything else and I don’t know how high it went but that was pretty bad.”

“That’s about the time I decided this wasn’t too good a place to be.”

» Remembering the attack, fallen on 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor

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Navy Veteran Ed Malan was awakened by low flying Japanese planes and bombs exploding while bunking at the submarine base in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Sister Dorothy Beach 

Dorothy Beach was one of nearly a dozen women in her Trinity College graduating class who joined the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) in World War II.

She handled confidential communications for the Atlantic and Pacific fleet at Navy headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“We were thinking of doing our part in an emergency,” she said, adding she “never really thought of it. They talked a lot about it in the newspapers about accepting women and they hesitated about accepting them. But it was a patriotic thing, I guess, and that was a patriotic time.”

Beach later became a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur and retired at at the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in Reading near Cincinnati.

» Ohioans played key roles in WWII battles

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WWII Vet Sister Dorothy Beach was a Navy WAVES officer in Washington D.C.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Sister Marguerite McHugh 

With both of her brothers already serving in World War II, Marguerite McHugh decided she didn’t want to be left out of the fight.

“I thought the war would be over soon if the three of us got in there, so that’s why I joined,” she said.

McHugh became an anti-aircraft gunnery instructor at the Armed Guard School at Shelton, Va., teaching sailors how to take out attacking planes. McHugh later became a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur. She passed away on Feb. 6, 2016 at age 93.

» Ohioans played key roles in WWII battles

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WWII Vet Sister Marguerite McHugh was an antiaircraft gun instructor.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Charles Feaster

Charles Feaster was a technical engineer with the famed Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American pioneers and airmen who broke racial barriers in the U.S. Army Air Forces in a segregated military in World War II.

“In the beginning, we didn’t get the support we needed in combat,” he recalled in a 2014 interview. “Washington decided to give us that chance and we took that chance.”

President Barack Obama handed Feaster a gold presidential coin in 2014 on the tarmac at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base near Columbus.  Feaster passed away on Jan. 11, 2016 at age 94.

» Tuskegee Airman Charles Feaster of Xenia dies

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WWII Vet Charles Feaster was a Tuskegee Airman

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

William P. Cullen

William P. Cullen almost ended up as an infantryman until he and the Army interviewer recognized their common hometown, Jackson Heights, Queens, New York. His aeronautical engineering college courses didn’t hurt, either. Cullen became an Army Air Corps transport pilot.

“There’s a lot of casualties taking place all the time,” he said. He was a pilot with the Ninth Air Force. “Today, if you had figures like they had then, the country would be shocked at how many people were dying, even in training. But it was war.”

Cullen was sent to the far northern reaches of the British Isles just before the war ended. He and his crewmates heard of Germany’s unconditional surrender on a cockpit radio in May 1945. “We picked up Winston Churchill making a speech in Parliament saying the Germans are surrendering and letting people know that the war in Europe was ending,” he said. After the war, he stayed in Europe for a year as a military pilot flying civilians across the continent.

» Complete military coverage, Wright-Patt and beyond

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Army Air Corps pilot Bill Cullen flew transports in Europe

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