Saturday, February 28, 2004

War memories for all to see on Heroes site


Butler veterans recall war on web

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - For years, David McNeil's daughter urged him to type copies of the 373 hand-written letters he wrote home during World War II.

"She kept hounding me, and I thought I'd get around to it some day - but some day kept getting farther and farther away. So I'm finally doing it," said McNeil, 88, a former Wyoming Schools teacher and assistant principal who lives in Berkeley Square Retirement Community.

Now the whole world can read his personal narratives on Butler County's new Operation Heroes web site (www.butlercountyohio.org/records/heroes) .

More than 100 World War II veterans have submitted photos, postcards, letters and other memorabilia since attending the county's sold-out Operation Heroes lunches this winter. The county also is expanding the Internet site to all wars fought by Butler County veterans.

"We often think of memorials as bricks and mortar, but the great thing about the information age is that, in effect, you can create a living memorial," said Commissioner Michael A. Fox.

Before the first Operations Heroes lunch Dec. 14, McNeil began transcribing into a computer the letters he wrote in pencil on 5-by-7 notepaper to his mother in Norwood.

"I sent a letter home every two or three days. So far, I'm up to letter No. 95," said McNeil, a 1933 Norwood High School graduate who served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in the Pacific. "It's been a lot of fun. It brings back lots of memories."

McNeil has delivered four packets of typed pages to Carol Volle, Butler County records manager, who is supervising the project started by the county Bicentennial Commission.

"They are so cool," Volle said. "They are very, very interesting."

Volle and Rhonda Freeze, county Bicentennial Commission chairwoman, encourage Butler County veterans and their families to bring their photos, news clippings and memorabilia to the Butler County Records Center, 123 N. Third St., two blocks north of the Butler County Government Services Center. Photos can be scanned into a computer and handed back to the owner, Freeze said.

Operation Heroes has a search engine so visitors can find contributions from a specific veteran. The county eventually wants to add audio and video.

Fox said Operation Heroes will be "a tremendous resource for our schools ... to bring these world-changing events to life in the classroom."

McNeil said his primary interest was passing along his personal World War II account to his daughter, son and two grandchildren. He never thought about a worldwide audience for his 60-year-old letters.

"Oh boy, that sounds great," McNeil said. "I didn't know if anybody else would be interested or not."

Butler County veterans wishing to donate war photos and other memorabilia should contact the Butler County Records Center, 123 N. Third St., Hamilton, or call 887-3437. Photos will be posted at www.butlercountyohio.org/records/heroes

E-mail jkiesewetter@enquirer.com




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