Monday, November 10, 2014


By Rose Moore, columnist, 
Excerpt from Gazette Newspapers Ohio
Veterans Day 2014

I extend my Veterans Day salute this year to a civilian, Tom Swope of Mentor, OH who has given a voice to the aging veterans of World War II. These veterans are passing away in great numbers, and Swope has not stopped his unique and earnest efforts on their behalf.

Swope seemed to realize that, for whatever reasons, veterans of that era had difficulty sharing their war experiences with family and succeeding generations. It was important to Swope that their stories not be lost. And so, when the Library of Congress World War II Veterans History Project was initiated, Swope began to dedicate himself to seeking out and recording the veterans' memories for the Library of Congress project. In recording and submitting nearly 500 veterans stories, Swope has devoted so much time and energy that he was invited as a special interviewer and honored guest of the Smithsonian when the Veterans World War II Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C.

A radio man who felt the veterans' stories should be shared with the public, he also began producing and narrating a weekly series---LEGACIES: Stories from the Second World War, which has marked its 10th anniversary on WINT-AM 1330 (formerly WELW, Willoughby). The program airs on radio at 9:30 Sunday mornings, and on Internet at on Sunday nights at 6:30. The series has earned two Ohio Excellence in Journalism Awards and was named Best Weekly Radio Show in Northeast Ohio at the March of Dimes A.I.R. Awards.

Requests from veterans and their families also prompted Swope to compile and edit some of the veterans' stories into a book which bears the same name as the radio series. (The Legacies book is available at or from Swope direct at 440-255-7410).

U.S. Army WW II Veteran,
Clarence "Mike" Swope
SWOPE'S WORK ON behalf of veterans was inspired by his father, World War II veteran Clarence "Mike" Swope. "My dad kept a diary during the war," Swope recalls. "Soldiers were ordered not to keep diaries. The concern was that sensitive information might fall into hands of the enemy, but many ignored the order. My father had his diary with him, a little red memo book, when he was captured. He hid it during his time as a prisoner of war and dared not write in it. On his way home, he began writing again; as much as he could remember about his time as a POW. More than 30 years later, he added more details and then finished it."

After encouraging his father to record and submit his memories to the WWII Veterans History Project, Swope learned that many veterans needed help in preparing and submitting their memories for the project. He began travelling throughout the area providing that help on a volunteer basis, and his wife Noreen and son Mike were supportive in these efforts.

The book and program that coincidentally resulted do not comprise a history or documentary. "Instead, they capture the unique moments remembered by individual soldiers," Swope explains. "War is more than facts and figures. Ask the veterans about their experiences and they will tell stories of friendship, fear, sadness, hope ... Maybe they remember a brush with death or a moment of faith ... Or maybe the day the latrine blew up and all they could do was laugh! Such stories are rarely found in official accounts."

THE VETERANS HAVE shared such memories as: The humanity of civilians during the Bataan Death March when Filipinos risked and sometimes lost their lives trying to help American prisoners ... A laid-back teenager's instant maturity at Pearl Harbor ... Bodies stacked at Iwo Jima beach to make way for military vehicles ... An Army bride enduring terror in Luftwaft bombings, then walking the next day with her children among spring flowers ...

They have spoken of the pain of such things as: Military buddies looking out for each other and then losing each other ... Pilots on D-Day looking down at the destruction of "those kids on the beach; the same age as we were"... Medics recalling with equal clarity that they could save some people, yet do nothing for others ... A young Army nurse noticing the awful but "actually beautiful" tracer patterns of enemy aircraft at night ... An officer and PFC in a foxhole, missing death by inches and realizing rank had disappeared between them for that moment when "we were just two men with the fear of death between us" ...
Swope has shared the words of a variety of veterans, including: The college freshman who was first refused by the military because he was almost blind without his glasses, and later quickly accepted when the need was great ... The battle-hardened marine coming home after war and gratefully finding the aging dog of his pre-war boyhood was incredibly happy to see him again ... Tom Swope's own father, so physically destroyed after escaping captivity and finding his way back to American troops that it was only the unexpected and respectful salute from a high officer that could bring him back to feeling human (That officer was General Dwight D. Eisenhower) ...
The stories remind us that war is fought by human beings. In helping them to share their words with future generations, for inspiration and reflection, Swope underscores our debt to these people who served us well in such a bitter time. And he has solidly set their efforts into history.

AND SO, on behalf of U.S. veterans of every war, I salute Tom Swope and people like him, on this Veterans Day 2014.