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Local veterans remember WWII

Posted May 31, 2010

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— Local veterans Arnold Aiken and Rudy Tempesta vividly remember World War II.

Aiken, 86, a member of the U.S. Navy, recalls traveling the Pacific Ocean, stopping at such places as Leyte Gulf, Okinawa and Iwo Jima.

“We would go and try to soften up the beach in front of the troops before they landed and fire those mortars and rockets we had,” he said.

Web only: Full interview with Arnold Aiken Full interview with Arnold Aiken

Tempesta, 84, flew 21 missions over Europe with the U.S. Air Force. He was a gunner on a B-24 Liberator. Crouched in a turret in the belly of the bomber, Tempesta said he had to be focused.

These veterans have hung on to tangible and emotional memories –- some, easier to stomach than others. At times they thought they wouldn't make it home.

“You just have to accept every mission you go on (that) you’re going to die,” Tempesta said.

Web only: Full interview with Rudy Tempesta Full interview with Rudy Tempesta

Aiken and Tempesta answered the call of their country 65 years ago. Both believe it's unlikely the country will know a time without war.

Tempesta said his sons – aged 19 and 24 – will definitely not follow his lead into the military.

“Because it’s a suicide mission,” he said.

Despite serving in the war, neither man has visited the World War II Memorial erected in their honor in Washington D.C. Both have applied to be part of the Triangle Flight of Honor, which will bring veterans in groups of 100 on a chartered flight to the memorial. WRAL is a partner in the project.

Veterans do not pay the $500 cost for their seat, organizers said. Instead, they are either sponsored by specific fund-raising projects, or they apply for general admission, and public donations are used to support the remaining expense of each flight.

To donate to the Flight of Honor, visit any Triangle area Bank of America branch.

The Triangle Flight of Honor's inaugural trip is scheduled for Thursday, October 7.

Flight of Honor originate from various locations in the country.


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  • NC Reader Jun 1, 2010

    These brave men (and women who served as well) are dying in large numbers every day. Read the obituaries in the paper. They often tell fascinating stories about these veterans.

  • 5-113 FA Retired Jun 1, 2010

    OK, when you two spelling bee stars are done patting yourselves on the back for being able to look something up in a dictionary, you can get back to your video games.

    Obviously, you see no connection between the freedoms you have vs. what it cost to have them. Or maybe you just don't appreciate those from the last great generation. They are getting fewer in numbers day-by-day. And just to follow up, if you don't know how to tell if some "elderly" person belonged to this generation, just thereaten to kick their keester. If you're still able to stand, guess what genious; you found one.

  • shawna May 31, 2010

    LoL @ "Lady Gulf". My kid knows better than that....and he's 10. No wonder the news organizations in this country are so bad.

  • dizman1965 May 31, 2010

    Mr Crabtree and Ms Hanrahan, you may want to do some brushing up on your geography and WWII history. It is not "Lady Gulf" it is Leyte Gulf and it is and island in the Phillpines and was the site of one of the largest Naval battles ever fought.