Local News

Local veterans remember WWII

Posted May 31, 2010 6:00 p.m. EDT
Updated May 31, 2010 7:42 p.m. EDT

— 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.

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.

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.