UNL researcher gathers war stories from Nebraska veterans - Omaha.com
Published Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 3:43 am
UNL researcher gathers war stories from Nebraska veterans

LINCOLN (AP) — Some Nebraska veterans have been sharing their war stories with a researcher from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, telling him things they've never told their families.

“It's easier for them to talk to someone they're not emotionally connected with,” said Brian O'Grady, a library staffer at UNL. But he said he's given copies of the interviews to their families.

O'Grady said his project stemmed from his interest in the World War II battle for the Pacific Ocean island of Tarawa.

“I've always been a World War II buff, almost all my life,” O'Grady said. “One thing I wanted to do was interview veterans who had been part of that battle.”

He'd planned to write scholarly articles about the three-day struggle but learned that the battle already had been thoroughly examined. So he said he turned his attention to Nebraska residents who'd survived the bloody fight.

His first interview was in 2006 with Tarawa veteran Eugene Horst, of Halsey, who manned a machine gun as a Marine.

“Their unique experiences are their own story that would never appear in the textbook probably but is a small piece to a puzzle, which is the story of World War II or the story of Pearl Harbor,” O'Grady said. He also has interviewed people who fought in Korea and Vietnam, as well as a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Gerald Bichlmeier talked with O'Grady about visiting the Nazi death camp at Buchenwald after it was liberated.

Soldiers had cleared away the bodies and moved survivors by the time he arrived, Bichlmeier said, but the odor of death and decay was overpowering.

“This was a stench that would make you vomit,” Bichlmeier told O'Grady.

A few weeks before Bichl­meier died, O'Grady gave a copy of the video interview to his daughter, Kathy Berrick. In the video, Bichlmeier talked about spending a night in a schoolhouse without a roof during the Battle of the Bulge, which began in December 1944. He said it was so cold, “you had to dance around to keep your feet warm.”

Berrick was transfixed by the interview.

“It was just so wonderful to see my dad speaking about things he hadn't spoken about in the past and getting to see all the different sides of him, including his sense of humor,” Berrick said.

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Rain expected to end by mid- to late morning
3 Nebraska Board of Education candidates call for high standards
Agreement reached to end dog racing at Bluffs Run at end of 2015
Douglas County Board candidates say they aren't ruled by party
96th Street to have head-to-head traffic
At NU's helm, J.B. Milliken built the university by building relationships with state leaders
Video: Stothert says Crossroads project is 'full speed ahead,' but she won't support bond issue
Ex-Obama official urges approval of Keystone XL pipeline
Benefit to be held for family of Omaha shooting victim
Omaha Personnel Board to weigh a ‘ban-the-box’ proposal for city job applications
New Alegent Creighton Clinic to open in Council Bluffs
Grace: Your older self has a request — use sunscreen
Kelly: Huskers' glory days of '80s live on — on the small screen and on stage
Beau McCoy calls Pete Ricketts a 'convenient conservative' for immigration stance
Police ID body found near 36th, Seward Streets
World champion Crawford's promoter working to have title defense at CenturyLink Center
Hail, strong winds, heavy rain hit south-central Nebraska
'Fairly old' human skull found in Mills County
Kelly: Started at a dining room table, Home Instead thriving at 20 with $1B in annual revenue
Omaha crash victim, 19, had touched many lives
Firefighters take on 'fully engulfed barn fire'
Council Bluffs school board approves new district headquarters
Officials announce effort to lure more veterans to Nebraska
SB 132nd Street lane closed
Shane Osborn grabs several endorsements
< >
COLUMNISTS »
Kelly: Huskers' glory days of '80s live on — on the small screen and on stage
The 1984 NFL draft was unusual for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, and these days it's remembered in the name of a rock band, the 1984 Draft. Tonight, the band will be featured nationally on the NFL Network in a documentary about — what else? — the 1984 draft.
Kelly: Started at a dining room table, Home Instead thriving at 20 with $1B in annual revenue
The idea that Paul Hogan had studied and then hatched at his mother's table was that older people, rather than moving in with relatives or to an assisted-living center, would much prefer to stay home instead.
Breaking Brad: Nebraska GOP candidates unified against naked squirrels
Some of these Nebraska campaigns are tilting pretty far right. At a recent forum, there was a consensus that we need to ban public dancing and clothe naked squirrels in public parks.
Breaking Brad: Inside the mind of a 99-year-old real estate agent
I saw an article about a 99-year-old real estate agent who's still working. “This house is extra special. It has indoor toilets!”
Breaking Brad: Into the claw machine! Florida kid follows Lincoln kid's lead
In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a child climbed inside a claw machine. Hey, Florida kid: Nobody likes a copycat.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
7M Grill
Half Off Delicious Comfort Fusion Food & Drinks!
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »