‘The greatest generation’: Southern Utah honors its surviving World War II veterans

ST. GEORGE — Thursday was a sad, yet special, day for Washington County’s veteran community.

In one part of town, there was the sadness as hundreds paid their respects for Sgt. Bryan “Cooper” Mount, an 82nd Airborne paratrooper and Southern Utah resident who died from non-combat injuries in Syria on July 21.

Amid the sadness, there was cause for celebration in a separate event that paid honor to Southern Utah’s last 81 surviving World War II veterans.

Approximately 50 friends, family members, and community and state leaders gathered at Washington County Regional Park during a salute to their service. A baker’s dozen of local WWII veterans attended the event.

David Cordero, the city of St. George communications and marketing director as well as chairman of the Veteran’s Coalition of Southern Utah, took great reverence in the chance to celebrate the lives of the area’s surviving vets.

Duty, honor, country — hallmark sentiments of every serviceman who served during World War II. A group of the last surviving vets from what has been called the greatest generation was honored Thursday for the sacrifices they made during the war. St. George, Utah, Aug. 6, 2020 | Photo by David Louis, St. George News

“This is our chance to figuratively wrap our arms around our veterans and say thank you for their courage, their service and their sacrifice,” Cordero said. “But, time is nobody’s friend.”

In 2019, there were about 500,000 WWII vets still living according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Approximately 350-400 veterans from what is called the greatest generation die every day, according to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

“I continually am awed by these men and women,” Cordero said. “I’ve wondered how they have handled the greatest adventure of their lives, many of them leaving their small towns to be shipped out (thousands) of miles away. How did they summon enough courage to make invasions on hostile shores, face fetid jungles of the Southwest Pacific or parachute into enemy territory? At what point did they truly realize that they risked their tomorrow for our today?”

The featured speaker was Hurricane resident and U.S. Army Air Corps Staff Sgt. Roland Hall, who served during World War II as a paratrooper in the 188th Glider Infantry Regiment of the 11th Airborne Divison that experienced combat action in the Philippines.

“I was very lucky, fortunate and also blessed to make it without very little damage to my system,” Hall said. “We were sent to Luzon where the airborne division suffered about 75% frontline casualties in the battle of Manilla.”

To this day, Hall’s memories are sharp of the sights and smells of every combat mission.

Army Staff Sgt. Roland Hall recalled his harrowing memories during World War as a member of the 188th Glider Infantry Regiment of the 11th Airborne Divison. St. George, Utah, Aug. 6, 2020 | Photo by David Louis, St. George News

“It was after dark and you couldn’t see what was going on, but the enemy knew what the target was and they started shooting at us. But our troops came prepared and started opening up from behind … and wrecked the whole mountainside. It was like the Fourth of July.”

Prior to the celebration, St. George Mayor Jon Pike paid respect to the surviving WWII vets.

“I think it’s important that we learn the stories from as many of these veterans as possible,” Pike said. “They are truly members of the greatest generation. We need to do whatever we can do to get perspective from these amazing people who have incredible stories about service to their country that most of us haven’t heard.”

The best one-liner of the day came from Army vet Clift Spendlove, who served in the European Theater.

When asked what he did during World War II, Spendlove said, “People always ask me that same question. They also ask me if I killed anybody. I don’t know for sure, but I might have killed a few — I was the company cook.”

World War II vets currently living in Southern Utah

  • William Anderson
  • Paul Anderson
  • Jame Carlos Bishop
  • Gary Bogenhagen
  • Kenneth Brown
  • Ronald Bucher
  • Lyle Bunker
  • James Bunker
  • Joseph Burgess
  • James F. Cavin
  • Rupert E. Clark
  • Don W. Clegg
  • John W. Combes
  • Robert Covington
  • Parke Cox
  • Jack Davidson
  • Joseph Ellison
  • Irvin J. Ence
  • Paul W. Erekson
  • Thomas Flenniken
  • Victor Frei
  • Nathan E. Goode
  • Orwin Gubler
  • Robert Hagenbaugh
  • Roland A. Hall
  • Weldon Heaton
  • Keith L. Henrie
  • J.W. Hirschi
  • George Hoover
  • Margaret Howell
  • Wallace Ray Humphreys
  • Cleo B. Isom
  • George Kehew
  • Legrand Kleinman
  • Russel SD Kreider
  • Edward Kurtzeborn
  • Scott N. Lee
  • Richard M. Lee
  • Roy G. Lobb
  • Earl D. Lowe
  • Leona Marck
  • Darrel P. Miller
  • Douglas Myers
  • Leroy N. Nisson
  • Ned Owens
  • Joseph Pace
  • Leroy F. Phipps
  • Howard Putnam
  • Jack Reber
  • Russel Robertson
  • Joseph Rondo
  • Roddy L. Roper
  • Daniel E. Schmutz
  • Salvadore A. Sciuto
  • Laine E. Sevy
  • Alex Sky
  • Kenneth A. Smith
  • Benny E. Smoody
  • Lamaun Sorensen
  • Clifton Spendlove
  • Robert Steed
  • Robert Stevens
  • Gerald Stoddard
  • Ralph Stringham
  • Doyle Swallow
  • Robert Thurman
  • Spencer Truman
  • Grant L. Twitchell
  • Burke V. Waldron
  • Ivan V. Walton Jr.
  • David Webb
  • James Weiss
  • Derold Wertz
  • Don E. Whipperman
  • Willard White
  • Paul Wilson
  • Lewis Woodland
  • Charles Woodward
  • Paul Young

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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