Best of Living in Iowa 150

Best of Living in Iowa 150


The Best of Living in Iowa
is funded in part by the Gilchrist Foundation,
founded by Jocelyn Gilchrist, furthering the
philanthropic interest of the Gilchrist family in
wildlife and conservation, the arts and public
broadcasting and disaster relief. Funding for this program
was provided by Friends, the Iowa Public Television
Foundation, generations of families and friends who
feel passionate about the programs they watch on
Iowa Public Television. Hello, this is
Morgan Halgren. For 16 seasons, Living in
Iowa told the tale of what it means to be
uniquely Iowan. Tonight we honor that
spirit by bringing you another glimpse into our
rich heritage with a few stories from our archives. In this episode of the
Best of Living in Iowa, we talk with brave Iowa
crewmen who flew in the B29 super fortress
during World War II. Explore the work of Native
American poet and novelist Ray Youngbear. And we’ll hear the
compelling story of Janusz Bardach who survived five
years in Stalin’s gulags. ♪♪ Many who have
served in the Armed Forces have seen firsthand the
price of democracy. Veterans of World War
II have carried that awareness with them
for nearly 60 years. In July of 2002, a select
group of veterans gathered in Cedar Rapids to
remember an airplane that symbolizes their priceless
contribution to freedom. ♪♪ It was known as
the super fortress and many believe it was the
weapon that won the war in the Pacific. It was the B29 bomber. Designed to carry large
bomb loads long distances, it also had a pressurized
cabin allowing it to fly high over enemy defenses. Its own defenses were
interconnected with primitive computers that
allowed all five gun turrets to be aimed and
fired from one location. And on August 6th of 1945
it was a B29 named the Enola Gay that
ended World War II. The B29, perhaps you know,
is probably best known because it dropped
the two atomic bombs. But we did probably a year
of bombing before they carried the atomic bombs. ♪♪ Merle Gerry was
stationed on Saipan during World War II. Saipan was one of the
Marianas Islands just within striking
distance to Japan. There were three
Marianas Islands. Saipan was the first drop
and then Tinian and then Guam. Even though the B29 had
the greatest bombing range of any bombers we had it
still was about to the limit of the distance
we could fly. The other airplanes could
not reach Japan from those islands. So that was one of the
purposes of taking those Marianas Islands, getting
us within bombing reach of Japan. Not only a lot of
distance, but a lot of time has separated Merle
from the war in the Pacific and the
B29 super fortress. When World War II ended,
Merle moved back home to Iowa. Nowadays he volunteers
at the grout museum in Waterloo where he
catalogues materials. I haven’t seen that plane
for about 58 years I guess. After I got off the
airplane after a 16 hour flight to Japan around
midnight I guess I walked away from it and I never
went back and probably two months later I was
on my way home. But I’ve never seen
one since that time. Built by Boeing, the B29
was manufactured in five different factories. The last B29 was built in
1946 on the 28th of May in a factory in
Renton, Washington. And even though nearly
4,000 B29’s were built, only one is still
capable of flight. It is named Fifi and
it is operated by the commemorative Air Force. On July 29th of 2002, it
touched down at the Cedar Rapids Airport giving
Merle and a group of B29 veterans an opportunity
to step back in time. ♪♪ I was a
bombardier navigator. Harold Madsen was
originally stationed with the 20th Air Force in
India but was later transferred to the
Marianas Island of Tinian. I flew two of the fire
raids over Tokyo and those nights about 800 planes
dropped fire bombs on Tokyo. The whole city
was on fire. You could see flames
for 100 miles or so. They were tough. They burnt up a lot
of things in Japan. But we had to do it. They were the ones that
started this thing so we had to end it and we
did in fine fashion. Bob Lonergan was stationed
on Saipan as a crew chief and flight engineer. We trained together, we
lived together, we prayed together and brother we
hoped that we did a lot to win the war. They’re all in that mess
together and you’re all dealing on the same thing,
trying to win the war and go home. ♪♪ As a personal
equipment officer, Wendell Van Syoc counted the
planes as they returned from each mission and saw
some so damaged that they crashed while landing. There’s three of us in a
Jeep and we saw this plane coming in and he hit the
end of the runway and this was the result. So we started dragging
some people that had been thrown out of the plane,
we started dragging them away from the heat and we
kept dragging them away across the runway,
dragging them away from the heat and I looked back
and this was horrible, there was one guy up there
in that bombardier part just waving all around in
there, the heat was coming on his tail, he just
had to die right there. ♪♪ That plane was Hog
Wild was the name of it and it was wild all right. Eugene Harwood
was a navigator. His job was to navigate
his plane to the bomb site where the bombardier
would then take over. But it was on a mission
to drop supplies on a prisoner of war camp that
his plane was shot down forcing him and six
others to bail out. We found out that the war
was over on our way home, on our way back to Guam,
that was the longest mission we flew,
took us 17 hours. Russell Cantine was a
navigator stationed on Guam and was on the last
bombing mission over Japan. Russell was also part of
the armada of over 1,200 planes that flew over the
Battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay as Japan signed
the peace treaty ending World War II. ♪♪ Bob Neymeyer,
historian for the Grout Museum District, is
working to make sure we don’t forget there
is a price to pay for democracy. Bob has begun collecting
oral histories from veterans of all wars,
histories that will be part of the Grout Museum’s
collection in a new Sullivan Brothers
veteran’s addition. As a historian it’s not
only an important, it’s a critical resource. If we don’t have these
stories all we have is the written word written by
historians that often times were second or third
time removed from the story itself. So it is an important
primary resource that we have to have. A second part of it is
that if you didn’t have all these folks the war
wouldn’t have happened, the victory wouldn’t have
been won, D-Day wouldn’t have happened. It’s a great story. ♪♪ Just as Tilly
Woodward was able to inspire by accentuating
the positive, our next artist Ray Youngbear
makes his contribution by creating art that combines
the best and most meaningful elements of
his Meskwaki heritage. That requires that he
pass the time living that heritage. ♪♪ (chanting) Ray
Youngbear and some of his relatives offer a glimpse
into Native American culture through their
songs, dances and poetry. Youngbear is most noted
around the country as a poet. But his artistic
expression is wider than the poetic form. He is also a singer, an
artist and a novelist. On this pine ridge behind
his home Ray finds inspiration. I tend to view myself as
an individual primarily who happens to be a Native
American living in the state of Iowa who is also
a Midwesterner and an American. And so my writing style is
unique in a sense that I tend to utilize various
aspects of nature. The very fact that my wife
and I live on this hill is to me very,
very important. And so I take various
aspects of nature, mythology, pop culture and
then include in it some of my dreams and images. And so it’s a compilation
of a lot of images and they are intertwined. The trick of course is to
try to make them mean, come out to
mean something. And so sometimes they
don’t come out with one specific meaning and so
often times critics and teachers are
puzzled by my work. (chanting) I am primarily
my grandmother’s messenger. Most of my work stems
from her teaching. I like this spot very much
and one of the reasons why is there are several birds
of prey that come here, three or four varieties,
and so my wife and I are intrigued by them, my wife
being from an eagle clan and we often times hear
these various hawks as well as young eagles
call to one another. And so we come up here and
basically look at them, and the birds on return
look down upon us and they know that we are of
no danger to them. They are very beautiful
birds and so we respect them for that, the fact
that they make their nest back here is a sign that
they trust us and so we take great pride
in that fact. (chanting) (chanting) (chanting) (chanting) ♪♪ ♪♪ One
doesn’t get to know me through one point, you
have to read a lot of my works before you can come
up with some sort of an idea of where I’m going. (drum beats) Currently Ray is modifying
where he is going as a writer. His latest work is an
autobiographical sequel to his highly successful
Black Eagle Child. Youngbear is leaving
behind some of his surreal imagery in favor of a
more conventional style. It was the first
anniversary of Uncle David’s return from
a war — overseas. Through the wild,
unabashed process of adolescence, the quiet,
unmitigating presence of South Vietnam
would slip past us. It was there though,
waiting to take shape. Strangely, the one
tangible evidence David brought back was
a 35mm camera. Being the oldest nephew
it became a source of fascination. I sometimes borrowed
it without permission. Since my younger brothers
and sisters were ever present they became
instant subjects. This is where Todd came
in as my assistant. Their childhood and where
we lived could be spread out over the tablecloth
like playing cards. Many nights were also
spent under the giant oak trees with the camera’s
aperture held open to the sky capturing the
silhouettes of — and the silver rings
around the moon. The moon ring series,
however, did not impress the photography club
teacher who imparted a lesson on bigotry. But I was undeterred. My parents, Leonard and
Chloe Youngbear, had no trouble fueling my
artistic interest with rolls and rolls of film. And so with the eventual
publishing of this latest book, Ray Youngbear
moves forward. But on occasion he echoes
the images, events, myths and various cultures that
have become his poetry and songs. Last night when the yellow
moon of November broke through the last line
of turbulent Midwestern clouds, a lone frog, the
same one who probably announced a premature
spring floods, attempted to sing. Veterans Day and it was
sore throat weather. In reality thy invisible
musician, this frog, reminded me of my own
doubt, the knowledge that my grandfathers were
singers as well as composers, one of whom
felt the simple utterance of a vow made for the
start of a melody, did not produce the necessary
memory or feeling to make a — veteran’s song. As an act of sharing, and
as a representation of the elemental fragments in
Ray’s own work, he invites members of the audience to
join in the circle dance. (chanting) ♪♪ The
following story should help us put the
difficulties of our daily lives into perspective. The journey of Janusz
Bardach from Poland to Iowa via Siberian labor
camps was truly a torturous one and his
survival nothing short of a miracle. His optimistic nature
helped him both endure the unspeakable horrors of the
camps and then to go on to establish a career
of helping others. ♪♪ ♪♪ This is
the story of a man who was destined to live his life
and become a healer, who cheated death many times,
and who lived to tell the dramatic tale of surviving
Stalin’s dehumanizing labor camps in Siberia. It’s a story how millions
of people were treated and perished. I was young, probably
strong at that time, and I survived. I was lucky. But most people didn’t
have this luck. Luck and a strong will
kept Janusz Bardach alive to tell his story in a
book titled Man is Wolf to Man, Surviving the Gulag. During World War II,
Janusz, a 20 year old Polish Jew, escaped the
Nazi invasion by fleeing to Russia where he was
forced to enlist in the Red Army. Even though Janusz hated
the Nazis, he was still considered a foreigner and
not to be trusted in the era of Joseph Stalin’s
paranoid reign of terror. Janusz was accused of
treason and sentenced to death. The pit I was ordered
to dig had the precise dimensions of a coffin. The Soviet officer bound
my wrists and ankles, told me to kneel and pushed
me into the dirt. These would be my last
breaths, I thought. I waited for the shot,
the bullet penetrating my brain. I didn’t feel sorry for
myself, only sorry that my loved ones would
never find my grave. I waited, waited, but
there was no sound. Janusz’s life was spared. But what lay ahead felt
like a death sentence, five years of hard
labor in the Siberia of Siberia’s Kolyma. A six month trek across
Russia in crowded cattle cars and ships was only
the beginning of his death defying odyssey. This was another case when
I was, I jumped out of the cattle car and I was
caught and beaten badly. And the guy says, I would
shoot you but it’s so much paperwork. What does it do to you
psychologically to be that close and then to
escape so many times? I really never thought
about this that I was so close. It’s hard to say that I
never believed that it will be my last moment. It’s my nature that I
didn’t let it come that close to me, the horror of
it or the danger of it. I kept it at a distance. How many prisoners were
sent to those camps? Some people say there were
25 million Soviet citizens who were killed by Stalin. But what I can tell you,
that in cattle cars you have to lay on the left
side and if somebody turns to the right everybody
has to turn to the right. And this was the same as
the cells and it was many times the same
in the barracks. It was packed. The guard opened the door
and pushed me and two others inside, hot reeking
air blasted in my face. The acrid smells of sweat
and urine stung my eyes and nose. I felt pinned at the door
by the insulant gazes of dozens of prisoners
already crowded into the cell. I stayed near the latrine
barrel where there was just enough space to lean
against the door, the only spot where I wouldn’t
be pressing against the slimy, stinking
flesh of other men. I’m trying to stay alive. I will do everything, I
work hard, I am hungry, I’m hungry, I’m cold, I’m
cold so everybody around is the same. But I’m not
going to give up. In the vast remote Kolyma
region where winter lasts eight months the slave
laborers were forced to mine silver and gold
in frozen Earth. To get their meager daily
food rations they had to make their norm,
meaning their quota. Not mining your norm
brought a downward spiral of weakness, sickness,
starvation and death. Conditions are so harsh. The loads of prisoners
were coming in and in so you live or die,
nobody cares. Most people died from
exhaustion and hunger. I felt more and
more hunger. The only way to fend off
despair and depression was not to think. Thoughts crawled into my
mind like serpents, but I learned to sever them with
the thrust of a shovel or pick axe. I broke time down into
hours so that I only had to exercise my will
for short periods. I forbade myself to think
about the days ahead or about the length
of my sentence. Fighting, quarreling,
hunger and thoughts of suicide broke
prisoners down. Even Janusz reached a
breaking point allowing himself to be provoked
into a fight which landed him in the camp’s black
hole, the isolator. Tell the viewers that an
isolator is and how in a strange way it was a
turning point for you. Prison within a prison. It’s completely dark, it’s
filled a little bit with water so you can’t stand
and the bench you can sit on is very short and very
dirty and very slimy. So it’s horrible
conditions. And then you are fed once
a day and given water twice a day. In this place, thoughts of
suicide crept into Janusz Bardach’s mind. But as you’ll hear in
another passage from Man is Wolf to Man, those
desperate thoughts were replaced with
determination for a different destiny. On the fourth day in the
isolator a curious thing happened. I began to miss the mine,
everything I had hated, even with the work, filth,
violence and senseless death. In the dark cell, hungry
and shivering, I thought of all I had been through. Where was my
fate taking me? I felt at peace. I would fight for my life. The isolator had brought
me closer to the edge than I had ever been before. It’s more a mental
struggle than physical to stay alive and to
try to survive. It’s much more mental. One of the images that
haunts Janusz is that of dead bodies being stripped
of their clothing. The following passage
explains this seemingly cruel behavior. Janusz and another
prisoner had just survived a fiery truck crash. Together we removed the
jackets from the corpses and tucked them
around the survivors. We glanced at each other
thinking the same thing. He examined the jacket of
one dead prisoner, removed it and put it
on over his own. We said nothing about
the acquired clothing. Staying alive was not
completely a matter of luck for Janusz. He cleverly lied about
his medical experience to secure a job at a prison
hospital, a move that both saved him from certain
death in the mines and foreshadowed his future
career as a doctor. What were the things that
brought you comfort under those terrible conditions? When I had the feeling
that I am not living only for myself but I also do
something good for other people I was
very comforted. With help from his
brother, a colonel in the Polish Army, Janusz was
released from the camps and admitted to a
Soviet medical school. It would be the beginning
of a distinguished career of helping and
healing others. As a plastic surgeon
specializing in correcting facial deformities, now
Dr. Bardach was invited to join the University of
Iowa faculty in 1972 and became the Chairman of the
Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. The transition from slave
laborer to world class plastic surgeon is the
topic of another book written by Janusz and
co-author Kathleen Gleeson. Their collaboration began
with several textbooks on plastic surgery and
continued with their co-authorship of
Man is Wolf to Man. What did you think and
feel as this story unfolded? I just, I was just stunned
because I would get too caught up in the drama of
the events that I couldn’t really even write. So he would tell me the
story and I was on the edge of my seat. So he has inspired you? He has inspired
me very much, yes. He is just effervescent,
his energy is endless, and his love of people
is just endless. All the more remarkable
when you realize that after the war Janusz had
to face the reality of his family’s demise at the
hands of the Nazis. To protect surviving
family members still in Poland, Janusz waited many
years to begin writing his story. His daughter encouraged
him to continue and once he did he simply
could not stop. And then I kept writing
because I thought that people need to know
the truth about this Stalinism. There is so much about the
Nazism and there is so little written about the
Stalinism and Stalinism in my personal — not any
better than Nazism. Was this a cathartic
experience to write this book? No, I didn’t do it to
make myself feel better. I felt very good before. I felt basically very
good all my life. I could adjust to very bad
situations and I could adjust to very good
situations as well because it’s basically my
character is quite optimistic. ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ The Best of Living in Iowa is funded in
part by the Gilchrist Foundation, founded
by Jocelyn Gilchrist, furthering the
philanthropic interest of the Gilchrist family in
wildlife and conservation, the arts and public
broadcasting and disaster relief. Funding for this program
was provided by Friends, the Iowa Public Television
Foundation, generations of families and friends who
feel passionate about the programs they watch on
Iowa Public Television.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *