Final Chapter

KETC-TV is collecting stories from St. Louis’ veterans of World War II – while there’s still time left.

Herrmann believes her father's silence was as much for his own sake as hers. "Not talking was a way to become more civilized," she says. "It was a way to forget and heal."

Some of the anecdotes in Your Stories are about veterans who never healed. Hilary Flanery of Crestwood wrote about her father John Smith, now dead. Smith, an artist, always signed his paintings "Winocki." "His buddies had asked him to sign his paintings that way, so when they all got back, they would know who he was," Flanery says. But they were all killed in the Battle of Peleliu. Smith was blinded in one eye by a piece of shrapnel.

"He never even talked to Mom about the war," Flanery says. "He really hated it. I truly believe he suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome. He would wake up with night terrors. He would relive the battles. He would swear that the enemy was behind the chest of drawers." Flanery was only able to piece her father's story together after he died, with the help of news clippings she discovered in her parents' attic.

Red Dillion (right) and his son Paul have contibuted much to KETC's Your Stories.
Jennifer Silverberg
Red Dillion (right) and his son Paul have contibuted much to KETC's Your Stories.

Red Dillon was not so much traumatized by his war experiences as he was eager to put them behind him. "I didn't want to come home and be one of those barroom guys telling war stories," he says. "I wanted to live a normal life. No kidding, I wanted to settle down. I came home and started looking for a job."

DeGregorio threw himself into a life of frenetic activity so he wouldn't have time to think about the war. He worked two jobs to put his seven children through college and, on the side, coached soccer and gave guided tours of the Hill. "You wake up slowly," he says. "It takes years."

Now that the veterans have started to speak about their war experiences, some are surprised and flattered by the interest of younger generations. "It makes them feel special," Paul Dillon says.

For Red Dillon, meanwhile, it has become easier to talk about the war that claimed more than 400,000 American lives. "I went through it," he says. "Why hide it?"

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