WWII veterans share experiences of war at symposium
BY JERRY WOFFORD World Staff Writer
Monday, October 08, 2012
11/08/12 at 11:00 AM
BROKEN ARROW - Ed Vezey took his new, brilliantly white Navy uniform cap off and sat it in the corner, placed his pistol on top of it and jumped off the USS Oklahoma.
The ship was in Pearl Harbor that December morning and Vezey, who worked the anti-aircraft guns topside aboard the Oklahoma, knew he had to get off as the ship was rolling. But, in the midst of the chaos and death and destruction, he still carefully placed his cap down before he fell into the fiery water.
"You do in these situations what you're trained to do," Vezey said. "Unfortunately, there is no training for falling off the ship."
Vezey, now 92, is the last remaining survivor of the USS Oklahoma who still lives in this state. He told the story of his experience that infamous day on the first day of the World War II symposium, hosted by Northeastern State University's Broken Arrow Campus.
The monthlong session will feature WWII veterans and those who lived through the experience sharing their stories about every aspect of the war, from its surprise beginning at Pearl Harbor to the civilians making airplanes in Tulsa to the beaches of Normandy.
"There are still a lot of veterans out there to tell their stories," said Linda Wilson, associate professor in the College of Education at NSU Broken Arrow and symposium coordinator. "It's one thing to watch it on YouTube. But it's another to shake their hand and ask questions."
Last week's session featured two area Pearl Harbor survivors, the son of a survivor whose father recently passed away and an author who chronicled the USS Oklahoma battleship.
Vezey was a junior officer on the Oklahoma when Pearl Harbor was attacked Dec. 7, 1941. He said that when the first torpedo hit the Oklahoma, the carnage was immediate for those at their battle stations below deck.
"Most of them were killed almost instantly," Vezey said. "The sea just rushed in."
The ship began to sink and hit the bottom of the harbor, causing it to roll onto its port side. In less than 15 minutes, it had rolled nearly completely over.
"Anyone who got off alive was off in 11 minutes," Vezey said. "We were being strafed (by gunfire), being bombed, being torpedoed. There were a lot of ways to get killed that day."
He survived that day and the rest of his time in the Pacific Theater, but it's those whose stories were lost that day who are the real heroes, he said.
World War II Symposium
Oct. 9: Battles in Europe. Former Army infantry soldiers who were in Northern Africa and Sicily, Italy, and were part of the Battle of the Bulge will speak about their experience.
Oct. 16: Battles in the Pacific. Marines and sailors who fought at Okinawa and Iwo Jima, served on a submarine and experienced Japanese kamikaze pilots will talk about the Asian front.
Oct. 23: World War II on the Home Front. A representative from the Tulsa Air and Space Museum will speak about the Tulsamerican and workers who were employed at Douglas Aircraft in Tulsa. Several of the women riveters who built airplanes at Spartan in Tulsa and also at a plant in Wichita, Kan., will also speak.
Oct. 30: POWs. American prisoners of war who were captured in Europe and served time in camps run by the Germans will speak and also a woman from Bixby who lived across the road from the POW camp in rural Bixby.
Nov. 6: D-Day Invasion/V-E Day/V-J Day. Soldiers who were on the beaches at Normandy on D-Day will speak, as well as a speaker who was part of Operation Downfall, the mission for the land invasion of Japan. This operation was canceled due to the dropping of the atomic bombs that led to the surrender of Japan.
Each session is held at Northeastern State University's Broken Arrow campus in the Administration Building's auditorium 6-8 p.m. Cost is $30 to attend all sessions.
Contact Linda Wilson at 918-449-6000, ext. 4610, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Original Print Headline: WWII veterans share experiences
Jerry Wofford 918-581-8310
Ed Vezey, who survived the Pearl Harbor attack while aboard the USS Oklahoma, talks about his time on the ship during a World War II symposium at Northeastern State University's Broken Arrow campus last week. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World