WW II Vets File Memories
(Paratroopers Have Web Site)

Part II of Cover Story

By:  Ronald  J. Hanson  

Published   Friday 6/25/98



The Men helping preserve history of World War II are (from left) Patrick O'Donnell, Major Shawn Faherty (US Army) and Peter Bostrom. Veterans can record their memories on the volunteer's web site.                    (Photo by Roger Richards/The Washington Times)

Patrick O'Donnell realized years ago that World War II paratrooper veterans were a treasure trove of history and too often died without sharing their stories for posterity.

Six years ago, Mr. O'Donnell, 28, began interviewing veterans and in 1996 found the perfect medium to share the oral histories: the Internet.

His Web an ever-expanding "virtual museum" for veterans and those who want to learn their stories.

"Our goal is to talk to as many airborne World War II vets as we can," the Fairfax Station, VA, resident said.

"We're not trying to glorify war. The purpose is to capture their voices and experiences." With technical assistance from Peter Bostrom and MAJ Shawn Faherty (US Army), the Drop Zone provides 1,200 pages of spoken memories of veterans and their pictures. The site also connects paratroopers electronically. 

Veteran Jack Hertzig, 75, of Falls Church, VA, keeps up with old friends via e-mail.   he is one of several area veterans featured on the Drop Zone.

In an entry titled "Revenge is Mine," Annandale resident William Katzenstien tells of his flight from Germany as a young Jew and his return to Europe to battle the Nazis as a paratrooper. District (of Columbia) resident Albert Pierson, a 99-year-old World War I veteran who served as a General in World War II, tells of the landing in Japan as part of the American occupying force in 1945.

"I'm very surprised. Of all the people we've talked to, only one or two have said they're afraid of computers," Mr. O'Donnell said. He estimates that he has interviewed about 400 veterans.

The site attracts as many as 10,000 visitors per week, said Mr. Bostrom, a former paratrooper.

Eventually, Mr. O'Donnell wants to expand the site to include paratroopers from the Korean and Vietnam wars.

"Once these guys are gone, it's going to be a sad day," Mr. Faherty, 34 said. "But we're going to keep this going."



1998 The Washington Times