A Grassroots History of World War II: Eight Men in Granite


The two elderly sisters sat nervously at their kitchen table. After sixty-three years, the memories of their brother's death in World War II Europe still brought anguish and apprehension to their faces. Their brother's service picture had been carefully removed from the living room wall and tenderly placed on the table between us. Thus began the research on the eight men whose names appear on the gray granite marker in front of the Randolph, Ohio town hall: Robert E. Francisco, Henry B. Wise, George Reisinger, Robert H. Hillard, Elmer L. Leech, William H. Bettes, George M. Buzek, and Donald A. Dibble. The author felt that they-and all of the Americans who paid the supreme sacrifice for our freedom-deserved more than their names inscribed on a cold stone monument or a weather-worn bronze marker. Other interviews with members of the "greatest generation" ensued. Service letters, v-mail, and photographs were generously donated to the project. Unit histories and service personnel records were scoured, and the microfilm reels of local wartime newspapers were examined. None of the eight men were close buddies, although they were probably aware of the others who lived in the rural community. They had different personalities; each had his own goals in life and strong family ties. Most of them had a sweetheart waiting for them. They all had a great sense of humor, and after the war they all intended to come home to Randolph to pursue their dreams. This is the story of their childhood days and the local to international events of their time. It is also about the outfits in which they served, where they trained and fought, and the circumstances of their death. Then there was the aftermath which seemingly lasts forever. First, the difficult decision as to the permanent burial of the soldier arose. (Two of the men were lost at sea, yet their relatives still hoped for a miraculous survival.) Only one soldier's remains were returned home. To their close friends and siblings, their memories remained forever young, forever fresh. To the author, the eight men became like friends. May the reader also become friends with Bobby, Frisco, Barny, Billy, George, Don, Elmer, and George Jr.; and may the reader be moved to learn more about their own local servicemen of World War II.


Richard J. Staats


2008, 5½x8½, paper, 362 pp.

ISBN: 9780788447563