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Listen to profiles of World War II veterans Bob Rosendahl and Wayne Barnhart. Both men fought in the Pacific theatre.
In 1944, at the age of 19, Wayne Barnhart was drafted and entered the Navy. Before he left home, he had an idea he'd be going to war in the Pacific. He also knew any letters he might send home would be censored if he disclosed his location. So, he bought two identical maps of the South Pacific. He assigned numbers to each of the islands. He took one map with him and left the other map with his parents. In his letters to his mother, he'd let her know where he was by putting a name that wasn't a family name with the number for the corresponding island. It was a secret code.
Well before he headed out to the Mariannas, Wayne Barnhart started his military career with boot camp in Idaho. He trained at Treasure Island in San Francisco. He headed to Hawaii after extensive training. He was on a destroyer and helped with one of the guns.
Barnhart first experienced battle while he was on a ship at Iwo Jima. He recalls that his ship was there to provide support.
When the marines landed there, they faced a heavily fortified and armed island.
It was a bloody battle and also an iconic one thanks in no small part to the photograph of six soldiers raising the U.S. flag. Barnhart's ship was nearby for that historic moment.
From Iwo Jima, Barnhart's destroyer went to Okinawa to help land the troops. With the troops on shore, the Navy displayed groups of ships around the island, something called picket duty.
Three Japanese kamikaze planes hit Wayne Barnhart's ship but it stayed afloat...then there was a 4th plane that dove vertically into the destroyer. That's the plane that finally sunk the ship.
For Wayne Barnhart, the attack on his ship was a close call.
Barnhart had a device around his waste he was able to inflate so he could float when he hit the water. He made it to a raft...he and his buddies waited.
Following his rescue, Barnhart went back to San Francisco where he received a warm welcome.
Back in the 1980's, Wayne Barnhart began sharing his war stories with students of all ages. He often shows the students the clothes he was wearing when his ship went down.
He says history simply means more when a student hears about it from someone who lived it.
Wayne Barnhart lives in Springfield with Betty, his wife of nearly 60 years. They have four children. He retired after a long career as a public school teacher and administrator though he's never really stopped teaching about World War II.