Who are the men of the Greatest Generation? They’re the men who went off to fight in the Big One. And they’re the men who came home from that war and built the nations of the western world into economic powerhouses. They knew the meaning of sacrifice. They were humble men who never bragged about what they had done or been through. They were loyal, patriotic and level-headed. They are our Greatest Generation. Army Private First Class Fred P. Dallas is one of those men. He and his wife Doris live in Fayetteville. He talked about his World War II experience at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum as the Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau kicked off Heroes Homecoming.
The community’s first Heroes Homecoming series of events was staged five years ago to belatedly honor returning veterans of the Vietnam War. This year, the community honors veterans of World War II. Most events are in October and will culminate on Veterans Day in November. The Airborne and Special Operations Museum has already dedicated about 40 percent of its gallery to World War II, according to ASOM Foundation Executive-Director Paul Galloway. It’s a self-guided tour that includes a C-47 aircraft mockup, a re-creation of a Normandy village and images of the European and Pacific theaters.
“Our town is a point of departure and return for thousands of vets every year,” observed Mike Gillis of the Cumberland County Veterans Council. “It is imperative that we maintain the memories and legacies” of those who have gone before us,” he added.
More than 16 million American men and women served in the Great War. There were 407,000 casualties among them. Dallas joined the Army in 1943 and was assigned to the 45th Infantry Division in Italy. He was captured by the Germans in 1944 and spent six months in Stalag 12A and Stalag 4B before being repatriated. Stalags were German prisoner of war camps for non-commissioned military captives. Dallas was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Prisoner of War Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge and Good Conduct Medal. “
“Be the best U.S. citizen you can be,” he often says. “Love your country and always vote, is the message that I would like to leave with the younger generation.”
The Heroes Homecoming Field Guide notes that World War II was the most devastating war in history. Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division were among the first to engage the enemy in the battle of Normandy having been dropped behind enemy lines. They fought for 33 straight days and lost more than 5,000 men. Today there are fewer than 800,000 surviving World War II veterans in the world with more than 430 of them dying every day. After the war, the 82nd, America’s Guard of Honor, was permanently stationed at Fort Bragg, and the post became known as the home of the airborne.
The Greatest Generation lived by the credo of human decency honoring courage, duty, sacrifice, personal responsibility, humility, bravery and camaraderie. They paid it forward for generations to come.