Saturday, September 08, 2007

Tribute to Our WWII Veterans

Local veterans participate in AETN documentary

For the residence located outside of White County AR., this may offer an opportunity to relive some memories.

Five men recount experiences in World War II

From the Searcy Daily Citizen, September 6, 2007:

CONWAY — Clarence Alvin Fowler and Ross Edward Bridger, both of Searcy and brothers, Leon Van Patten, Irvin Van Patten and Charles Van Patten, all of Searcy, were five of 47 World War II veterans who traveled with the Arkansas Educational Television Network to Washington, D.C., to visit the National World War II Memorial in a four-day “Tribute Tour” in June.

That trip has now been made into a 90-minute documentary that will premiere Sunday, Sept. 23, at 5 p.m. on AETN.

“Their Journey: A Veterans’ Tribute Tour,” a production of “In Their Words: AETN’s World War II Oral Histories Project,” follows 47 participants through the nation’s capitol as they visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Arlington National Cemetery, receive a special Evensong service and blessing at Washington’s National Cathedral and experience the memorial built in their honor at sunset.

They were selected to participate in the trip after being interviewed for the “In Their Words” project. This project allows AETN to archive firsthand knowledge of the war for use by future generations online and in the classroom, as well as providing a lasting memory for the interviewee’s family. With more than 200 veterans completing interviews to date, each was issued an invitation, and participants were selected randomly in April.

Clarence Alvin Fowler

Fowler was 19 years old and working at the Pine Bluff Arsenal when he was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps on March 3, 1943. He served aboard a B-26 Bomber as a flight engineer and gunner in the 391st Bomb Group, known as the “Black Marauders” in the European Theater of Operation. Fowler also witnessed action over the Ardennes, the Rhineland, Northern France and Central Europe, including many dangerous Daylight Raids. Fowler was injured when he and his crew had to bail out of their plane over France during a mission. After the war, he was a store manager in the grocery business and then a Civil Service Commissary store manager.

Ross Edward Bridger

Bridger was 19 and working for the National Youth Administration (NYA) when he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on June 8, 1943. He served aboard a B-24 Bomber as a waist gunner and radio operator. Bridger was in the 465th Bomb Group in the European Theater of Operation, primarily in Pantanella, Italy, and flew 35 missions over the Ardennes and the Rhineland in Germany. After the war, he attended the Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas) on the GI Bill. He was a high school teacher and principal in Arkansas from 1951 to 1984.

Irvin Van Patten

Irvin Van Patten was 27 and a mechanic/workman at the Van Patten Motor Company when he was drafted into the U.S. Army on Feb. 2, 1944. He served as mechanic and combat infantryman in the 16th Armored Division. He arrived at the end of the Battle of the Bulge and participated in combat operations in Central Europe in the European Theater of Operation. He was on a troop train headed towards the West Coast for service in the Pacific Theater of Operation when the atomic bombs were dropped. After the war, Van Patten returned to Searcy and ran a John Deere Farm Implement Dealership with his brother, Leon, for 25 years. He remained active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the American Legion and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and was the White County Veterans Service Officer for 10 years.

Charles Van Patten

Charles (Dale) Van Patten was 19 and a student at Harding College (now Harding University) when he enlisted in the U. S. Army on Dec. 11, 1942. He served as a medic driving a litter Jeep between the front lines and the aid station in the 310th Regiment, 2nd Medical Battalion in the European Theater of Operation. He participated in the battles of Hurtgen Forest and Remagen Bridge. After the war, he graduated from the University of Arkansas on the GI Bill and received a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He owned a hardware store for over two decades, and then worked in sales until he retired in 1985.

Leon Van Patten

Leon Van Patten was 27 and working in a war plant building B-25 Bombers in Memphis, Tenn., when he was drafted into the U.S. Army on March 22, 1945. He served as a rifleman and a mechanic in the 4040th and 4615th Quartermaster Truck Companies in the Philippines in the Pacific Theater of Operation. After the war, Van Patten repaired and sold used cars until 1951, and then ran a John Deere Farm Implement Dealership.

“Their Journey: A Veterans’ Tribute Tour” will premiere in conjunction with PBS’ latest Ken Burns’ film, “The War.” AETN’s “Tribute Tour” was sponsored primarily by private funds, and some funds were made available through the “In Their Words” project.

Anyone who would like to be interviewed for the “In Their Words” project may apply online at or print the application and mail it to AETN, Attn: Gabe Gentry, P.O. Box 1250, Conway, AR 72033. For more information, call (800) 662-2386.

The Arkansas Educational Television Network ( provides lifelong learning opportunities, improves and enhances Arkansans’ lives and celebrates the unique culture of Arkansas through its programming and services. AETN’s analog and digital transmitters and numerous cable system connections give it statewide reach.


Anonymous don said...

what brought me to your site was I am searching for a ww2 vet that was from Searcy AR. His name is Robert Mears, 85Division, 339th Infanty. He was a sergent serving in Italy. Any help locating him or family would be appreciated.
Plattsburgh NY
thanks don

4:14 PM  

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