A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

From WWII to Vietnam: three veterans will share their stories at the BCPL Main Branch November15

The Boone County Public Library Main Branch in Burlington will offer a special program, “From WWII to Vietnam” on Wednesday, Nov. 15.

The program will feature three U.S. Military veterans, who will share their stories.


February 26th is Lou Smith’s personal “D-Day.”  The Newport native, who served as a Marine in the Pacific during WWII, holds this date as an important one in his life.  It was on Feb. 26th, 1943, that he was sworn in to the Marine Corps, after enlisting at the age of seventeen; it was again on Feb. 26th, 1945 that he was wounded on Iwo Jima, and later Lou chose the date of Feb. 26th to end his 30 year smoking habit.

Lou began his military career by concentrating on getting permission from his mother to enlist underage; after eleven days, she relented.  In boot camp at Parris Island, the left-hander learned to shoot with his right hand, and became a sharp shooter.  Once sent overseas, Smith was sent first to Guam, where he was chosen as a scout, because he was a Kentuckian!  After Guam, he was on his way to Iwo Jima……

Born just before the United States entered WWI, native Cincinnatian Robert Doolan would grow to adulthood in time for the next global conflict, and he wanted to fly.  His inspiration came at the age of ten, when Charles Lindbergh completed his 1927, history-making transatlantic flight from New York to Paris.  In 1941, Doolan joined the Army went to flight school, prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Feeling the pull of duty, Doolan re-enlisted and ultimately became a navigator on B-17 bombers.  In August, 1943, when his plane was on what was his (unlucky) 13th mission, they came under enemy fire and were forced to crash-land in Holland.  With the help of Dutch resistance, he was able to evade Nazi capture for three weeks, but his luck ran out.  In September, Doolan was captured, bound, gagged and interrogated by the Gestapo.  He was sent to Stalag Luft III prison camp, he was imprisoned for over 16 months before being liberated…..

Vietnam is sometimes known as the first “television war” and was heavily covered in nightly news reports, bringing the horrors of war into living rooms across the country.

As heavy as the news coverage was, personal experiences are much different than television. Many combat veterans feel most comfortable in the company of others who have served.  Roger J. Holbrook, U. S. Army, did four tours of duty in Vietnam, and received the Bronze Star with V Device (for valor in combat) award for his service.  Holbrook and five close friends, all combat veterans of Vietnam, had been sharing stories and each other’s company over meals for years, when an idea was born.  The group began to develop a plan to honor veterans from the state of Ohio, who had the shared bond of combat service.

The result of their efforts was the formation of the Ohio Military Hall of Fame.  Holbrook himself was inducted into the first class of the organization in 2000.  Each year new inductees are honored in a ceremony at the Ohio Statehouse, and are presented with a medal unique to this honor.  Holbrook’s induction, and the Bronze Star he earned are the result of his heroic actions under fire during a heliborne operation in Vietnam in 1965…..

The completion of these stories, from the men who lived them, will take place in this special program at the Main Library, 1786 Burlington Pike in Burlington.


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