Those Who Serve

Martha’s Vineyard and World War II – The Oral History Online Exhibit

During World War II, the entire Vineyard community mobilized to support the war effort, both on the home front and overseas. The personal stories and perspectives of Vineyard people who survived the war years are a part of the Museum’s oral history collections and were featured in an exhibition at the Museum in 2009-2010. These stories brought alive the horror and confusion of battle, the exhiliration of victory, and the shared sacrifice and anxiety experienced by those on the home front. Today, they indicate the impact the War had on the lives of the men and women of the Vineyard community.

The following oral histories clips from the original exhibit have been made available for more people to learn about and listen to. Full interviews of these Vineyarders’ WWII experiences and more can be heard in the Museum Library.

The full narratives and photographs are transcribed and available in the book Those Who Serve: Martha’s Vineyard and WWII.

For more information about this exhibit, please contact Linsey Lee at 508-627-4441 x113.

Nelson Bryant (1923-2020)

Nelson Bryant was a Private 1st Class with the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. He fought in three battle campaigns that included combat and parachute jumps into Normandy as a part of the D-Day Invasion, into Holland and in the Battle of the Bulge. After the War he returned to the Vineyard and worked with John Mayhew oyster farming and at the Wood Hole Oceanographic Institute. He then finished his studies at Dartmouth College and became the managing editor for the Daily Eagle in Claremont, N.H. Needing more money to support a growing family, he returned to the Vineyard to build docks. He became a staff writer for the New York Times where his column “Outdoors” appeared twice weekly for thirty years.

Listen as Nelson Bryant tells of his D-Day jump into Normandy and getting wounded by machine gun fire.

Anne Lesnikowski (1921-2018)

Anne Lesnikowski joined the WASPs (Women Air Force Service Patrol) ferrying military planes to bases across the continental U.S. After the war she worked as an editorial assistant and writer. In 1951 she moved to Vineyard Haven with her husband Bronislaw, who built their house with lumber salvaged from the water tower at the Naval Air Base. She is active with the League of Women Voters.

Listen to Anne Lesnikowski speak about the planes she flew as a WASP and her feelings about the experience.

Meverell Good (1924-2015)

Meverell Good was a sergeant with the 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army. Serving in Italy in 1945, he worked in the Division Headquarters and then with the 126th Mountain Engineers of the 10th Mountain Division. After graduating from Princeton in 1949, Mev worked in the insurance field, retiring as the Senior Administrator of Marketing Training and Development at Aetna Life Insurance Company. Coming first to the Vineyard on his honeymoon in 1961, he spent summers here and retired to the Vineyard in 1989.

Listen to Mev Good speak about the 10th Mountain Division and serving in Italy.

David Flanders (1932–2008)

David Flanders grew up in Chilmark during WWII. Combing the beaches, David and his brothers would find drums containing gasoline, oars, life vests, food supplies, and other debris from torpedoed ships – all of great value to frugal Vineyarders in the war-time rationing economy.

David’s mother ran Flanders Real Estate. During the War, she rented houses to a diverse spectrum of people including aviators at the Naval Base and British families escaping the Blitz, to mysterious characters whom David helped reveal as spies. Many of the children of the British families became David’s life-long friends.

Later in life, David Flanders took over the business and became a preeminent Vineyard realtor, brokering many important Vineyard land deals. He was also a farmer, and a long-time advocate for Martha’s Vineyard and its people.

Listen to David Flanders tell a story of his discovery of spies in Chilmark during the War.

Betty Honey (1921-2010)

Betty Honey was an air raid warden in Vineyard Haven and worked with the Island’s Rationing Board. She joined the Civil Service and worked as a clerical assistant at Dental Clinic 2 at Camp Edwards on Cape Cod. After the war she worked at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston as an operating room secretary. Betty retired home to the Vineyard in 1996.

Listen to Betty Honey speak about the preparations for War-time life on the Vineyard; rationing, air raid patrols and the ingenious ways in which people “made do” with the privations of War-time existence.

Joseph Andrews (1910-2005)

Joseph Andrews was with the 424th Regiment of the 106th Infantry Division of U.S. Army in the European theater from 1944 – 1945. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and served briefly with the Occupational Forces in Germany. Returning to the Vineyard he worked with Mosher Photo and for Renear’s Garage. He also worked as a carpenter and was an engineer with the Vineyard Haven Fire Department for 36 years.

Listen to Joseph Andrews tell his story of fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.

Thomas Hale (1924-2012)

Tom Hale served with the AFS (American Field Service) as an ambulance driver with the British 8th Army in Africa, Italy and Germany. After the war Tom returned to finish his studies at Harvard. He then moved to Martha’s Vineyard and established the Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard, which his son Philip now runs.

Listen to Tom Hale speak about his war-time experiences in Italy serving as an Ambulance Driver with the British 8th Army and the impact hearing the song Lilli Marlene had on troops on both sides of the War.

Alice Issokson Shapiro (1917-2007)

Alice Issokson Shapiro helped with the efforts at the USO (United Service Organization) and through the Hebrew Center to entertain and provide a semblance of a homelike environment for the soldiers stationed on Martha’s Vineyard. After the war she worked at the Boston Convention Center, traveled as often as possible and enjoyed music.

Listen to Alice Shapiro as she tells about the War-time activities at the Hebrew Center and at the Vineyard Haven USO to support the troops stationed on the Island.

Edward “Ed” Krikorian (1925-2004)

Ed Krikorian came to the Vineyard to serve at the Naval Air Base as a Fireman First Class. After witnessing a gasoline tank accident at Base, he was transferred to naval duty on a destroyer in the Pacific Theater. After the war he was an entrepreneur, realtor and owned Island-Wide Realty.

Listen to Ed Krikorian talk about serving at the Naval Air Base on Matha’s Vineyard and of participating in the rescue of two servicemen from a deadly gasoline accident at the Base.

Barbara Townes (1906-2005)

Barbara Townes joined the Civil Service and worked at the Boston Naval Shipyard as a welder. After the War she was a homemaker and collected antiques. Barbara came to the Vineyard every summer throughout her life and moved to the Island year-round in 1981.

Listen to Barbara Townes as she speaks about her experience as a welder in the Boston Navy Yard during WWII.

Curtis Jones (1917-2014)

Curtis Jones served from 1942–1945 as a 1st Lieutenant with the 34th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army in the European Theater. He was captured in Tunisia and spent 26 months as a prisoner of war in German prison camps. Fifteen of these months were spent in Oflag 64, a POW camp in Szubin, Poland. Toward the end of the War, he was part of a forced 48 day walk in sub-zero weather from Szubin to Hamburg, Germany. After the War ended, he served in the Army Reserve until 1963, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel, AUS. He was a salesman for Homer Laughlin China Company and now lives in Vineyard Haven.

Listen to Curtis Jones talk of his experiences being confined to a POW camp in Poland and the efforts to build an escape tunnel.

Fred “Ted” Morgan (1921-2019)

Fred B. “Ted” Morgan served as a medic with the U.S. Army’s 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. Ted fought in six battle campaigns that included combat and parachute jumps into Normandy as part of the D-Day operations; Italy, Sicily, Holland and the Battle of the Bulge. In 1949, Ted was called back into active duty with the U.S. Air Force and served in many capacities and in different locations until 1968. Retiring home to Martha’s Vineyard, he became the administrator for the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

Listen to Ted Morgan speak of his work as a medic with the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment and his experience of honor on the battlefield and other tales.

Chandler Moore (1927-1979)

Chandler Moore was a brilliant and eccentric artist who painted with photorealistic attention to detail, often using a magnifying glass and a brush of one or two hairs thickness. The result was impossibly detailed renderings of even the smallest mechanical object or natural feature. His large seascapes capture beautifully the sense of intricate movement and interaction between wind and waves. One of Moore’s works entitled Overlord, the code name for the operation begun on June 6, 1944 with the Normandy Landing, was presented to President Eisenhower on the 10th anniversary of D-Day, and now hangs in the Eisenhower Museum in Abilene, Kansas.

During the Second World War, Moore served in the Merchant Marine patrolling the US eastern coast. He also served as a corporal with the U.S. Army 9th Infantry Division in the Korean War.

Listen to Chandler’s nephew, Chris Moore, speak about Chandler Moore, his painting and on being his nephew.

Hector Asselin (1920-2014)

Hector Asselin (b. 1920) served at the U.S. Naval Air Base on the Vineyard as a Second Class Gunnery instructor. He met his wife during his time at the Base and they settled in Vineyard Haven. He was a postal clerk at the Vineyard Haven Post Office, collected films and was the town hall projectionist.

Listen to Hector Asselin speak about enlisting, training and arriving on Martha’s Vineyard.

James McLaurin (1923-2010)

James McLaurin served as Second Lieutenant with the U.S. Army Air Corps, flying with the famed Tuskegee Airmen in the European Theater. The all-black 332nd Fighter Group consisted of some 1,000 pilots, who did not lose a single bomber to enemy fire in more than 200 combat missions, a record unmatched by any other fighter group. After the war he was in the Air Reserve for twenty years and achieved the rank of Lieutenant Corporal. He has a house in Oak Bluffs and is active with the Oak Bluffs Senior Center and the MVRHS mentoring program.

Listen to James McLaurin speak about the challenging schedule of training before he went overseas flying with the Tuskegee Airmen.

Jane Slater (b. 1932)

Jane Slater is from an old Vineyard family, but was born in New York. Spending summers on the Vineyard, in 1939 she came to the Island with her brother and mother to live year-round while her father was engaged in the War effort in the mid-West. She attended Island schools and graduated from Queens College in New York. She worked in NYC for many years, never missing a summer on the Vineyard. In 1976 she opened an antiques store in Menemsha and she and her husband moved to the Vineyard year-round in the 1980’s.

Listen to Jane Slater as she tells of her memories of WWII as a child in Chilmark.

John Mayhew (1920-2012)

John Mayhew served as a U.S. Navy fighter pilot, Lieutenant Senior Grade, with Air Group 21, the “Fighting Squadron 21”, in the Pacific Theater. He flew hundreds of combat missions from an escort carrier in the Pacific Ocean. After the war he moved home to the Vineyard where he worked as an oyster farmer and sword fisherman. He taught mathematics at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School for twenty-seven years. In 1949 he joined the Naval Reserve and retired in 1980 as a full commander after 2000 hours of Navy flight time.

Listen to John Mayhew speak about his second tour of duty as a naval fighter pilot in the Pacific Theater and run-ins with Kamikaze planes.

Joseph Stiles (1925–2006)

Joseph Stiles came to the Vineyard in 1943 to serve at the Naval Air Base as a Steward’s Mate with the U.S. Navy. In 1944 he shipped out on a destroyer patrolling the East Coast. After the War, on the same destroyer, he went with Admiral Byrd’s 1946–1947 Operation Deep Freeze to the South Pole. Returning to the Vineyard he worked for Morrice Florist and as a landscaper. He also was a Deputy Sheriff for the Dukes County Sheriff’s Office.

Listen as Joseph Stiles speaks about coming to the Vineyard to serve at the Naval Air Base and the racism he encountered there.

Nelson Smith (1925-2017)

Nelson Smith was a Bosun’s Mate 3rd Class with the Seabees (U.S. Naval Construction Battalions) serving in the Aleutians Islands from 1943 until 1945. After the War he returned to the Vineyard and worked as a commercial fisherman; swordfishing and sea scalloping. He then was a skipper for private yachts, a charter fisherman and also the captain of the Chappiquiddick ferry from 1968–1984.

Listen to Nelson Smith as he speaks of his experiences as a Seabee in the Aleutian Islands and encountering there the legacy of his uncle, Captain Ellsworth West, one of the last whaling captains.

Maurice and Netty Vanderpol

Dr. Maurice Vanderpol (1922-2014) was born and raised in Amsterdam. In medical school when the Germans invaded and occupied Holland in 1940 and persecution and deportation of Dutch Jews began, Ries and his family spent two years in hiding until liberation on May 5th, 1945. After the War, he came to America, finished medical school and married Netty Swartz Vanderpol. He had a private practice as a psychiatrist and was a staff member at McLean Hospital for 35 years.

Netty Vanderpol (b. 1926) was born and raised in Amsterdam. During the German occupation of Holland she was forced to attend a school for Jewish children. One of her classmates was Anne Frank. In 1943 her father was imprisoned by the Nazis for assisted Allied pilots. Her father and family spent over a year in Terezin Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia. In February, 1945 her family was with a group of inmates from the camp that was the only exchange of Jews for German POWs. As a needlepoint artist Netty has exhibited widely. Beginning in 1984, for some years she dedicated the focus of her needlework pieces to the Holocaust and its affect on her life. She then branched out to other designs and themes. Ries and Netty were both very active with Facing History and Ourselves. They established the Walter Suskind Memorial Educational Fund, an outreach arts program at the Citi Center for the Performing Arts, in Boston.

The video of Maurice and Netty Vanderpol speaking about their experiences in hiding in Amsterdam and in Terezin Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia is available at the Museum.