A thrill to interview WWII veteran

Published 7:35 pm Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Last Saturday, I got to talk to an honest-to-God hero in Jack Buchanan.

If anyone remembers the article from Tuesday’s paper, Mr. Buchanan, 95 and a Vicksburg native, took a flight with Dan Fordice in an old friend — a P-51 Mustang. It was his first flight in a P-51 since 1945, he told me, and proceeded to tell me he also flew the P-40, AT-6 Texan, F-86 Sabre jet and the RF-4C Phantom jet. Turns out he was a veteran of three wars — World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

I’ve always been a fan of war birds, especially those that were flown during World War II. I guess that’s something I inherited from my father’s older brothers; one uncle flew C-47s for the Army Air Corps in World War II, and the other was a radioman/gunner on a dive bomber flying anti-submarine patrols from Naval Air Station Corpus Christi.

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In my years as a reporter, I’ve interviewed a lot of heroes from World War II. The only one who wouldn’t tell me about his experiences was my father, who as a combat medic in World War II saw the damage and pain of war far more up close and personal than other men.

My brief visit with Mr. Buchanan was a wonderful experience, but then I have always loved talking with veterans — I guess that’s the historian in me who is still trying to learn what his father went through; that answer to the baby boomer’s question, “What did you do in the war, daddy?”

And by talking with others, I’m learning.

When I worked on the Coast, I took a cruise on the amphibious warship Iwo Jima and had the great honor to interview several Medal of Honor recipients, including Jack Lucas, who at age 17 jumped on a grenade to save his comrades and survived. I’ve also interviewed Bataan Death March survivors, who I believe are super heroes for surviving the hardships and physical abuse they received at the hands of the Japanese.

And there are the D-Day survivors who landed on Omaha Beach where my father landed. They gave me the most insight into what dad experienced. This year is the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and I wish I could be in Normandy instead of watching the events of that day on TV.

I’ve always seen my interviews with veterans as one of the bright spots of my job; to be able to sit down with someone and relive their personal story with them. I respect these people very much, and it hurts to know that they are slowly leaving us.

I write this every time I do a piece for Memorial Day or Veterans Day, but I sincerely mean it.

If you know a veteran, especially one from World War II, take time to visit them and talk with them and get to know the sacrifices they endured. These are the men and women who are responsible for the freedoms we have in this country.

John Surratt is a staff writer at The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at john.surratt@vicksburgpost.com.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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