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Radio broadcast set to honor WWII Vets

By WILLIAM PAINE

william.paine@southwesttimes.com

This year marks the 75th Anniversary of the end of World War II and the Elks Club of Pulaski have decided to mark the occasion with a special radio broadcast on WBLB his coming Wednesday at 11 a.m.

For several years the Elks have partnered with the Friends of the Pulaski Theatre to host concerts honoring Veteran’s Day and military personnel, but the coronavirus made this type of gathering all but impossible. For this reason, the Elks decided to mark this significant military anniversary with a unique radio presentation.

Their idea stems from a 75-year-old hardcover publication of The Southwest Times entitled the Pulaski County Service Annual 1945. At the end of the war, The Southwest Times asked their readers to send photographs of Pulaski County Veterans of WWII, along with a small summary of where they served in the war.

Around 500 photos of WWII Vets were sent to The Southwest Times and in November 1945, our newspaper offered a handsome hardcover book, similar in appearance to a high school year book, for sale to the general public.

The introductory page of the Pulaski County Service Annual 1945 reads like this:

“Pulaski County has made an enviable record in World War II, a record that we believe will equal or surpass any other region of similar size and wealth in the United States. Over 3,000 men and women, the majority of whom never had special training, answered their country’s call and over 60 gave their lives on foreign battlefields and at sea. Some were maimed, wounded or imprisoned and dozens were decorated for heroic action.

Wherever there was fighting, wherever there was a need for action, Pulaski Countians were present and did their job. They helped man submarines, flew fighting fortresses, stood behind the guns on land and sea everywhere, did the job to which they were assigned.”

The introduction goes on to say how those on the home front did their duty, as well, by exceeding war bond quotas and generally doing anything they could do to further the war effort and defeat the Rome, Berlin, Tokyo alliance. The introduction ends with this sentence.

“We wish to dedicate this book to the sons and daughters of Pulaski County, who have so gallantly served their country in World War II – The Southwest Times”

Gary Cox of Pulaski Elks Lodge #1067 found that he was in possession of a Pulaski County Service Annual 1945, as relatives on his mother’s side, had purchased a copy all those years ago.

The discovery of the Pulaski County Service Annual 1945 gave members of Lodge 1067 the idea of making an audio recording of all the Veterans names, along with a short description of their service in the book.

To make the audio recording, the Elks approached Kendall Payne, of the Adaire Theatre. Payne has had a close association with the Pulaski Elks for over five years, frequently acting and directing in productions held at their lodge downtown.

Payne agreed to use his own equipment to produce the recording, using the voices of six Elk men and two Elk women for the project.

“I sat down with several lodge members and we did the voice overs reading the names,” said Payne. “From there I layered the music and the transitions and it turned out really well. It seemed like a natural lean into using Adair Theatre, as a resource, to bring this historical thing to life in a different way.”

Kendall Payne’s grandfather, Seaman Second Class Frank Daniel Lee Payne, is in the Pulaski County Service Annual 1945. He served at the battle of Palau in the Pacific.

Gary Cox’s father served in WWII as well, but his photo was never sent to The Southwest Times and so is not included in the Pulaski County Service Annual 1945. His mother’s family, the Dudleys, did send photos into The Southwest Times and so Staff Sergeant Henry L Dudley, who served in Belgium and Germany, and Petty Officer Second Class Elsie Ann Dudley, who served at Patuxent River, Maryland, are included in the book.

Private First Class Gordon “Hazard” Conner, who worked for many years as a projectionist at both the Pulaski and Dalton theaters, was also included in the book.

“The first wave of D-Day, the tank that he was in command of went off the end of the landing craft and sank and he lost his entire crew,” said Gary Cox. “They fished him out of the water, put a clean uniform on him and put him back in another tank and sent him in on D-Day. He came in on the second wave.”

Conner received a Bronze Star for his service.

In recognition of Armistice Day/Veteran’s Day, the names of the Veterans in the Pulaski County Service Annual 1945 will be read on WBLB 1340 AM on the 11th hour of the 11th day of November, which is 11 a.m. this coming Wednesday.

The names of the Veterans who will be honored in this broadcast all survived the war. Those who were killed in action in WWII are also in the Pulaski County Service Annual 1945 and they will be honored in a separate broadcast to occur on Memorial Day.

After airing, the recording will be presented to the Pulaski County Veterans Committee for use in education.

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