This Year's Vets

Every year the Star Spangled Fourth concert includes a medley of the anthems of each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces as well as the Merchant Marines. The vets on this page are this year’s honorees and will follow active-duty U.S. Military as the colors of each branch are brought forward and presented.

ARMY: Sergeant Chuck Ballas. Infantry veteran with 28th division at Normandy, liberation of Paris, Hertgen Forest, Battle of the Bulge, Aachen. After war worked on hydrogen bomb development before move to Augusta as owner, Luigi’s Restaurant on Broad Street. Active duty: November 1942 to March 1946.

ARMY: Private, Canadian Paratrooper Dennis Trudeau. Captured on D-Day at Normandy. POW for duration of war. Joined U.S. Army in 1946 and completed duty as Master Sergeant in 1967. Served as Mayor of Grovetown, Georgia. Active duty: 1942 to 1967.

ARMY NURSE: 2nd Lieutenant Ruby Kleinrath. Served at O’Reilly Army General Hospital in Missouri caring for wounded soldiers requiring plastic surgery. Continued work in health services after the war. Active duty: May 1944 to August 1946.

COAST GUARD: Seaman 1st Class Lee Gilbert.Storekeeper on board supply ship, closing days of war. After discharge following three trips from New York to Europe, served 6 years in Air Force before working at the Savannah River Plant for 35 years. Active duty: March 1945 to June 1946 (World War II) and 1947 to 1953 (post war).

MARINES: Corporal Robert “Pat” Roberts. Served with the 2nd and then 6th Marine Divisions at Saipan, Tinian, and Okinawa before going to northern China to process prisoners after war ended. Awarded three Purple Hearts for wounds suffered in combat. Career in poultry processing industry, post war. Active duty: August 1943 to October 1946.

AIR FORCE: 1st Lieutenant Oscar Barney. Pilot on B-17 Flyiing Fortress with 8th Air Force in England. Flew 5 missions near war’s end, including raid over Berlin. Remained in service through the Berlin Airlift & Bay of Pigs then worked for State of Georgia in Vocational Rehabilitation for 20 years. Active duty: November 1942 to July 1964.

NAVY: Pharmacist Mate Mel Knowles. Member of crew on attack transport carrying up to 1,500 troops on invasions of Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Witnessed both flag raisings at Iwo Jima. After war, employed at Savannah River Plant for 34 years. Active duty: February 1943 to February 1946.

Veterans History Project—World War II

Deepest gratitude is expressed to Frederick P. Gehle, who managed the arrangements for veterans to participate in tonight’s program. Upon his retirement Mr. Gehle agreed to serve as one of the Directors of the Augusta Richmond County Historical Society. As part of that work he attended a meeting in New Orleans at the National World War II Museum and became aware of the National Veterans History Project. The Historical Society’s local volunteers have conducted video interviews with nearly 800 World War II veterans and civilians recounting their war experiences. Each DVD is sent to the Library of Congress where a national data base now includes more than 100,000 recordings. The Society is also working on a project to include significant comments and events of nearly 200 selected CSRA veterans in a publication that will be completed in the next few years. Three academic representatives of Georgia Regents University and the University of South Carolina, Aiken will be involved in the writing and editorial functions. Another group of volunteers has already begun an extension of the Veterans History Project to locate and interview veterans who served in Korea and Vietnam.