SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — Veterans Day is this weekend. The veterans administration says our World War II vets are dying at a rate of 740 a day. And with them, their stories.
One local man is on a mission to save their history.
Mike Pungercar has an old audio cassette recording of his father who is a WWII veteran.
“Hi Mike,” said WWII veteran Frank Pungercar. That’s how his story begins. “I’ll try to give you a little rundown, where I was when I was in the service.”
Frank Pungercar served three years in the Air Force during World War II as a radio operator stationed in England. He flew 30 combat missions. Like many veterans, he was never one to share his story. But in 2000, one day, he just opened up to his son.
“He had me laughing. He had me crying,” Mike said.
Mike asked that he put the stories on tape.
“I promised him I would share the tape and share it with the family right down to his great grandsons so they would never forget the sacrifices he made,” Mike said.
The tape sat. Two years later, Frank passed away. That’s when Mike’s three-year journey began.
He had so many questions and he found many answers on the Internet. That led him to more stories, resources and pictures. Twelve transcribed pages turned into a book, The Promise Kept.
“This is history and my dad, while he is the central character, if you will going through the book, following his story, in my three years of research I met a number of other veterans,” Mike said.
One story revolved around a bombing mission.
“We did not like bombing at low altitudes, as the German gunners had it a lot easier when we flew low,” Mike read.
The mission was a success until Sgt. Pungercar was told to radio back a slang message.
“He told me to send the message ‘Wizard Prang’ to division headquarters. I told the major I couldn’t send the message as it was against protocol and I would get in trouble if I sent it,” Mike read. “He told me he was a major and I was a sergeant, and if I didn’t send the message I would get in trouble for insubordination.”
In the end, both the major and Sgt. Pungercar were reprimanded. It’s all documented. Mike even located the major and confirmed the story.
“I tracked down Major Charles Hudson to Niles, Michigan– 92 years old,” Mike said.
The book includes a picture of Major Hudson sticking his head our of the nose out of the plane in front of the cockpit.
“My dad either just got off the plane or was still in the radio compartment when the picture was taken,” Mike said.
That’s just one story in this history book. Mike is hoping others will be inspired to share their stories before it’s too late.
Once these veterans are gone, these stories are gone forever.
The book The Promise Kept is available online on Amazon.com.