Posts tagged ‘World War II’

Barney Ewell, Nick Vukmanic, and the 1940 Olympics

Photo via Black History at Penn State

Photo via Black History at Penn State

Our July/August 2016 issue included a big list of Penn State alums who have competed in the Olympic Games. However, it excluded a pair of Nittany Lions who earned the title of honorary Olympians in 1940.

Barney Ewell (right) and Nick Vukmanic ’40 received this honor for qualifying for the 1940 Games in Tokyo, which were canceled due to World War II. Ewell was a sprinter who eventually made it to the Olympics and did pretty well for himself – he won a gold medal in the 4×100 meter relay and silvers in the 100 and 200 meters in 1948. Vukmanic was a standout in javelin. While he never got the chance to compete at the Olympics, Vukmanic won a U.S. National Championship in the event in 1938.

Thank you to Kristy Kowalski ’92, Vukmanic’s granddaughter, for bringing the story of the two honorary Olympians to our attention.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor


June 30, 2016 at 11:50 am Leave a comment

Listening to the “Greatest Generation”

I caught this a few days late, but I thought this op-ed by Penn State College of Comm instructor Boaz Dvir was very much worth sharing. His piece, published last week in the Las Vegas Sun on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, highlights the lessons he learned from veterans while working on the PBS documentary A Wing and a Prayer. The full, hour-long documentary is available on YouTube, and you can check out a short trailer for the film below:

Dvir notes that every WWII anniversary now serves as “a reminder that that our days of gleaning wisdom directly from the Greatest Generation are numbered.” It’s a harsh truth that I know many of us can appreciate: My grandfather, who served as an Army Air Force ball turret gunner in B-17s over Germany, turns 90 this year. I try to treasure the chances I’ve had to talk to him about the war, and about life, and I’m glad for any reminder to do so.

Ryan Jones, senior editor


September 9, 2015 at 6:42 pm Leave a comment

Entertaining Interview with Alan Furst

I came late to Twitter, but I’ve come to rely on it and—dare I say?—enjoy it. Why? Because of days like Monday, when author Susan Orlean, whom I follow, alerted me to an NPR interview with Alan Furst ’67g, who has a new book, Spies of the Balkans, coming out today.

The original tweet came from a book critic at The New York Times, Dwight Garner, who wrote: “Alan Furst, charming as hell on Morning Edition. Made me want to pack a few of his novels for the weekend.” Orlean, who re-tweeted Garner’s post, agreed. I dug up the interview (which you can listen to here), and I, too, was charmed.

A couple of highlights from Furst, whom we profiled in our May/June 2008 issue:

—Agreeing with host Steve Inskeep that his favorite characters are the morally ambiguous ones: “Absolutely because those are the readers of the book; those are the people who are going to say, well, what would I do—and no kidding, what would I do? What would I really do? It’s always nice to think that you would be a hero. On the other hand, that might have something to do with what’s going to happen to your wife, what’s going to happen to your children, what’s going to happen to your parents. It’s not a clean business.”

—On why he continually returns to the early years of World War II and the period just before it: “You know, the human spirit was at its worst and at its best. Don’t ask me why. It just was. And this period, 1933 to 1942, I’ve begun to think of it as an enormous room with a thousand corners. There are so many stories and so many places, all of them so different. So it’s always up to me to find another great story.”

And this morning, I found this NPR review of the new book, which says Furst is “working at the top of his powers.”

Lori Shontz, senior editor

June 15, 2010 at 2:15 pm 1 comment

Luther Smith, Former Tuskegee Airman, Dies

We profiled Smith in our Sept-Oct 2007 issue.

We learned this week of the death of Luther Smith ’77, who was one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen in World War II and whose story we told in our September-October 2007 issue.

At a time when segregation was still the norm in the United States—this was two decades before the civil rights movement—African Americans didn’t have much of a role in the military. But a group of black pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen served as escorts for American bomber pilots in Europe during the war, never once losing a bomber.

Smith himself flew 133 such missions. On his last flight, he had to eject from his burning plane; he was badly injured, and spent seven months as a prisoner of war.

After leaving the military, he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa, worked at GE for more than 35 years, and along the way earned a master’s in engineering from Penn State Great Valley. He retired in 1988 and lived for many years in Villanova, Pa., before he died on Wednesday at the age of 89.

The Delaware County Times has a lengthy story about Smith here.

Tina Hay, editor

December 11, 2009 at 11:19 am Leave a comment

Alan Furst in the NYT Travel Section

Alan FurstThe cover story of the Travel section in today’s New York Times has a pretty nice Penn State connection.

It’s a look at the city of Warsaw—how charismatic it was in the days before World War II, how thoroughly it was battered during the war, and how it was rebuilt in the years afterward.

The basis for the Times’ article is the novel by Alan Furst ’67g, The Spies of Warsaw, which was released in paperback earlier this summer. (We profiled Furst, a Penn State Alumni Fellow, in May-June 2008 issue, when the hardcover version of the book was published.)

“[T]he setting for his spies’ intrigues—the leafy boulevards, grand ballrooms, romantic cafes, lively salons and sinister back streets of a city on the cusp of catastrophe—is vividly rendered,” according to the Times article.

Despite the rebuilding efforts, “[T]he Warsaw of old is gone forever. And it is that lost city, the grand, glittering and vibrant prewar capital, that Mr. Furst conjures in The Spies of Warsaw. In his city, the Warsaw of memory is in the present, and the future ticks ominously on every page.”

Tina Hay, editor

September 13, 2009 at 9:38 am Leave a comment

Big Honors for “Our Lady”

full_francisca_halamajowaGot an e-mail yesterday from Judy Maltz, one of the three Penn State faculty members behind the film No. 4 Street of Our Lady, which we wrote about in our Nov-Dec 2008 issue. She was writing to say that the film won the grand prize for best feature documentary at the Rhode Island International Film Festival last weekend.

The film tells of the heroism of a Polish Catholic woman, Francisca Halamajowa, who successfully hid 16 of her Jewish neighbors from the Nazis during World War II. One of those she saved was Herb Maltz, Judy Maltz’s father.

What’s especially cool is that the Rhode Island International Film Festival is an Academy-Award qualifying festival—meaning that No. 4 Street of Our Lady may be eligible to compete for an Oscar.

Tina Hay, editor

August 12, 2009 at 9:21 am Leave a comment

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