Remembering World War II

Published 11:54 am Saturday, August 2, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Thursday during lunch was a time to reminisce on the old days at Brentwood Assisted Living on South Third Street in Niles.
Dean Swem, an 86-year-old local World War II veteran paratrooper, who took part in one invasion and three European campaigns, first talked to the other seniors about his effort to join the army as a 25-year-old.
Sgt. Michael Bowes with the Mishawaka, Ind. recruiting station, later gave an overview of how the military has changed and how new equipment has made things easier for the soldiers who go into battle today.
Swem, who initially couldn't get into the army because of his flat feet, but nonetheless became a paratrooper, told the seniors how on the first day of training to become a paratrooper, an officer asked him if he had heard about Westpoint.
Swem said he had.
The officer then replied: " That's a kindergarten compared to this school."
Having told stories about the hard training he endured and the many challenges he faced while in training, Swem talked about his time in battle.
A communication error between the paratroopers and a U.S navy vessel based in the Mediterranean caused the incident, Swem said.
Swem, who fought the Japanese after the Germans surrendered, came home from the war and continued to serve in various positions in the army throughout his life.
He retired as a major for the 46th Division's G2 Intelligence section in 1967.
Sgt. Bowes, who has been stationed all over the world during his 13 years in the army, said he couldn't tell stories about battles like Swem did.
But, he explained how the U.S military has changed in many ways since World War II.
Flat feet is no longer an issue for people who want to join the army, but other issues have replaced the ones Swem had to deal with, Bowes said.
Bowes also said improvements have been made to increase the soldier's safety, and tanks and aircrafts are way beyond anything that was available during World War II.
Albert Frost was stationed with the 24th Division in the South Pacific during World War II. Having heard Swem talk about his experiences, Frost remembered some of the things he experienced during the war, especially what he saw during his three months in Japan.