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Cavs Get Hands-on Experience with WWII Artifacts

This photo showing Theodore Hudanski, who served in the Army during World War II, was one of many artifacts shared recently with Mr. Phaneuf's 20th Century America class. On the back of the photo was written 'Nuremburg 1945.'

Students in Mr. Butch Phaneuf's 20th Century America class recently had the opportunity to examine and research actual artifacts from World War II. The activity stemmed from a visit from Fran Liu, a guest in the class who brought several boxes of artifacts and memorabilia that belonged to her father to share with the students. Liu’s father, Theodore Hudanski, was in the Army and served in England, France, and Germany in the 728th Railway Battalion from August of 1943 to December of 1945. 

The visit was arranged by senior Courtney Meredith, who had interviewed Mrs. Liu in a previous assignment, a living history interview. Students were given the opportunity to browse through several photo albums and scrapbooks, and handle and examine many artifacts such as books, pins, medals, a Camp Kilmer training camp booklet, old camera film cartons, a St. Christopher’s medal, a small New Testament that was given to all who served in the armed forces, an aircraft recognition silhouette book, and even a cigarette package. Using laptops, students looked up and researched what the items were, where they came from, and how they were used. The scrapbooks contained photos and newspaper clippings. Some of the photos dated 1943 showed Hudanski in training camp in Clovis, New Mexico and some showed him in Nuremburg, Germany in 1945.

“We found out these were a Hitler Youth pin, a good conduct medal, an Army lapel pin, and a European campaign medal,” said senior Brady Mullis, pointing out objects scattered on his desk.

“And this is probably a factory worker’s pin,” added senior Caleb Spencer.

Senior Taylor Glover said, “I found out this iron cross was established in World War II. It hasn’t been given since 1945. It was awarded by Hitler given to brave officers and enlisted men.”

“It went famously. I really didn’t know what to expect, I had never done an activity quite like this before – but it came off beautifully. The student interest level just spiked. I asked them the next day how they felt about it and they commented that it made history feel real. One said to me, ‘I was actually touching an artifact from World War II.’ Another said they could understand now why archaeologists and historians get so excited when they work with actual artifacts – it brings history to life,” said Mr. Phaneuf.

Mr. Phaneuf and the students would like to thank Mrs. Liu for coming and sharing the items and stories about her father. She said, “These artifacts were all my father’s. He passed away nine years ago. I have always had them and I am so glad someone can make some use of them. My father would be thrilled.”

Written by: Paula White
Posted: Oct 29, 2012 by Paula White

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