The Wallenpaupack Area School District’s commitment to local history and community service was highlighted when the High School History Club presented information on its latest project — Oral histories of World War II veterans.


The Wallenpaupack Area School District’s commitment to local history and community service was highlighted when the High School History Club presented information on its latest project — Oral histories of World War II veterans.

The History club began with tours of local historical sites several years ago highlighting the regions glass industry, the D&H Canal and a local one-room school house. The club also works to lead tours for the students in the North Intermediate School in Hawley Borough as well. It’s latest project will preserve the stories of local veterans from the “Greatest Generation.”

Kelly Obermueller, club advisor and English teacher, said they wanted to do something with local history. Each year, the projects the students work on grows. She pointed to Tom Kennedy, WNIS principal, as one of the groups strongest supporters. She also pointed to faculty members Gene Schultz and Nick Hallas who worked with the students to complete the project.

Obermueller explained the students will interview the veterans and then edit their stories into features which will be included on the District’s website.

The first history is that of Donald Mack. Mack, from Greentown, is a survivor of the USS Indianapolis, which was sunk by a Japanese submarine after delivering the atomic bomb to a Pacific island. About 1,200 men were aboard the ship when it was hit, 300 went down with it and 800 went into the water. Only 317 were rescued. In a few short clips shown to the Board, Mack describes how the ship was hit by the torpedoes and what it was like to survive in the water for four days and five nights before being discovered. He said the ship was listing at 65 percent and he just walked down the side to the water and then swam as far away as he could.

He says in the video he was with a group of 85 men when they first went in the water but only 15 from the group survived to be rescued. He points out how lucky they were to be found. A plane hunting for submarines had opened its bombay doors when its sonar failed and spotted the survivors.

Mack also talks about the fight to exonerate the ship’s captain, the late Charles Butler McVay III, who was the only ship’s captain ever court martialed for losing his ship during combat.

“It’s important to preserve this history,” Superintendent Mike Silsby said of the program.

Obermueller said it was important for the students in the club to carry on the history of the World War II veterans.

She added some of the students in the club were in fourth grade when the history club first began and took part in the programs the high school students at that time presented.