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Johnson: DHS juniors partake in World War II musuem project

United States history is a required course for all juniors at Dickinson High School. It is a semester course and spans from the inception of America all the way past the Vietnam War — a time span of more than 200 years.

Instead of a final test, teachers at DHS elected to have students design and complete their very own World War II museum project. The museum was held for four hours on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 7, at the high school. There was no admission fee and it was open to the public.

The Dickinson High history department, which includes teachers Jim Fahy, Brian Ham, Daniel Pender, Dave Michaelson and Jeremy Wanner, let the students choose what they wanted to do for the project. Some, like juniors Derrick Gunwall and Alex Priebe, chose to do theirs on the attack of Pearl Harbor. They put together a tri-fold informational display, as well as having a model of the U.S.S Arizona Memorial.

Projects like Gunwall’s fostered interest from a World War II veteran named Alden Auran, who actually served in the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor. He served between the middle of 1945 until 1948 at Pearl Harbor and Guam. Auran had talked about his experiences in the Navy and shared stories about a typhoon that had happened while he was serving at Guam.

“This is very interesting, it’s nice to go and look at these things and see all the history,” Auran said.

Another DHS student partaking in the project was junior Gannon Karsky.

Karsky’s project was on German fortifications at Normandy, France, on D-Day. He enjoyed the museum overall, and was very proud to see some of the community’s Veterans of World War II come out to the museum.

“I think it’s great for the community, and for the younger kids that came out here,” Karsky said, “I learned a lot about lots of different topics, tons of them actually.”

Eighth-graders in U.S. History at Hagen Junior High were also invited to the museum. Many, like eighth-grader Kyle Simonson, were immersed by the unique artifacts and historical information presented.

“It’s pretty good, I like it,” Simonson said. “My favorite project was the nuke.”

“The nuke” was the project created by Dickinson juniors Kaleb Dschaak and Travis Huff. They chose to research about the Manhattan Project, which was the top-secret codename given by America to develop a successful atomic bomb, which was eventually used on the Japan cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was headed by Robert J. Oppenheimer. The project studied several different aspects of the plan, including on how they kept it such a closely-guarded secret.

Many projects also focused on the Holocaust. Several were done on the life of Anne Frank and on concentration camps, Auschwitz in particular. Junior Stephanie Honcharenko made her exhibit on various extermination methods used by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

A steady stream of spectators came to visit throughout the afternoon. One of them was Jesse Parker, a junior at DHS who had history class in the first semester. Only second-semester students had to submit their projects into the museum.

“It helps the modern-day generation learn something from our past about one of the greatest wars in American history,” Parker said.

Parker also talked about his own grandfather, who was at the battle of Iwo Jima during World War II. Parker’s grandfather had served as a corpsman in the Navy, and Parker plans on doing the same.

Juniors Tristin Haaland and Cole Fetch chose to do their projects on World War II small arms weapons. They were allowed to bring in two rifles — a Mosin Nagant and a Mauser 98 carbine. They researched main infantry rifles used by the Axis and Allies during the war.

Haaland and Fetch’s exhibit was one of the more popular during the museum. It drew attention from a lot of the public, including World War II veteran Jacob Focht.

Focht, who is 95 years old, served in World War II “from the beginning until the end,” and was enlisted in the 15th U.S. Army Air Corps. He talked about how the enlistment process worked, and said “they put us all in a line, and they numbered us off — one, two, three and four.” He said that the different numbers corresponded to different branches in the Army, and he was chosen as Army Air Corps.

“We had 11 months of training, while the Germans had 11 years,” Focht said. He added that “It was a miracle,” that some of them made it home safe. Focht also commented about how everyone he was stationed with were just “boys from the (Great) Depression” and about the experiences they had to face together.

“It is really nice work, and I’m really happy to see all of this that hasn’t been forgotten,” Focht said.

There were more than 60 exhibits at the museum this year.

Given the success of this year’s museum, the DHS faculty looks to make this an annual event.

Next year’s topic will be the Great Depression.