created: 1/25/2008 5:19:39 PM
updated: 1/25/2008 10:56:06 PM

(KSDK) -- As the sun sets the "greatest generation," efforts continue nationwide to record and chronicle the experiences of World War Two veterans, so their stories will never be forgotten. Such efforts range in scale from huge, multipart documentaries to one man just wanting to save the stories of his friends.

"The Marine cemetery on Guam. This is the third Marines," said Bud Gleason, a former McDonnell Douglas executive and World War Two Marine veteran, looking at pictures in his photo album. Doing so is like taking a personal journey back in time. The images he captured of his days in the Marines are images you wouldn't expect, shot in places you'd never thought about when thinking of the war.

Smiling faces, set in front of a backdrop of China, Gleason details how as a communications expert during the war, it was his job to set up and maintain communications across South Asia. Work that was vitally important as American forces closed in on the empire of Japan.

The work, albeit peaceful in nature, leads Gleason to believe he's not hero.

"I didn't do any fighting, I don't have any romantic tales to tell," said Gleason.

But he is a hero for preserving tales from friends who did do the fighting, tales that without Gleason, may have perished forever.

Gleason grew up in the village of Canastota, New York with a tight-knit group of friends.. they played together, had fun together, and when Pearl Harbor was attacked, they went to war together.

"Fourteen of us went to war in World War Two. And fourteen of us came back," said Gleason.

Came back from battles in nearly every theater of war.

"They served in north Africa, in Sicily, in Italy, in France and Germany, in the Philippines and the South Pacific and China and they had stories to tell," said Gleason.

And tell they did, but only to each other..

"We didn't tell these stories to other people. Our wives didn't know about it. No one knew about it," said Gleason.

Stories shared only amongst comrades are stories that someday will be lost. Gleason thought that would be tragic.

"I just thought that these should be recorded for posterity, for their families, for their grandchildren to know what we went through," said Gleason.

One by one, Gleason convinced each friend to tell his story. "I asked them to furnish me an audio description of what they did in World War Two, and to send me any photo graph they may have."

Using his own equipment, Gleason pieced together the wartime memories of his closest friends. When he was done, there was only title that fit. "The Lucky Ones because we grew up together, we went through World War Two and survived although some of them were badly wounded. And then we were successful during our professional lifetimes."

One such friend who responded to Gleason's request was former Marine :Rudy Albanese. Albanese was apart of the American landing force at Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion, June 6, 1944.

His story spared nothing, humbly delivering his unique perspective, years after the war.

One example of his storytelling is Albanese's story of being transferred from one landing craft to another. "My original boat crew got a direct hit by an German 88 and everybody in that boat crew was killed," said Albanese on video tape.

Another "Lucky One," recounted this story: "I had been assigned to headquarters battalion and that position allowed me the opportunity to witness first hand the formal surrender of the Japanese. A very impressive site to see the Japanese, the Chinese nationalist and our American generals at the formal surrender, especially when the Japanese placed their samurai swords on the surrender table."

Gleason's work lives as a testament to a group shrinking in size. reminding us that someday this generation of heroes will be gone, and all will have left are the memories we were lucky enough to save.

"You think of the past even more then you think of the future because you don't have a long time for the future," said Gleason.

Gleason also created hundreds of videos for friends and fellow volunteers at "Wings of Hope," never taking a single dollar for his labor and time.