The Greatest Generation

The Jesse Lee Home in Seward, Alaska - worried about Japanese invasion the home was camouflaged

The Jesse Lee Home in Seward, Alaska – worried about Japanese invasion the home was camouflaged

Today I have reflected on the “Day that will live in infamy.”  And I thought, what was it like to be a child during that time. Not only a child in the U.S., but someone who lived in Alaska,  a state that was invaded by Japan. I know someone like that, my dad.

His words:

“The war had begun on December 7, 1941. We were having church services when Mr. Newton announced the tragic news. We wondered what it was we were to do if the Japanese were to attack our town. It was a frightening time for all the children and staff at the Jesse Lee Home in Seward, Alaska. The U.S. Army had already set up a temporary campsite in the uncultivated pasture lands between the Home and Seward. Most of the build up activity took place during the summer of 1941. Blackout curtains and suppressed headlamps on cars became the signature of the time and were to last for the next four years. Air raids were expected because the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and were expected to bomb Alaska. Costal artillery and other gun emplacements had been placed in strategic locations around Resurrection Bay. Although considerable attention was given by the local population in watching the local defensive build up, there still remained a great amount of fear in not knowing what was going to happen.”

“In the spring of 1942 I was a graduating senior of the Seward High School. My plan was to attend a trade school, learn a trade, and then pursue a college degree.  However, because of the war against Germany, Italy, and Japan my plans were slightly altered. “

From my father’s book, Jesse Lee Home My Home.

My dad, giving a salute to his fallen comrades at Omaha Beach Cemetery on the anniversary of D-Day

My dad, giving a salute to his fallen comrades at Omaha Beach Cemetery on the anniversary of D-Day

My dad went on to be drafted, served in the European theater until after Germany surrendered.  My dad was a part of the greatest generation.  The army took him through England, France, Austria, and Germany. His post was one of the first attacked in the Battle of the Bulge. As a member of the 44th, engineers, he helped removed mines, build bridges, and – “peeled enough potatoes to feed the army,” as well as build their latrines. He wasn’t an officer, he was a private, he did as he was told. Along the way he liberated some wine in France and Germany.  One of the great ironies of life is his love of wine is a “white Zinfandel with an ice cube and some sparkling water in it,” – and I can only imagine the wine he drank during that war.

A few years ago I was able to travel to Normandy with my father, to celebrate the 68th anniversary of D-Day. Everywhere he went the people thanked him for his service – they asked to have their photograph taken with this man who, 68 years before, was just a kid from Alaska.

They are the greatest generation – and today – I am thankful for my dad and his contribution.

Dr. Terry Simpson About Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and went to medical school. Dr. Simpson, a weight loss surgeon is an advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he believes teaching people to improve their health through their food and in their kitchen. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcolm Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska and in 2013 Dr Simpson won the National Indian Health Board Area Impact Award. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit

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