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July 30, 2022

World War II: Young children whose parents were killed

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Walt LinneHaving lost a parent in what historians have described as the most cataclysmic event of the 20th century, they call themselves World War II orphans. Many were young children, under 12 years old, when their fathers were killed in action. Some were not even born yet when their fathers died.

For another Hoosier History Live show in our continuing exploration of the impact of World War II, we will focus on these children, now men and women in the 70s and 80s. Some are members of a national, non-profit organization, American WWII Orphans Network, known as AWON.

It's president, Indianapolis resident Walt Linne, a retired U.S. Air Force command pilot, will join Nelson to share insights about the impact of losing a parent during the war. Walt, who also is retired from a career in telecommunications at IUPUI, was just 2 years old when his father, Walter John Linne of Indianapolis, was killed six weeks before the end of the war in Europe.

Walt's father was 32 years old and a tank commander for the U.S. Army's 14th armored division when he was shot by a German sniper while loading wounded soldiers on his tank to take to a medical station. Having been wounded himself in an earlier battle, he was awarded two Purple Hearts, one posthumously.

Walter John LinneNelson and Walt expect to be joined for part of our show by Indianapolis native Lorin McCleary III, who has lived in New Mexico for several decades. He was born five months after his father, Lorin McCleary Jr., a B-24 bomber pilot, was killed in 1944. Lorin says his mother remarried and declined to talk to him about his father.

"I did not see a photo of him until I was in my 40s," Lorin says. A graduate of North Central High School and Indiana University, Lorin is semi-retired from a business career in Western states; he holds commercial pilot and flight instructor licenses.

Our guest Walt Linne is a graduate of Scecina Memorial High School and Purdue University. He is a long-time member of AWON, which began in 1991 and is run by volunteers. According to its website, the organization helps members with "finding an elusive service number" for a parent in World War II, "making contact with a father's buddies", and in several other ways.

During some recent years, the U.S. Congress has been designated Aug. 1 as Gold Star Children's Day in recognition of people like Walt and Lorin.

"AWON's mission is to keep our father's sacrifice alive," Walt says. "Our dads were heroes, but we have experienced the pain of our mothers and their families and friends." He adds that AWON aspires to reach out to help people who lost parents in other wars to "break the code of silence that many of us felt until we met another orphan."

Lorin McCleary IIIAccording to Walt, Veterans Administration records indicate about 183,000 children age 12 or under were left fatherless because of World War II. But those are only the ones who applied for VA benefits; Walter suspects many others probably did not do that because their families were unaware that the young children could receive them.

Women, particularly Army nurses, also were killed in the Pacific and European theaters of the war. But Lorin notes the government was, as he puts it, "extremely reluctant to send women with young children overseas during World War II". So all of the AWON members are those who lost their fathers.

After Walt Linne's father was killed, his mother sold the family's home in the Brightwood neighborhood of Indianapolis. She moved with Walt and his infant brother into his grandparents' home and took a job. Eventually, she remarried and had seven other children.

The mother of our guest Lorin McCleary III also remarried; he was adopted by his stepfather and known at North Central and IU as Lorin Devine. Later, he decided to return to his birth name of McCleary in tribute to the heroic father whom he never had a chance to know.

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And more party photos from HHL 14 . . .

. . .where Nancy Hanks Lincoln, Johnny Appleseed, Mayor Joe Hogsett, May Wright Sewall, and lots of former show guests, celebrated Hoosier History Live’s fourteen years on the air at the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library on the evening of July 14. Hoosier serial killer Belle Gunness, portrayed by Sally Spears, even showed up looking for a husband to come help her work on her northern Indiana farm! Expect more party photos next week.  

Roadtrip: The Marquette Trail in Dunes National Seashore

Did everyone see Dorothy Buell, portrayed by Linda Kraatz, in the pink dress holding a “Save the Dunes!” sign at the July 14 Hoosier History Live gala at the Vonnegut Library? Dorothy Buell was an early Hoosier environmentalist, and our Roadtrip this week focuses on this picturesque part of the state.   Marquette Trail

Guest Roadtripper Richard Vonnegut, long time rails to trails enthusiast who also calls himself a “Path-ologist”, tells us about the 2-mile Marquette Trail in northwest Indiana.  This “short but sweet” trail uses the roadbed of a former Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad line and offers picturesque views of Lake Michigan as it travels through the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

The Marquette Trail also offers views of diverse habitats, including hardwood forests, wetlands and rolling dunes. And along the way, trail-goers can enjoy catching a glimpse of the water birds, deer, lizards and other wildlife.

What’s really exciting, Richard tells us, is that eventually the Marquette Trial will become a part of the 60-mile Marquette Greenway trail connecting Chicago and New Buffalo, Michigan. And, if there’s time, Richard will tell us about the trail’s namesake, the French explorer Pere Marquette, who explored this area in the 1600’s.

Nelson Price, host and historian
Molly Head, executive producer (317) 506-7164 
Ryan DeRome, associate producer

Cheryl Lamb, administrative manager
Richard Sullivan, senior tech consultant
Pam Fraizer, graphic designer
Garry Chilluffo, consultant


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Another Hoosier History Live endorsement from a Hoosier in California . .

“Hoosier History Live is a bright spot in my media constellation. I also frequently forward your weekly enewsletters to friends around the globe. I may now be a Californian, but my Hoosier interest is endless. The podcasts and streaming are good tools. By all means, persevere!”

Tom Cochran, former news anchor, WTHR-TV Channel 13 Indianapolis

"...Fills a niche..." 

"Hoosier History fills a niche for the lover of Indiana history.” Kathleen Madinger Angelone 

"... a compelling and engaging project..." 

"Molly Head and Nelson Price are Indiana-based visionaries who have created a compelling and engaging media project with Hoosier History Live. Podcasts, website, enewsletter, and live call-in radio show; it’s all there!"

- Keira Amstutz, President and CEO, Indiana Humanities

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Facebook logo links to the Hoosier History Live! page.Twitter logo for Hoosier History Live.Acknowledgments to WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, The Indiana Album, Monomedia, Indiana Historical Bureau, Indiana Landmarks, Henri Pensis, Kielynn Tally, Genesis Brown, Leticia Vasselli, Heather McIntyre, and many other individuals and organizations. We are independently produced and are self-supporting through organizational sponsorship and through individual contribution at the yellow button on our newsletter or website. For organizational sponsorship, which includes logos, links, and voiced credits in the show, contact Molly Head at (317) 506-7164 or email her at molly@hoosierhistorylive.org. Our media reach continues to grow via podcasting.

We'd like to thank the following recent individual contributors who make this show possible. For a full list of contributors over the years, visit  Support the Show on our website.

  • Aleta Hodge
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