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Titan Produces Touching Tribute to Deceased Friend

A student's kindly act leads to a historical presentation.

Junior+Jinze+Wu+begins+her+presentation+on+her+deceased+friend+and+WWII+veteran%2C+Bob+DeSpain.+
Junior Jinze Wu begins her presentation on her deceased friend and WWII veteran, Bob DeSpain.

Junior Jinze Wu begins her presentation on her deceased friend and WWII veteran, Bob DeSpain.

Mr. Paccone

Mr. Paccone

Junior Jinze Wu begins her presentation on her deceased friend and WWII veteran, Bob DeSpain.

Dahlys Ang and Rakel Ang

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Junior Jinze Wu had more on her mind than just receiving a good grade for class as she labored this fall to create a 15-minute presentation on World War II. She was creating a loving tribute to her friend that had recently passed away.

 

Her friend was World War II Navy veteran Bob DeSpain, and when he passed away this summer Wu felt she had to do something to commemorate him. She delivered her presentation, entitled “Battle of Samar,” earlier this month to Mr. Paccone’s first period Honors U.S. History Class.

 

His story is a universal American story,” Wu said of DeSpain. “He represented typical American heroism and sacrifice during World War Two.”

 

Wu met Despain when she volunteered as a tour guide aboard the Battleship USS Iowa, which is docked in the Los Angeles Harbor and now serves as a museum highlighting the life of U.S. Navy men and women who served during the war.

 

She struck up a conversation with DeSpain one day, and riveted by his stories of heroism and sacrifice, looked forward to seeing him every time she volunteered aboard the destroyer.  Their friendship blossomed.  

“He represented typical American heroism and sacrifice during World War II.””

— Jinze Wu

The two had many conversation, Wu recalls, mostly consisting of DeSpain pouring out the stories of the Battle of Samar and life in time of war.  His was a story of  “American heroism,  bravery, courage and strength,” she said.

 

DeSpain’s story of the Battle of Samar was harrowing, Wu said.  

 

DeSpain was aboard the destroyer USS Hoel when it was sunk by the  Japanese in October of 1944.  He was only 19 years old at the time, and of the 339 original sailors on board the ship, DeSpain was one of 86 survivors.

 

The survivors spent about 2 days in deep, shark-infested waters with hardly any food or freshwater. In order to survive, DeSpain tied himself and some other men to a raft and floating net to make sure that they wouldn’t drown when they were asleep. The men had no idea if they would ever be rescued, but they were.

 

Spurred by feelings of of guilt, sadness, and obligation, Wu needed to create the presentation in honor of her friend, she said.  

She had not seen him for two months before his death,  she said, adding that she was also not able to attend his funeral because it was held while she was at school.

“I felt like I should my do my version of a memorial service for him because he wanted people, especially youngsters, not to forget the sacrifice our forefathers made,” she said.  “I hoped that even though I was not able to be present at the service, I could do my part to help people remember him in other ways.”  

Paccone marveled at Wu’s presentation.

“It was an absolutely stunning, college-professor like presentation,” Paccone said, adding that he was even more moved by the presentation because it was purely a labor of love.

“She’s my teacher’s assistant, so she wasn’t even doing it for a grade,” Paccone said.

In continuing to volunteer at the Battleship USS Iowa, Wu is excited to preserve the history of the Battle of Samar and people like Bob who risked their lives every day.

“If we don’t remember our history, how can we move towards a greater future?” she said. “Progressing towards that greater future starts with continuing on the legacy of those who fought for our freedom.

“I still maintain the belief that history should never be forgotten. DeSpain’s extraordinary story must continue to teach youngsters about what happened in our past,” Wu said.

 

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Titan Produces Touching Tribute to Deceased Friend