WWII vet shares experiences with students

VIENNA – Talking about his ordeal in the final days of World War II, veteran Bob Pioli recounted about a dozen times he thought he was going to die.

“They say when you are going to die your life flashes before your eyes,” he said. “That’s not true. You pray.

“I must have said a 1,000 Hail Marys.”

Pioli, a WWII veteran and POW, spoke to eighth-grade students at Jackson Middle School Tuesday as part of the school’s Veterans Day programs. Pioli captivated about 200 students, recounting his ordeal during the last year of WWII. Pioli’s bomber was shot down over Hungary and he was captured by Germans. He spent months being tortured, interrogated and shipped to POW camps. He ended up in a POW camp near Moosburg, Germany, along with about 100,000 prisoners, before being liberated April 29, 1945.

Kathy Williams, who teaches West Virginia studies, said this is the third year the now 92-year-old Pioli has visited the school to speak with students.

“He stole our hearts,” Williams said. “He’s an intelligent man who presents a good story.”

Woody Wilson, a retired social studies teacher and Vietnam veteran, spoke to Williams’ students last week. She is a big fan of veterans and their stories and wants them to share with students.

“They are near and dear to my heart,” Williams said.

Pioli spoke to three classes of students Tuesday. For the first class, he didn’t get to finish his story before the bell sounded. Students begged to stay to hear Pioli finish.

It’s such an honor for the kids to meet him,” Williams said.

One of the students who heard Pioli speak was his grandson, Matthew McCarthy, a sophomore at Parkersburg Catholic High School. McCarthy is one of Pioli’s 14 grandchildren. He’s heard much of Pioli’s tale before.

“Not all of it,” McCarthy said. “There were little parts.”

McCarthy said when he was younger the tales of his grandfather’s ordeal seemed like stories. Now older and able to understand and grasp the reality and horrors of war, McCarthy is stunned by Pioli’s ordeal.

“Now it’s wow. There are no words,” he said.

“There are things done in war that are indescribable,” Pioli said.