WWII vets reunite for the first time

February 21, 2008 4:02:10 PM PST
Two veterans of World War II have formed a special bond, decades after the war's end.87-year-old West Chester neighbors Manuel Ardao and Gordon Whiting are World War II veterans who recently learned that they served at the same time in the same place in the same army battalion.

"It's the biggest surprise in the world for me to find out I had a buddy in the war," Manuel Ardao said. They were at a Veteran's Day event when someone asked where folks were stationed.

"And I hear back in the corner, 323rd engineer combat battalion. Wow," Gordon Whiting said.

The corporal and the sergeant who served half a world away in Japan, rebuilding the war ravaged infrastructure, were now living in the same retirement community in West Chester.

The two are not sure how closely their paths crossed 64 years ago.

Whiting was in personnel. Ardao was in transportation. However, their connection today is clear.

They've shared memories, mementos and on Thursday, Whiting completed a mission that's linked to a Japanese flag he found 64 ears ago after the bombing of Hiroshima.

"I was taking a walk into Wakiana to take some pictures and saw this flag in the rubble on side of road, so I picked it up. It was all dirty. I took it and washed it and thought hey, i'm going to have everybody sign it," Whiting said.

Ardao never signed the flag until Thursday at a special ceremony.

"The mere fact that I'm signing it and I was a participant tells the story," Ardao said.

The signature completes a mission for these veterans and feeds a newly established friendship between the old war buddies.