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September 22, 2014

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Shot at immortality for WWII vets

Of the more that 16 million U.S. military members who fought in World War II only about 3 million are still alive.

Larry Cappetto would like to talk to as many of those veterans as possible to get them to share their memories of battle with future generations.

The independent documentary filmmaker and producer will be in Las Vegas this weekend to interview Southern Nevadans who fought in World War II for his award-winning series "Lest They Be Forgotten."

Cappetto, recently featured in a "CBS Evening News" story about his project, will conduct interviews Friday through Sunday at Palm Mortuary, 1600 S. Jones Blvd. Palm is one of the sponsors of his series.

"What started as a personal project five years ago has now turned into an international venture for me," said Cappetto, who has interviewed 500 World War II veterans in more than 100 cities since 2002.

Cappetto has amassed one of the largest oral histories about World War II but wants to hear more true combat stories.

"I am still fascinated to listen to what happened when they stormed the beaches," said the 49-year-old resident of Grand Junction, Colo., who did not serve in the military.

"I want to collect these stories - these moving first-hand accounts - before they (the soldiers) are gone."

Each videotaped interview Cappetto conducts ends with a salute from the veterans.

Cappetto, who has been a video producer in Colorado since 1989, said his goal is to tell the personal side of war. Some veterans have said they shared stories with him they never told their families, he said.

Palm Mortuary spokesman Ned Phillips said his company decided to sponsor Cappetto and the currently running PBS series "The War" by filmmaker Ken Burns because they offer an effective means of preserving history.

"My father is a World War II veteran who is still alive, but is not physically capable of talking about the war, and his grandchildren hardly study World War II in school," Phillips said.

"Someone has to do what Larry is doing or these people and their dedication to our freedoms may be forgotten. Larry is very passionate about making sure their stories are not forgotten."

It costs Cappetto $15,000 to $20,000 to produce each episode. He has done seven - three on the battle of Omaha Beach, two on Iwo Jima, one on the Korean War and one on the Vietnam War. Cappetto said he plans to make at least five more "Lest They Be Forgotten" episodes, including one on women in war.

Cappetto's "Omaha Beach Vol. 1" aired locally on PBS this month. In May he showed a segment of one of his documentaries at Palm Mortuary during its Memorial Day ceremony and conducted his initial local interviews. Cappetto did a second set of Las Vegas interviews in July.

For this weekend's interviews, Cappetto is particularly interested in finding veterans who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, D-Day and Iwo Jima or those who were at Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

He also is looking for women who served during World War II.

Cappetto's series has received the George Washington Medal for promoting understanding and appreciation for America's heritage and freedom.

The documentaries are available through Cappetto's Web site, veteranshistory.org.

Las Vegas veterans interested in telling their World War II stories in Cappetto's documentary may call Palm Mortuary at 464-8314 or Cappetto at (970) 254-9262 to set up an appointment.

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