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Daughters of Yalta

Hamilton, Ohio – In the end, she got a little choked up. Understandably. Debbie Harms spoke about her father – the late Alfred Robert Adolf Zugehoer – during the Fitton Center’s Daughters of Yalta Celebrating Self luncheon Oct. 5. In partnership with One City, One Book Hamilton and the Butler County Historical Society, Harms and Dr. Ralph Gutkowski brought a local perspective to the sweeping events of the Second World War and Cold War that followed.

It was Harms’ grandson who prompted the emotions.

“Grammy, your dad was some kind of hero,” he told her.

Indeed, Zugehoer was a Ritchie Boy – one of a select group of immigrant soldiers who gathered more than half of the military intelligence in the European theater during WWII. Much of his military life was classified and left unspoken before he passed.

However, Harms researched his role in the war, collected documents and pieced together an intriguing story of a man born in Germany who moved to the United States at age 10 and willingly went back to help dismantle the Nazi regime.

Particularly poignant was Zugehoer’s relationship with a prisoner of war named Hans Martens, who made pencil drawings of Albert and his wife, Harms’ mother.

For his part, Gutowski offered some humorous anecdotes around the deadly serious work he did for the Air Force in the field of missile defense in the 1960s and ‘70s. Among them, a Dr. Strageglove-esque scene of inadvertently trapping some high military brass in a narrow mountain chamber thanks to malfunctioning 80-ton blast doors at NORAD.

(Maybe if Gutkowski had clearance to see the facility where he eventually worked – or at least gotten a heads up from his wife, who somehow toured the facility before he had access – that little faux pas could have been avoided.)

More ominously, he also described Operation Button Up – the complete closure of the mountain for 30 days in the event of a nuclear attach – and the three-million-gallon lake of diesel fuel and five million gallons of clean water on site just to keep essentials operating for a month in isolation.

Listing the features of the mountain, though, he lightened the mood again noting a sign near the diesel generators that read, “Without electricity it’s just another cave.”

Tom Maper provided guitar music during the meatloaf luncheon prepared by Two Women in a Kitchen.

The Hamilton High School Transitions To Life team helped set up, serve drinks and clean up after the event.

Next up on the Celebrating Self Calendar – Dr. Al Miller: Holocaust Survivor. Please join us Wednesday, Nov. 2, for his compelling story.

The Fitton Center for Creative Arts is located at 101 S. Monument Avenue on the Riverfront in downtown Hamilton, Ohio.

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