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World War II letter brings history to life for First Lutheran 8th-grade students

First Lutheran’s eighth-grade class stands in front of its World Wars board. Pictured in the front row, from left, are Maggie Schuft, Beau Christensen, Kyle Hagen, Gabe Halvorson, Logan Ober and Lauren Bernstein. In the back row are Emma Becker, Rebekah Welch, Elise Betcher, Abigail Gruber, Becky Dammann, Jordan Mickolichek, Cassidy Rislund and Orion Blasen.

Under the guidance of teacher and principal Dean Scheele, First Evangelical Lutheran School’s eighth-grade class is in the midst of its own little World War II mystery. It is in search of a relative of the late Don Givens, who was a co-pilot in World War II and a friend and crewman of Dean Scheele’s father, Marvin Scheele.
Dean Scheele came across a letter written from Mrs. O.M. Givens, Don Givens’ mother, to Marvin Scheele, after Mrs. Givens received news that her son was tragically killed in a failed B-24 Liberator training mission by Los Angeles, California.
The class’ goal is to find a direct relative of Don Givens and give them this letter.
The class has been sporadically working on this World War II project since the beginning of the school year.
“We’re going to ‘do’ history,” said Dean Scheele, who believes primary, first accounts of history are always more exciting than secondary sources.
Marvin Scheele (who grew up in Hamburg) and Don Givens both belonged to the Air Force 11th Bombardment Group Heavy (H). Don Givens, who was a co-pilot and Marvin Scheele, who was a navigator, flew on B-24 Liberator “Sexy Sue II Mother of Ten,” named by its pilot, Charles “Hoppy” Hopkins after Penny Sue, his infant daughter. Bombardier James Webb was also part of the crew, along with five enlisted soldiers who manned the guns.
After seven successful missions, Marvin Scheele ended up trading spots with a new crewman after he found out that Hopkins struggled to see at night.
Don Givens also ended up leaving for a different crew and Webb, who got sick, was replaced by Frank Washburn. A couple missions after this transition, Hopkins’ plane was shot down. “They were never heard from again and were assumed dead,” said Dean Scheele. For more about the students' efforts, see the Nov. 8 print edition of The Chronicle.