Anacapa Schools Breakfast Club spent time on Veterans Day listening to stories from World War II veteran and former POW William R. Livingstone. (Hilary Doubleday photo)

Stories teach in remarkable ways. This concept is not new at Anacapa School where community members, speakers, and storytellers are invited regularly for an event called Breakfast Club, an Anacapa tradition at which the entire student body and faculty assemble to learn directly from the people involved in a wide range of real world professions.

Anacapa Breakfast Clubs have hosted politicians, news anchors, environmentalists, professors, movie directors, and countless others who have shared their personal stories and life experiences with Anacapa’s seventh- through 12th-grade students.

This year, in honor of Veteran’s Day, William R. Livingstone, a Santa Barbara resident and World War II veteran whose plane was shot down on his very first mission over Germany on Nov. 2, 1944, and was then held as a prisoner of war (POW), came to speak to Anacapa students.

After being introduced by Head of School Gordon Sichi, Livingstone, a gifted storyteller with a sharp recollection of events, told the story of the effect Pearl Harbor had on him personally and on the country as a whole in 1941, his enlistment in the military, training, and a detailed account of the day his plane was shot down over Germany.

In his book, Remembering World War II: Recollections of a POW in Germany, Livingstone describes the same memory, “but without thinking about it or even having time to be scared, I crawled back to the open hatch, crouched in front of it, and I too rolled out into thin air. Then, as I fell through the air, I realized what had happened… I looked beyond my feet to the sky. I could see our B-17, perhaps only 100 yards away. It nosed down at a 45 degree angle with its right wing trailing flames… Beyond the plane I saw the belly of a Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf fighter, obviously pulling up on what must have been a second attack on our plane.

“The crew that had successfully completed seventeen missions now dropped out of the beloved airplane like peas out of a pod…”

Anacapa students were fascinated by Mr. Livingstone’s stories of his plane being shot down, parachuting to earth not knowing what country he had landed in, being a Kriegi”, a German prisoner of war, and what it was like to be hungry all the time, “The funny thing about hunger, I learned, is that after two or three days, you don’t feel it so much. It’s having just a little bit of food more frequently that is the most painful.”

After Mr. Livingstone’s Breakfast Club talk, Anacapa students took full advantage of the opportunity to ask questions of, in Head of School Gordon Sichi’s words,” living history.”

The students were curious about Mr. Livingstone’s readjustment to civilian life, PTSD, and the treatment of American POWs in Germany compared to American POW treatment in other countries such as Japan during World War II.

Anacapa Breakfast Clubs happen every morning, and speakers are invited to speak several times a month, offering students unique opportunities to hear first-person accounts and ask direct questions of a wide assortment of professionals.

Today’s talk by veteran William Livingstone was in honor of Veteran’s Day, a day the school has always honored through field trips, guest speakers, and observance since the school’s founding in 1981.