Spanning History

The Pride of Niner Nation Marching Band is packing its gear for an opportunity-of-a-lifetime trip to Normandy, France, to represent the United States of America at the 74th D-Day commemoration events; 138 members of the band are able to make the trip, made possible by generous donors and major funding from the UNC Charlotte Alumni Association. 

In addition to performing at several notable venues while overseas, students will connect to a slice of world history that led to the founding of UNC Charlotte as they learn more about the experiences and sacrifices of “The Greatest Generation.”

UNC Charlotte is one of several educational institutions founded in American cities at the conclusion of WWII — schools created to meet the demand for higher education fueled by the GI Bill, which gave veterans unprecedented access to trade schools, colleges and universities.

A new University website, Origins of Opportunity, explores the depth of wartime and post-war experiences of families of UNC Charlotte alumni, faculty, staff and students and shares information about the band’s trip; affirms the University's commitment to today's veterans as one of the nation’s top veteran-friendly universities; and offers ways to support the Pride of Niner Nation Marching Band.

"Origins of Opportunity" Live Stream 

On the anniversary of D-Day, June 6, at 3 p.m. Eastern time, UNC Charlotte presents a live stream special, “Origins of Opportunity.” Watch coverage of the band’s performances in France and the reactions and perspectives of students as they experience the historic Normandy coast. The program also features a University historian and expert on World War II, and the insights of Holocaust survivor and Professor Emerita Susan Czernyak-Spatz.

Access the June 6 live stream on UNC Charlotte's official Facebook or Inside UNC Charlotte

War Stories

Through the eyes of veteran children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, UNC Charlotte alumni, faculty, staff and students share memories and stories of family members whose contributions to World War II — on the front lines and behind the scenes — helped shape the course of world history.

Gerald Houston Helms
Remembered by his son, Houston Helms

As the nation clawed its way out of the darkest days of the Great Depression, teenager Gerald Houston Helms was growing up fast in a working-class neighborhood in north Charlotte. Just 15 years old, he lied about his age and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1944 and soon found himself a part of South Pacific battles and Mediterranean relief missions.

Stationed in the South Pacific on Navy destroyer USS Denebola, Helms volunteered to work as a scuba diver, making repairs and scraping barnacles off the massive hulls of the large warships.

Foster R. Renwick
Remembered by his son, John Renwick

As a captain in the Army Air Corps, Foster R. Renwick piloted a C-47 (DC-3) for the 314th Troop Carrier Division. Two hours prior to the initial beach invasion of Normandy on D-Day, his squadron flew the 82nd Airborne to Sainte-Mère-Église, France. It was the first liberated town in France.

Renwick enlisted in the Army Air Corps in Minneapolis. He went on to flight school in Texas and served in the North African, Italian, French, and Belgian theaters. In the subsequent days following the Normandy invasion, he flew supplies to France and brought wounded soldiers back to England.

Take in the depth of this experience by exploring the Origins of Opportunity website. Read how the legacies of World War II veterans live today through our alumni, faculty, staff and students.