Portraits of Valor

Portraits of Valor: Warren High, 99, Army

He felt underused in the war, so now his fight is climate change

A black and white headshot of a man in glasses.
WWII Veteran Warren High in his Duluth home on Feb. 4, 2020.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Warren High was born, raised and still lives in Duluth. He was drafted into the Army in 1942 and became part of the 818th Signal Port Service Company, where he installed and repaired radio equipment for use across Europe. 

High was glad to be serving his country overseas and thought it was the right thing to be doing with his life, but wanted more out of his service.

“I was frustrated sometimes, because I didn’t feel like I was doing something worthwhile,” he said.

He spent most of his service in Glasgow, Scotland, as a radio technician. He built radios and installed hundreds of them on Navy ships. 

These skills set him up for a career in broadcasting after the end of the war. He helped start Duluth Radio station KDAL. 

Today, he lives in an apartment with a view of Lake Superior where, he says, he sees the ice go out earlier every year. Climate change is the most important fight for him now. He supports a number of environmental causes and plans to stick around until humans change the way we treat the planet.

“As soon as we start living with the earth, I’m going to go. I’m not going until we do that. I was born on Earth Day,” he said.

Photographer Evan Frost interviewed Warren High. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity. It is part of MPR News’ Portraits of Valor series, which features Minnesota’s World War II veterans.

As a young man, why was it important for you to go serve in the war? 

I didn’t know what to do anymore. So I went, “This might be OK, this could be a good thing to do.” And I felt like I did get an awful lot of information out of it. And I think that I did help in the whole thing.

What was the most pivotal point of your service? Was there something that changed you?

I don’t know. I figured that I could be doing more than I was doing, but I didn’t know how to get to that, and it was frustrating. I figured I could be doing something more to maybe improve my status and help the actual war too. 

I figured that the stuff in Glasgow was just a waste of time, except for a job with the Navy where I had to put all their radios on [the ships]. That was a good thing I could do to think I helped the whole thing. 

A black and white photo of a man in glasses sitting in a chair.
Warren High.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Did serving change your view of other Americans?

No, they were all good — all very good people. They [his fellow soldiers] were all guys who took their job and gave it their full activity and responsibility. 

What is your hope for the future of the United States? 

The thing that I say is that we have to stop living on the Earth. We have to start living with the Earth. And as soon as we start living with the Earth, I’m going to go. I’m not going until we do that.  I was born on Earth Day. 

[Fighting climate change] is absolutely the right thing to do. We have to start listening to the Earth right now. We should let the Earth do what it wants to do — because if we do, it’s not going to be changing nearly as fast as it is now.

What advice would you give a young soldier today?

I would say be firm, and obey. Do what you have to do and don’t make it any worse than it already is. Make sure you do it well, because that’s the only way you can do it, is to do it thoroughly. 

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