Reporter WWII series to be preserved on-line
Linda Whorton, a Reporter employee and avid genealogist, is re-typing every word of a very well-received 18-part series in 1994-95 which profiled Rockdale World War II veterans.
This was just before we went all computerized, digitized and simonized, so there’s no other way to do it but to do it all over again. Thanks, Linda.
The series was not envisioned as a series at all. In fact, it was going to be a one-time story tied to the 50th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.
By the time it was over, 15 months later, it had turned into a series on the Greatest Generation, we had reprinted it, on copiers, twice and sold out twice. It turned out to be one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.
And see, I’ve already fallen into the trap I despise so much that so many journalists do on the national level.
It wasn’t about me, or how I felt about anything.
But it’s pretty easy to tell you what it was about.
• It was about the millions of Americans who put their lives on hold—or in 405,399 cases gave them up—to save this country. and the world, from the greatest mass evil in history. • It was about the stoic, dignified gentleman who sat across the table from me and burst into tears a half-century later when remembering the burial at sea of so many of his friends on the deck of a destroyer.
• It was about the tank driver who, mercifully, could not remember the day he got out of his burning motorized coffin while three of his buddies did not.
• It was about my down-thestreet neighbor chillingly recalling the softball game he played at Anzio Beach. “We had foxholes by each base to dive into when bombs hit. One came over when I was between second and third. I went back to one at second. The bomb landed in the one at third. If I’d gone to third I would have been dead. Not out, dead.”
• It was about the small-town Texas boy, hitchhiking down a California road, in uniform, getting a ride from a man in a fancy foreign car, looking across the seat and realizing he’d been picked up by Clark Gable.
• It was about the Afri- can-American veteran telling me how his segregated unit was kept away at all times from a white unit, even though they shared the same tiny island in the South Pacific. “Were they afraid you wouldn’t get along?” I asked. “I think they were afraid we would,” was his reply.
• It was about the Central Texas farm boy who had never been out of Washington County, joining the Army. They sent him to China, about as far away from Washington County, Texas, as it’s possible to get.
• It was about the prisoner of war, heading somewhere on a road in Germany in March, 1945, after being liberated by the Russian Army. “I looked behind me and here came a GI in a Jeep. He honked and threw me a loaf of bread,” he said, voice cracking. “At that moment I knew I was going to go home.”
• It was about the father of a childhood friend describing the German shell that came through his B-17 and lodged there. If you can believe it, the last five digits of its serial number were the ID number on his dog tags. “They say the one that gets you has your number on it,” he said. “Well, this one really did, but it still didn’t get me.”
Of the 16 men and one woman profiled in that series, only two are still with us.
We’ve lost a lot of history since that series came out in The Reporter. But, thanks to Linda, we’re not going to lose this part of it.
It’s going to take a while but it is going to get done. We’ll let you know when and where it’s available online when it’s all complete.