Just after the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of V-J Day in New Zealand, in August 1995, one of my co-workers, a wrinkled New Zealander colleague, came to see me in my office.
"You know, Dave," he said, "With your knowledge of history, you could do a day-by-day history of World War II for the command. Everybody likes those essays you do for major events. They’d like to know that today was the day of the battle of Guadalcanal, for example."
I leaned back in my swivel chair. "The problem with that, is that all the remembrance is over and done with. It would be kind of repetitious."
My collegue fingered the books on my shelves. "Yeah, man, but I think a lot of people would want to read it. You should consider it."
"Right, and what would I time it to? The 50th anniversary is over."
The co-worker had a simple answer. "Tie it to the 55th anniversary of the war. That puts you on Pearl Harbor in December. A lot of people would like to read that."
I shrugged my shoulders, and the conversation drifted on. After my pal left, I stared out the window. August in New Zealand is late winter, and Operation Deep Freeze, the Navy’s codename for its support of the US Antarctic Program was in hibernation. I had copious free time on the job, and he had a point – the numerous American and New Zealand civilians who worked in the program would find it interesting.
The question was whether I could actually pull off such a thing. 15 years in professional journalism and a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism and history only taught me that the higher one goes up the education pole, the less one knows.
Still, I had several good reasons to try. First was my long-standing interest in history. Second was the fact that I had access to vast amounts of books and publications on World War II, most of them in my personal library. Third, I’d already written articles for magazines on the war. Fourth, it would be a nice tribute to everyone who fought in it. And lastly, maybe I could teach the folks I worked with a little bit about their heritage. Fifth, maybe it would show my buddies – who periodically ridiculed me for getting hit by a car and nearly killed – that I wasn’t as dumb as I looked.
I actually began the project in November 1995, and timed it to the 55th anniversary, as my pal said. Initially, the entries were short and to the point, and in weekly installments. The folks at the command liked them, including the CO at the time, Commander Michael Kennedy.
When I started writing, I was acutely aware of my two audiences: American sailors and New Zealanders. The latter, I knew, would want to hear about New Zealand’s exploits in World War II. The former, I judged, should learn not only about the Navy’s accomplishments, but about life in the Navy 50 years ago – the differences and similarities.
Fortunately, I had plenty of books at hand on the subject – 17 volumes of New Zealand’s Official History of World War II, for example. Biographies of Hitler, Mountbatten, Rommel, and Patton. Accounts of Midway, Salerno, and Sicily. Declassification had resulted in a wave of books on Bletchley Park and the now-famous codebreakers. With the end of the Cold War had come new accounts of Stalingrad and Kursk. I also had the old standbys – Churchill’s books, the Imperial War Museum’s books and magazines, reprints of old newspapers for period color.
From the start, I dismissed books and sources with penknives to grind – that FDR had plotted to destroy his own Navy, that Churchill let Coventry be destroyed to preserve ULTRA, and David Irving’s twisted attempts to deify Adolf Hitler. I wanted to get a sense of what it was like then, for people fighting or living through the war, facing the decisions and problems they made or faced at the time. I didn’t want to write with perfect hindsight and the scorn and derision it generates.
I hit upon the idea of using certain commands and ships as continuing characters, whose careers would flow through a narrative that would otherwise bounce around the world from battle to battle, providing continuity to chronology. Ground units I would follow would include such venerated and venerable outfits as the 1st Infantry Division, the 2nd New Zealand Division, and 7th Armoured Division, the Desert Rats.
I chose several ships. Since I was starting mid-war, I had to be careful. I had books on HMS Ark Royal and HMS Hood, but they had already been sunk. I decided to go with USS Enterprise, HMS Warspite, HMNZS Achilles, and finally, USS Washington.
The last was an easy choice. I had an excellent book on her, Ivan Musicant’s superb Battleship at War, and USS Washington in turn had compiled an impressive war record. She fought the Germans and the Japanese. She served at Guadalcanal, Philippine Sea, Leyte, and many other major campaigns. Most importantly, I had already written an article on her feat at the 2nd Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, where she had become the only US battleship ever to sink an opposing dreadnought, Japan’s Kirishima. That battle, as much as Midway, may have turned the tide of World War II in the Pacific. With these ships in my virtual fleet, stacks of books at hand, I began the work, starting in mid-November, 1941.
My command seemed to like it. The skipper, Mike Kennedy, started his week by reading it. A colleague printed it out and passed it on to his buddies at the Returned Services’ Association, New Zealand’s version of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. They liked it, too.
A few months after I started them, the ruling powers at my command gave me access to the World Wide Web, so I did what most egotists do when they first hit the web – look for references to themselves. I found a comedian who shared my name in California, pieces I’d written for Navy News Service, and my articles on World War II.
I also found the USS Washington’s web page, and this impressive design had my article on 2nd Guadalcanal on it. So I contacted Howard Wright, and let him know about my little contribution to World War II history. He wanted to print it on the page.
Well, what the heck, I said. Every single entry leads off with USS Washington, and besides, if the folks at this command like it, why not make it more public? So I did, and my series became homepaged at the battleship’s port.
After that, the project began to grow like a fungus. I would come to work and find e-mails from all over the world, asking about the series. Keeping up with history became a footrace, which I began to lose.
Nonetheless, the project also became more important to me. Many Americans don’t know their history. They think the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, Washington cut down the cherry tree, and that Betsy Ross made the first American flag. None of the above is true. But many people also don’t know Russia was on the Allied side in World War II, why it was fought, or even where.
I also realized that a lot of people who think they know the history of World War II actually don’t. They know the caliber of ammunition on a Japanese Mogami-class cruiser, and the type of armor plating on a Mark IV Panzer, the caliber of a Lee-Enfield rifle, but don’t know why the Japanese Navy was so good in night surface actions. They equated war movies with real war. Maybe I could show them what really happened and why.
At the same time, I was increasingly aware that so much of World War II had become obscure, forgotten even by the descendants of those who had fought in it. D-Day and Pearl Harbor are familiar to Americans, but what about Anzio and New Guinea? How many Americans know that US troops fought in the Aleutians? Or Burma?
I was also increasingly aware that Americans don’t know about the contributions of their allies. Some Americans seem to equate the British effort in World War II with the strutting, pompous figure of Field Marshal Montgomery in the movie Patton, or the aloof General Browning of A Bridge Too Far. My mother’s family is English, and has provided the Crown with soldiers and sailors for centuries. So I didn’t take too kindly to that Hollywood stereotype.
And I thought about the other allies of World War II. I was already burnishing the image of New Zealand at war. That subject had evolved from being focusing on my host country to using New Zealand as a microcosm of one of many small countries dragged into and through the war. New Zealanders had shown a remarkable knack of turning up in the center of all the action.
But World War II involved nearly every country in the world, with Afghanistan and Paraguay probably the only holdouts. Americans don’t know much about the Russian front. And they know even less about the Canadians at Dieppe and Walcheren, the Australians at Tobruk and Ioribaiwa, the New Zealanders at Crete and Minquar Qaim. What about the Poles at Cassino, the Greeks at Rimini, the Italian Co-operation Forces, the Jewish Brigade, the Free French, and the Czech Brigade?
The Axis had their share of untold stories. The Rumanian collapse at Stalingrad. Otto Skorzeny’s commando feats. Albert Speer’s attempts to kill Hitler. The Slovakian coup. The Vichy French and many other collaborationists.
Then, of course, looming over the whole story was the grimmest story of all, the unparalleled butcheries of World War II. Hitler’s thugs and goons cold-bloodedly butchered 30 million people with ruthless efficiency, vicious sadism, and cynical greed. Hitler’s evil men – Eichmann, Stroop, Streicher, deserved to be revealed for what they were: psychotics, manipulators, kleptomaniacs.
I was starting this series at a time when Timothy McVeigh had blown up a federal office building in Oklahoma City, killing hundreds of federal workers and their children in a day care center on the premises. Stories on McVeigh’s life revealed this Bronze Star recipient’s admiration for Hitler. It was the new "old story" of generations growing up after Hitler thinking the Holocaust was a myth. I had to combat that, as well.
I thought of the Japanese, who used American and British POWs as slave labor or in medical experiments, starving and torturing them, beheading them for sport. Even by today’s thin standards where terror and violence are routine TV fare, the Japanese unleashed a wave of horror upon Asia.
Then I looked at the many stories of horror and heroism, of terror and comedy. Of individuals at war. Home front struggles to cope with rationing and shortages (or bombing in Europe). POWs and their escapes. The occupied Channel Islands. Erwin Rommel’s struggle with his conscience. Jurgen Stroop’s lack of conscience. Jonathan Wainwright’s ordeal in captivity. Eddie Rickenbacker in a raft. Mordechai Anielewicz leading the first Jewish armed force since the Roman Empire in a Masada-like battle against the SS. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth staying in London during the Blitz. Sefton Delmer’s propaganda against German troops. John Howard’s incredible glider assault on the Orne Bridges. Vidkun Quisling entering the dictionary through treason. Dan Gallery boarding U-505.
There were so many stories – Coastwatchers in the Solomons, the pathetic German saboteurs sent to America, and the sinking of the world’s biggest warship 17 hours after she was commissioned. Some had been glamorized as movies: The Dam Busters, for example. But who knew that the real Dam Busters went on to sink the Tirpitz? Or that the reason British Intelligence didn’t trust the Dutch Underground before the Arnhem drop was not out of incompetence but because the Germans had infiltrated it for years, supplying the British with false information? The idea had worked in reverse – Axis Sally and Lord Haw-haw knew all about the Allied troop deployments in England because the British had given them that low-level information as part of the Double-Cross System. But that is not a well-known story.
Patton was a great general. He also suffered from visual dyslexia and anti-Semitism. Montgomery was a cautious general – but Britain was out of manpower when he took over – and he was ruthless on incompetent subordinates. And so on.
I became interested in how all these stories came together, how everything was interrelated, the trajectories of history. People and armies came together like bullets in mid-air. Bruce Catton had talked about that in his last book. He wrote about the path a bullet took to its target, straight and level, while the man who it hit took a wandering route with many twists, turns, and false starts – but inevitably leading to the fatal collision. That was true in World War II, and not simply with bullets…lives and technology collided with historic results.
For example, take U-505, which now lies as an exhibit at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. The incident of it being boarded on June 4, 1944 is well known. But what if I put the submarine’s story in context, as I had with USS Washington, and we followed the submarine on her long historical course, leading up to the fatal encounter with Daniel Gallery and USS Guadalcanal? That would provide readers with a microcosm of the U-boat war.
The idea mirrored what I was doing already with USS Washington and HMNZS Achilles.
The level of detail began to expand. Compare my description of the "Channel Dash" of the two German battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau with that of the Battle of Savo Island, for example. I started searching the web, finding useful research sources, like the log of the submarine USS Nautilus, diaries of G.I.s, the transcript of the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, even the memoir of a Polish cavalry officer from 1939.
As the fungus grew, so did my interest in publicizing it. I saw from the USS Washington page, that they had a lot of links to other related pages.
Well, I said, if I’m going to work on this thing, I’m going to get myself a bigger audience than 24 US service members and 55 New Zealand civilians. I went into the web and started going through military and historical pages, perusing their sites. Sometimes I found useful mines of information. Sometimes I found sophomoric copy and blatant errors. At least once I found myself plagiarized, which was a dubious honor.
But at every page, I left a calling card. And most of the time, I’d get back a request for a link.
By the time my CO was replaced by Cdr. John W. Stotz, a balding and moustached physical training fanatic, I was getting two or three e-mails a day from around the world, about my page. They were becoming interesting of themselves.
Most were the same – people hunting information on long-dead relatives who fought in the war. All I could do was point them at the US National Military Records Center in St. Louis. Some wanted to know why I hadn’t started the series in 1939, when the war began. I had a simple answer to that: I started it when I started it, the series was tied to the 55th anniversary of the war, and I intended to go back and cover 1939 to 1941 after I was done.
I got a lot of e-mail from schoolchildren, who wanted answers for their homework questions and term papers. Some were pretty hilarious: "What impact did Pearl Harbor have on the United States?" "What was the importance of Dunkirk?" One could write a Master’s Thesis to answer questions like that. Other kids assumed that because I had a World War II web page, I’d fought in the war. So they sent questions on what it was like to fight in France in 1944. I have bad news for those kids. I was born in 1962.
Some letters were simply interesting. One man married the granddaughter of the Italian general who died while losing a major battle. Another person was the great-nephew of an American pilot saved by Coastwatchers. Another guy was grand-nephew to Winfield Scott Cunningham, who commanded Wake Island’s defense.
I also drew the inevitable flak from readers for omissions and mistakes. I had the destroyer HMS Punjabi collide with the battleship HMS King George V and sink the latter. I assure you, it was actually the other way around. Hopefully I’ll be able to change that soon.
Another reader pointed out that interned Japanese diplomats did not sail on the Swedish liner Gripsholm when I said so. That will take a little more work to fix.
Most of these folks who pointed out my trivial errors were doing so for two reasons: first, to connect with me; second, to be smartasses. One of the odder facets of human beings is that, confronted with an achievement of great effort, is to make a disparaging crack about it.
Lord knows there are enough mistakes in the series. USS Enterprise returns to harbor during the Pearl Harbor actions on the wrong day. HMS Exeter never got sunk after Java Sea. She presumably made it home to Devonport. Charles Upham earned his Victoria Cross at the wrong battle. I missed the attempted vote of censure on Winston Churchill. But I was doing this solo, so I was not going to censure myself, either.
In late 1997, my world fell apart. A New Zealand student journalist wrote a story about my command, which appeared in New Zealand’s largest newspaper. It misquoted and misrepresented me, making me sound like an anti-American traitor. That, in fact, was precisely the term my CO, Cdr. Stotz, used to describe me, and he ensured that I would not get an honorable discharge.
It was the worst ordeal of my life. I lost my reputation, career, and benefits. I suffered a nervous breakdown from the pressure. I also nearly lost my marriage. The 20-year-old girl who wrote the story said she never intended to make me look bad. She just wanted to score a splash with the editor who bought the story. I’d given her a 6-hour tour of the base. I guess she figured she was thanking me in some way by making me look like a jerk.
That put a halt to the World War II project, while I shipped 60 feet of books home to New Jersey. I truthfully didn’t expect to continue on it. I was well past the 55th anniversary, and no longer had a command to entertain. Besides, why should a "misguided individual who inexplicably betrayed the special trust and confidence we place in our members" lift another finger on this subject? America told me what it thought of me. So did New Zealand. All that work was for nothing.
I came home and tried to pick up the pieces of a wrecked life. The last thing I wanted to do was continue the series.
But within days, once I set up my new e-mail account, I was getting frantic messages from all over the world – where was my series? When would it resume? People from Hong Kong to Hackensack wanted to read it.
All these requests left me in a quandary. "I’ve got this vast audience," I said to Kathy. "They all want to read this. What should I do?"
"Do you enjoy working on it?" she said.
"You bet. I learn as I go."
"Does this have a beginning and an end?"
"Yes, September 1st, 1939, and September 2nd, 1945."
"Then why don’t you continue it," she said. "You’ve got the web, you’ve got your books, you’ve got access to more books, and you’ve got an audience who wants to read it. Maybe some day you’ll make a buck on it."
"Yes, but my country says I’m garbage. Why should I make people like John Stotz look good?"
"Honey, he has nothing to do with this any more. You’re out of the Navy. What can he do if he doesn’t like it?"
I thought for a few moments. "Come here with a .357 Magnum and blow my head off."
"I don’t think he could do that."
"Hey, he scored 110 in the last pistol competition. He’s a good shot."
"No, I mean, I don’t think he’s going to waste time and energy to come here all the way from Nevada to shoot you. Not to mention he’d go to prison for that."
"He’d probably get a medal for doing that," I grumbled.
Kathy leaned back in her chair. "All the more reason to resume the project, then. The best revenge is living well. If finishing this project would make him so mad that he’d do something stupid like denounce you as a traitor – he’s the one who’d look a fool and get into trouble. Do this project. You enjoy it." She paused. "Just as long as you put Wallis to bed at night. That comes first."
So I have. And I put our daughter to bed every night. And suddenly the page was getting as many as a thousand hits a week.
So, despite time shortages – I’m in graduate school, earning a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Creative Writing, and I work in the office of the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, I’m going to make the readers happy. I’m bringing history to life. I’m going to follow the USS Washington all the way to the scrapyard. I’m going to tell the whole story of the war. And maybe some day maybe I’ll even make a buck off of it.
Because I enjoy it, and it’s fun.
So in the summer of 2001, I gained my Master of Fine Arts degree, bought a house, moved my disabled mother out of her house, and sold that one. After we finished packing and unpacking her boxes and ours, it was suddenly the kind of perfect September New York morning that poets and artists use for inspiration.
They got plenty that morning. My wife walked out of her commuter rail station at 6th Avenue and 14th Street in Manhattan, saw everyone staring south, turned left…and saw a huge red fireball blossom out of the South Tower of the World Trade Center, while black gritty smoke plumed out of the North Tower. She didn’t know it, but it was exactly 9:03 a.m.
She nearly passed out on the sidewalk. But she made it to her job at the New School a block and a half away and called me. Close to tears. I told her to get the hell out of Manhattan before the cops sealed off the island. She got the last train to Hoboken, and walked straight to her parents’ house at the north end of town, a mile from the station. When she got to the door, her mother said, "The World Trade Center Towers are gone."
One of our best friends, Mike Sheridan, was operations manager of the World Trade Center when it was bombed in 1993. He saved many lives, and knew all six of the victims personally. After that, he retired. He was sitting on his barcalounger in Florida when he saw 74 of his friends and co-workers – folks Kathy also knew – get murdered.
The federal government didn’t mobilize me, as they regard me as a traitor, but the City of Newark already had. I’m on the Emergency Operations Committee of the City of Newark, as Public Information representative. Minutes after the second plane hit, I was at my duty station, the Emergency Operations Center, writing press releases and statements to the public to maintain calm in the face of catastrophe. Newark was a key staging point for rescue and relief efforts and the launch point of the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. Our arson squad took a lead role in the post-fire investigation, our cops patrolled my old neighborhood in Greenwich Village. We had a lot to deal with that day.
And after. I had to write our Domestic Security Plan for the mayor to present to the City Council and the whole city. I had to comfort and calm our city’s 275,000 residents. When we were done, we had a model preparedness plan, which the entire state was copying. And the feds still say I’m a traitor.
But now I’d had war rubbed in my nose. The similarities between World War II and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were stunning, despite their many differences. Even some of the phraseology: "Baghdad Bob" for Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Said El-Sahef was a play on "Axis Sally" and "Lord Haw-Haw" of 60 years ago.
I had seen my native city bombed by hostile powers, buildings flattened, and vast numbers of casualties. Overnight uniforms filled New York and Newark streets. TV showed nonstop war news. Friends of mine in city government who held reserve and National Guard ranks were yanked back on duty. I was watching Pearl Harbor, the Blitz, the bombing of Europe, airborne invasions, armored warfare, city battles, occupation, war crimes trials, psychotic dictators spouting lies, divisions among allies, all over again. History was repeating itself, down to British bulldog determination and the mobilization of American industry and technology.
It was no coincidence that books about World War II flew off the shelves of stores, and one of them was a review of web pages on the war. For reasons best known to the authors, "World War II on the Web" rated this page one of the 100 best on the subject. I was awed and humbled at the same time, to be in the same league as the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Imperial War Museum.
The e-mails continued to fly in…when are you going to add to the series? Why doesn’t it start in 1939? Can you tell me how war reporting changed from World War II to the second Gulf War? An Italian writer sent me a blistering e-mail strewn with obscenities, shredding me for impugning the honor of Mussolini’s legions. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. A Canadian writer assailed me for my historical errors, noting that "A few thousand Britons" were fighting in World War II before 1941. I caustically reminded him for must be the 47th time that the page’s origins were rooted in the 55th anniversary of the war and humble origins…and that prior to 1941, "a few million Poles and Jews" were dying, which he had not mentioned or probably thought of. He quickly apologized. A family in Wisconsin wanted to know about a US Navy sailor, whose grave they were tending. He died in 1942. Was he a war casualty? I pointed them in the right direction. They found out the poor guy had died in a car crash while returning from having overstayed his leave.
"I’ll bet he was in a lot of trouble when he died without permission," I told Kathy later.
World War II became even more popular a few days after the blasts that sundered Manhattan and the Pentagon, when HBO launched its miniseries "Band of Brothers." If there was ever a time a nation needed inspiration and a belief that it could defeat a seemingly omnipotent and powerful enemy, this was it. The example came from the center of America’s own history, a collection of extremely ordinary men who came together to become one of the finest light infantry companies in the world, Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
On televisions across the nation, Easy Company parachuted into Normandy and Holland, held Bastogne and the Alsace, and drove across Germany, capturing Hitler’s lair at Berchtesgaden with heroism, humor, and loyalty to each other. A cast of virtual unknowns brought Easy Company to life. Under Tom Hanks’ direction and Stephen Spielberg’s production, the series swept the ratings and won a fistful of Golden Globe and Emmy Awards.
Every episode was opened with a series of interviews with the actual living members of Easy Company, all putting their perspective and memories on the scenes viewers were about to see with resonance and poignancy. Fittingly, the actual vets were not identified until the final minutes of the final part of the 10-episode series, which was followed by a documentary about Easy Company, entirely narrated by the living veterans.
Across the yawning space of 60 years these aging veterans recalled their feats and ordeals of half a century ago, describing achievements that, as Ken Burns wrote in his series on the Civil War, "now seemed impossible, even to them."
The ancient warriors of Easy Company had a message for the generation facing an unparalleled domestic horror and a frightening overseas war…the horror could be overcome and the war could be won. They had done it themselves 60 years ago, and they were the same kind of people Americans are today. The message resonated across America and other nations as they steeled themselves to the task of eliminating terrorism.
It also turned 40-odd elderly men who had been living quiet and fairly routine lives into overnight celebrities. Their leader, Richard Winters, found himself flooded with mailbags and having to change his phone number three times. Then he was asked to address the FBI Academy on leadership. Oregon native Don Malarkey found himself receiving a special award from his state’s legislature. Joe Lesniewiski and Ed Joint found themselves swamped with autograph seekers at an airshow in Reading, Pennsylvania. They were flown to Utah Beach to attend the "Band of Brothers" premiere, and then to the Golden Globes and Emmy Awards, where they received a standing ovation from Hollywood’s elite. They became topics of internet discussions, centers of tour guides, and the subjects of web pages.
And one of them was a Philadelphia building contractor named Bill Guarnere.
He parachuted into France on D-Day and Holland after that, and fought in the siege of Bastogne. There German shellfire ripped his right leg off while he was trying to save his buddy, Joe Toye, who had just had his leg blasted off. For his valor and suffering, "Wild Bill" Guarnere gained two Purple Hearts two Bronze Stars, and a Silver Star. He returned to his native South Philadelphia on crutches, but married his childhood sweetheart, Franny. That marriage lasted until her death in 1997, and produced two kids and 16 grandchildren. It was a typical American life in many ways. Thousands of men had fought in World War II, suffered severe wounds, come home, married their sweethearts, and raised a family anyway. The difference was that Guarnere as warrior had become one of the stars of the TV series. Now both his television impersonator and his own craggy features had become worldwide icons of the Allied war effort in World War II. Bill himself became a star in his own right, with a schedule of appearances at age 80 that would tax men half his age. His grandchildren were supportive but unnerved by his sudden fame and whirlwind schedule.
One of those grandchildren, Gino, also led a typical American life for the first years of the new millennium – he opened a computer design studio and started making his living at the cutting edge of modern technology. After the success of "Band of Brothers," Gino decided to give his grandfather a unique Christmas gift – a web page in his honor. Loaded with all the modern and usual bells and whistles that have made the internet and the World Wide Web a cutting-edge marvel, it connected fans of the "Band of Brothers" series with one of its major characters. It had pictures of the sergeant, his wife, their family, radio quotes, and a discussion board.
That was how I stumbled upon it, surfing the web at work one day. My goal was fairly modest: I just wanted the old man’s signature on my copy of the book. Instead I found a fairly friendly discussion group that I wound up contributing to – 11.9 times a day, according to my profile. And Gino found himself getting calls from The History Channel and e-mails from around the world. His little effort to honor his grandfather had, like my web project, expanded like a fungus.
Sometime in 2003, we separately decided to expand our little empires. He created Wild Bill Guarnere International. I wanted to get more than 5,000 hits a month. I called Gino up and after a few e-mails and phone calls, we made a deal whereby my page would be added to his empire, without cutting it off from its original home at the USS Washington. So now the page exists in two worlds at the same time.
But I can’t think of any two better places to put this project. One is a page that honors one of the greatest fighting vessels that the United States ever put to sea, a legendary battleship that fought in two oceans, from Maine to Murmansk and from Pearl Harbor to the Philippines. Along the way, USS Washington became the only American dreadnought to sink an enemy battleship, and probably turned the tide of the war. Her crew was first-rate and her achievements were heroic.
At the same time, Easy Company of the 506th represented another two-thirds of the American war effort: air and land. As paratroopers, they came from the skies. As light infantry, they waged war on the ground. Easy Company fought heroic battles from Brecourt Manor to Berchtesgaden. It held the line at Bastogne and liberated a Nazi concentration camp. Like USS Washington, its crew was first-rate and its achievements were heroic.
Both of these outfits define America’s war effort, covering the Pacific and European theaters. There is no better place to sink the two pegs that hold up this project than in these two pages. So now I can honor heroism and sacrifice while providing history and remembrance in two places at once. And to a wider audience, which, at a time when American and British arms are in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, needs more than ever to understand its own history and heritage. To know why we are where we are. Which needs examples from its past to understand how to win now. To gain courage and resilience from unforgettable role models.
Not bad for a "traitor."
And, by the way, Cdr. John Stotz commented once, and once only in public, on my series. It was right after that article appeared. He said, "This is project you do, all that stuff about valor and history, that’s just a load of crap, isn’t it, Lippman?"
Well, I guess you can’t please everybody.