Letters from Readers- World War II August 2014 | HistoryNet MENU

Letters from Readers- World War II August 2014

2/14/2017 • World War II Magazine

Films of the FBI

Twelve O’Clock High, as Mark Grimsley noted in his insightful article (“The Moral World of Twelve O’Clock High,” March/ April 2014), is indeed used as a training tool by many, including the FBI. For years, and perhaps even today, the Bureau showed the movie to managers in classes devoted to the study of stress. The movie, and in particular Gregory Peck’s portrayal of a man burdened with not only the responsibility of command, but the loneliness of command, vividly shows how any of us can be susceptible to reaching the breaking point. I still recall sitting through such a session at the FBI Academy and how, at the movie’s end, there was little of the usual frivolity associated the end of a class. It’s that compelling.

Ivian “I.C.” Smith

Laneview, Va.

Anzio Lives On

Alex Kershaw’s gripping account of the German counterattack to reduce the Anzio beachhead (“Highway to Hell,” March/ April 2014) stirs memories of my service in the 91st Chemical Mortar Battalion. During our training in 1944 we were assigned Major Thomas Watson—whom we soon dubbed “Anzio Joe” because of his lurid tales of fighting the Germans as a forward observer with the 84th Chemical Mortar Battalion at Anzio. Among his many instructions to us based on his Anzio experience were the virtue and necessity of digging our guns in before a fire mission, a pit roughly 10 feet in diameter and 3 feet deep, rather hard to do in the frozen ground of Luxembourg in 1944. Nonetheless, his advice proved invaluable, as it saved my life and those of others in my squad in the Battle of the Bulge.

Arthur O. Spaulding

Ojai, Calif.

Soldiers’ Best Friend

My good friend Sergeant George Huisken of the 33rd Statistical Control Unit, Headquarters Squadron of the Twentieth Air Force took this picture of a cemetery in Guam while serving his country in 1946 (“A Few Good Marines,” March/April 2014). The graves were dedicated to the 25 U.S. war dogs killed there in combat.

Barbara A. Carter

Tuscon, Ariz.

Merchant Marines Forgotten?

Thank you Kathryn Chambers Torpey and Gene Santoro for your piece in the March/April 2014 issue (“Saved From the Depths”). I was a volunteer in the Maritime Service during World War II. The young men who served in the Maritime Service were indeed the “Forgotten Sailors.”

Kenneth L. Dietrich

Harrisburg, Pa.

The Merchant Marine of World War II was then as it is today never a part of the American military. It was and is an industrial organization. During World War II it did not suffer the highest death rate. Its death rate through combat causes was proportionately higher than the Navy, but was proportionately exceeded by that of the Army and the Marine Corps.

In testimony I submitted to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in May 2008, I argued that there is a miscalculation of the merchant mariner battle death ratio due to an incorrect total of Merchant Marine deaths and a skewed count of total merchant mariners. The often-cited total number of enlisted merchant mariners from that time is low because, among other reasons, it excluded short-term employees and only counted oceangoing Merchant Marine personnel, not those inland or on the Great Lakes.

The assertion that those in the Merchant Marine were not provided with proper military benefits is also slightly off the mark. Government-provided War Risk Insurance covered merchant mariners during the war; such coverage did, how ever, fall short of that provided members of the military. That shortfall was in some part remedied in 1988 through administrative action authorized under Public Law 95-202 allowing the World War II mariners access to current benefits allowed by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Charles Dana Gibson

Fort Pierce, Fla.

Editor’s note: Joshua Smith, the director of the American Merchant Marine Museum, notes that the Merchant Marine did suffer horrific casualties higher than those of the military services for a brief period in early 1942. Once the United States began offensive ground operations with Guadalcanal, military losses overtook those of the Merchant Marine, which tapered by the second half of 1942.

Mysterious Middle Name

“S” is not Harry Truman’s middle initial; it is his middle name (“Ask WWII,” March/ April 2014). There is no period after it.

Walt Kimball

Palo Alto, Calif.

Harry S. Truman’s middle name was indeed just the initial “S,” a compromise between the names of his two grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young. The middle “name” doesn’t technically need a period after it, but Truman himself signed it “Harry S. Truman,” and included a period on his official letterhead. Both The Chicago Manual of Style and the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual state that a period should follow Truman’s “S.”


Originally published in the August 2014 issue of World War II. To subscribe, click here.

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