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Combat Reporter: Don Whitehead’s World War II Diary and Memoirs

By John B. Romeiser (ed.). 236 pp. Fordham University Press, 2006. $26.95.

Everyone knows Ernie Pyle and Bill Mauldin, but few remember AP war correspondent Don Whitehead. “Beachhead Don,” as he was nicknamed, covered the war in Europe, including the invasion of Sicily and Omaha Beach.

Whitehead’s papers were donated to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in 1981, but were largely untouched until John Romeiser discovered them. While he was editing a col lection of Whitehead’s stories (Beachhead Don: Reporting the War from the European Theater, 1942–1945), Romeiser found an unfinished manuscript describing

Whitehead’s experiences in North Africa and Sicily. Then he became aware that the correspondent’s family had his diary from the North African campaign. Romeiser wove the two together to produce this book.

Like the GI Joes he covered so evocatively, Whitehead was proud to be where the action was. He thought of himself as a combat correspondent, not a “war” correspondent who gathered stories from rear-echelon press releases and barroom rumors. So he was not only shot at but lived through the same sandstorms, blazing Sicilian heat, surprisingly cold desert nights, bathless weeks, fly swarms, flea infestations, homesickness, and sheer exhaustion in pursuit of the enemy across desert waste or the rugged Sicilian country side. All this makes his war stories stirring even today.


Originally published in the July/August 2007 issue of World War II Magazine. To subscribe, click here