wwii journalism

On some of the streets the stench — sweet and sickish from dead bodies — is overwhelming.
—  So wrote John F. Kennedy, future president, when in Berlin in 1945 as a journalist just after the war. The war was not cleaned up in a day, and Kennedy saw its grisly aftermath. He even saw Hitler’s bunker. Though JFK speculated that the dictator was not killed. “There is no complete evidence, however, that the body that was found was Hitler’s body,” he wrote. “The Russians doubt that he is dead.”

In the summer of 1945, John F. Kennedy traveled across Europe working as a journalist. The diary he kept during those months reveals a future president trying to make sense of a rapidly changing post-war world.

The leather-bound journal will be put up for auction Wednesday, after sitting quietly for nearly six decades in the hands of a former campaign worker. Bidding is expected to top $200,000.

Now You Can Own JFK’s Personal Reflections On History, For A Hefty Price

Image: The diary that John F. Kennedy wrote during the summer of 1945. (Courtesy of RR Auction)

…there is another and more human litter. It extends in a thin little line, just like a high-water mark, for miles along the beach. This is the strewn personal gear, gear that will never be needed again, of those who fought and died to give us our entrance into Europe.

Here in a jumbled row for mile on mile are soldiers’ packs. Here are socks and shoe polish, sewing kits, diaries, Bibles and hand grenades. Here are the latest letters from home, with the address on each one neatly razored out – one of the security precautions enforced before the boys embarked.

Here are toothbrushes and razors, and snapshots of families back home staring up at you from the sand. Here are pocketbooks, metal mirrors, extra trousers, and bloody, abandoned shoes. Here are broken-handled shovels, and portable radios smashed almost beyond recognition, and mine detectors twisted and ruined.

Here are torn pistol belts and canvas water buckets, first-aid kits and jumbled heaps of lifebelts. I picked up a pocket Bible with a soldier’s name in it, and put it in my jacket. I carried it half a mile or so and then put it back down on the beach. I don’t know why I picked it up, or why I put it back down.

Soldiers carry strange things ashore with them. In every invasion you’ll find at least one soldier hitting the beach at H-hour with a banjo slung over his shoulder. The most ironic piece of equipment marking our beach – this beach of first despair, then victory – is a tennis racket that some soldier had brought along. It lies lonesomely on the sand, clamped in its rack, not a string broken.

Two of the most dominant items in the beach refuse are cigarets and writing paper. Each soldier was issued a carton of cigarets just before he started. Today these cartons by the thousand, water-soaked and spilled out, mark the line of our first savage blow.

Writing paper and air-mail envelopes come second. The boys had intended to do a lot of writing in France. Letters that would have filled those blank, abandoned pages.

Always there are dogs in every invasion. There is a dog still on the beach today, still pitifully looking for his masters.

He stays at the water’s edge, near a boat that lies twisted and half sunk at the water line. He barks appealingly to every soldier who approaches, trots eagerly along with him for a few feet, and then, sensing himself unwanted in all this haste, runs back to wait in vain for his own people at his own empty boat.

—  Ernie Pyle on June 17, 1944
beta request

Title: The Night War (60th Anniversary Edition)
Pairings, or other characters: Bucky, Bucky & Steve, Bucky & Commandos, Bucky & OMCs
Genre: WWII-era. Diary/Journal/Epistolary. 
Type of beta you would like: Plot, characterization, general sanity check
Length/Word Count: Currently ~60k, projected 100k
Language (if not English):
Short Summary: Bucky Barnes’s surviving field journals (1943-1945) were compiled and posthumously published in 1947 as “The Night War.”

Today, every middle school and high school student in America reads The Night War, or at least excerpts from it. Of the literary canon of World War II, it is second perhaps only to Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl or Elie Wiesel’s Night. Six different presidents—Kennedy, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Obama—have listed it among their most influential books. The Night War is required reading for all West Point cadets, and every Marines Corps Commandant of the past fifty years has included it in his recommended reading list. Despite all that, Barnes likely never intended for his words to be published. His entries are a blend of daily reportage; sketched topographical maps; wind and distance calculations; and of course, the deeply felt ruminations on war, himself, and himself in war that have since become a cornerstone of 20th century American literature. 

The first six chapters (July 1943-December 1943) are published on AO3

Best way to contact you: Reply/tumblr (praximeter)

The last witch trial in Britain took place in 1944, at a time when the U.S. was hell-bent on developing some potentially world-ending magic of its own, and the Brits were preoccupied with planning a little thing called D-Day.

Helen Duncan was sort of the Long Island Medium of her day. She traveled the UK holding seances, offering her patrons closure, and probably only swiping the occasional pocket watch. During one such divination in April of 1944, she told a pair of worried parents that two British battleships – including their son’s, the HMS Barhamhad sunk. Military authorities, fearing a leak of state secrets in such close proximity to the Normandy landings and completely oblivious to the fact that Duncan could have garnered the information from a strikingly un-supernatural source known as “the newspaper,” picked her up and charged her with conspiracy, fraud, and, to top it all off, violation of the Witchcraft Act of 1735. Only the black magic charge stuck, and Duncan was sentenced to nine months in prison. For black magic. In 1944.

5 Pieces Of History (That Are More Modern Than You Think)

Clare Hollingworth (b. 1911) is a British journalist, the first war correspondent who reported the outbreak of World War II.

She was working for the Daily Telegraph when she was sent, on 31 August 1939, to Poland, to report the worsening tensions in Europe. The next day, shewas the first to report the invasion of Warsaw by Nazi troops to the British embassy. In the following years and decades, she was a correspondent during various conflicts in Palestine, China, Vietnam, and others.

Not one of the nation's news leaders has the IRS scandal as its lead story

While some of news agencies reported on it “below the fold” or in opinion pieces, no mainstream news agency thought the new revelations in the IRS scandal warranted the lead story. Let’s take a look, shall we?

ABC

CBS

NBC

MSNBC

Fox News

CNN

Washington Post

Wall Street Journal

Miami Herald

New York Times

Los Angeles Times

As you can see, Fox News was the only site to even have the story visible at all on the initial view.

But let’s recap what the networks thought was important:

  • ABC: The affair of a green beret
  • CBS: Climate change (of course)
  • NBC: Mormons, recovery of stabbing victim and Bill Clinton
  • MSNBC: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate II (unreal)
  • Fox News: The KFC Hoax
  • CNN: Soccer
  • Washington Post: WWII art
  • Wall Street Journal: Activity tracking devices
  • Miami Herald: LeBron James
  • The New York Times: Comfortable Hospitals and…the Tea Party is racist
  • Los Angeles Times: Plane crash…from 2013