About the Author of -30-
Doral Chenoweth, Jr. In late January, 1946, the press officer for both the Panama Canal Department and Caribbean Defense Command, headquartered at Quarry Heights, Canal Zone, handed me the U. S. Government file listing on legal-sized mimeograph paper, the names of 54 accredited war correspondents killed in action during World War II.
He was Major Clayborne King, then with sufficient military points to be discharged from active duty. I had been assigned to his office as a second lieutenant, Military Occupational Specialty 5401, press officer. My temporary duty in the Canal Zone was to write a history of West Virginia's (National Guard) 150th Infantry Jungle Regiment, then quartered at Fort Clayton, Canal Zone. That U. S. Army unit had been activated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 7, 1941. The West Virginians, already on active duty, were training in Louisiana.
As I recall, the story covered the unit's 1,492 consecutive days and nights of guard duty protecting this nation's most vital waterway.
After one month at Fort Clayton, Major King called me to report to Quarry Heights. One minute into the meeting, he said bluntly, "Lieutenant, you are now press officer for this command...." He was departing that day for the States. He handed me a sheaf of hastily bundled papers, all very official looking.
"See the top one. You have two months," King said.
That file had been issued by the War Department, Bureau of Public Relations, Liaison Branch. My first approach was to collect pictures of the deceased war correspondents. The few I collected while in Panama were copied and shared with the Pentagon. For a time, they were displayed on a massive world map in the Press Room. Ribbons ran from the framed pictures to the spot where the reporters were killed. My memory was jolted when I first viewed the finished map. There was the narrow ribbon tagged to the picture of Ernie Pyle, ending at a small dot in the Pacific, Ie Shima, one of the Ryukyus Islands.
My remaining months in Panama were spent writing about, as I relate in lectures, "Ernie Pyle and the other 53..."
Some nameless Pentagon file clerk dumped my -30- manuscript, apparently in a hurry to return to civilian life. I later, through my literary agent, Jeanne Hale, had rejections from most of the major publishing names - Random House, Simon and Schuster, Harcourt, Brace and Company, even various university presses. Their reasoning in the late 1940s - few want to be reminded of the Big War.
My reasoning was that I had compiled the only collection of pictures relating to the reporters. In the 1950s, I shopped the project to journalism schools - as a gift provided they created a pictorial memorial honoring the KIAs. Two turndowns came as recently as the 1980s from my favored schools - Ohio University and Ohio State University.
Martha Brian rejected the proposal in behalf of Ohio State University's school of journalism. John R. Wilhelm, himself a war correspondent who survived D-Day, the Allied invasion of France, later became dean of Ohio University's College of Communications. He invited me to speak before one of his classes, called -30- "very interesting...but all that has been written before." As for displaying the photographic collection, he never called back.
Fast forward to the year 2000....
This book apparently has renewed interest. Today, war reporters are "embedded correspondents." My generation called the working ones..."accredited." That simply meant they were pad-and-pencil reporters who were granted "rations and quarters" by the War Department. They could grub at field kitchens. They could sleep on the ground, in a foxhole, or in the back of a 4-by-4, if one was handy.
Four people renewed my energy to get this manuscript to the public: Attorney Jim Crowley, who is a war and military buff,
All the original pictures of the correspondents have been meticulously preserved in their fading state. Many have taken on an aging sepia tone. To save them for historical reference as they appear on this Web site, full credit goes to another military history buff, Charlie Hays, veteran photographer for The Columbus Dispatch. They now repose in the Dispatch's photographic archive.
Doral Chenoweth, Jr.
War Department, Bureau of Public Relations