(with acknowledgements and reflections)
The picture at the right is of me at the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., taken by Henry in October, 2004. I was sitting on the edge of the European Theatre fountain, in front of the quote from General Eisenhower about D-Day.
Introduction • What's on the Website • Technical Notes • Acknowledgements • Reflections
|We were left with a large number of papers, photos, and other materials dealing with Dad's service after World War II, and I have finally completed the task of organizing this information and these images into a "postscript" to my work with the Journal. You can find this narrative, and accompanying photos, here.|
I had various reasons for undertaking this project. I wanted to preserve Dad's Journal, that Mom so lovingly and carefully kept through the years, for present and future generations of Lewis' and Greensteins, as well as for other folks interested in World War II. I also wanted to make the Journal appealing and as easy to read and understand as possible, especially with an eye toward readers who did not know Mom and Dad personally, who have not heard the family stories firsthand, and who have, possibly, little detailed knowledge of World War II in Europe. It is for these readers in particular that I included background information on terms, equipment, geography, etc., pertaining to the Journal and the war.
I also wanted to undertake the task Dad mentions in the quote at the top of this page, as best I could, so long after the fact and without his direct help. I have not "re-written" anything, but have occasionally corrected spelling and grammatical mistakes with a view toward putting his writings in an "acceptable form." Keeping in mind that some readers will want to look at the PDF version of the original Journal in conjunction with the web pages, I have noted discrepancies between words, dates, etc., in the original and the corrections I made via footnotes. I hope that most of these corrections are ones that Dad would have made when "re-writing the saga" himself. I did not correct spelling, punctuation or grammar unless I felt that the sentence might not be understood otherwise, hoping to keep some of the "flavor" of the handwritten original in the webpages.
Dad himself probably had various reasons for keeping the Journal in the first place. It begins as a somewhat self-conscious, but occasionally quite perceptive, expression of the thoughts, fears and dreams of an intelligent, sensitive, but very young man, one whom we can see growing up virtually before our eyes as the Journal becomes a diary of his war experiences. As General Moench relates, "personal accounts of events were officially prohibited during WW II," but he goes on to comment that "it appears that these diaries (or logs) served as a psychological outlet for the men who kept them—a way of communicating thoughts that could not otherwise be talked about." (p. 347) No doubt Dad used the writing as a way of dealing with the stress of combat, but he also seemed to be explicitly interested in preserving the record of his experiences. His incredibly detailed account of D-Day is obviously more than just a "psychological outlet." But whatever his reasons were for keeping the Journal, we can certainly be grateful that he defied the "official prohibition" against such a practice.
What's on the Website
The major portion of the content on the website is Dad's Journal, which he began as a freshman at A&M in the spring of 1941. He did not continue with it during that summer, but took it up again in the fall. There is another, longer, hiatus between the spring of 1942 and the fall of 1943, when he was involved in Air Corps training. When he took up the Journal again in 1943, he was based in England, participating in B-26 bombing missions over France and Holland, and at this point these missions become the prime focus of the Journal. He kept making entries until August of 1944, including a long and detailed remembrance of D-Day.
I began the project intending only to present the Journal entries themselves in a form that could be easily read and easily distributed to interested family members. And reading these entries should surely be the main focus of any viewing of the project. But we found much additional material related to this period of Dad's life—letters, official papers, and photographs—and it seemed logical to append it to the Journal text. I have tried to blend this material in with the actual Journal to give a more complete picture both of Dad's life at this time and, to some extent, of the life of our nation at war. I have attempted to keep this mountain of extra material from interfering with the Journal itself, and I hope you will find it easy to explore the supplementary material if you choose to, but I also hope it can easily be passed over if not of interest. One of the ways that I tried to make the Journal text stand out is to display it always in a different font. The Journal entries appear in Arial, while all the text that I wrote appears in Times Roman. Literary quotes within the Journal, and substantial quotes from documents elsewhere, appear in Courier.
The Postwar Postscript section of the website, detailing Dad's service from 1945-1960, follows the same font conventions. Quotes from his letters are in Arial, and my text in Times Roman.
I have also included many pages of reference material that relate to actions, people, and places covered in the Journal, pages that I hope will clarify, explain, and make these events more understandable. There are pages with references such as
There are also many files of scanned documents, photographs and other items. This treasure trove of material got larger and larger as we went through papers and files that Mom had kept, and I felt it was necessary to preserve them. And since they have direct bearing on the time period of the Journal, it seemed appropriate to include them. For a listing of the main sections of material included, see this table of contents. I also made a semi-comprehensive listing of all the webpages on the site.
In the interest of historical accuracy, I want to give a good description of the materials I worked with to complete this project. The Journal itself was found, we believe, after Dad's death in 1960, among his papers. It was written on 6x9-inch three-hole notebook paper that you can see reproduced reasonably well in the PDF version of the Journal. These scans were made from the original Journal pages. Mom made several good copies of the Journal and bound them for us sometime in the early 1990s.
Mom had also saved all of Dad's letters to her, both from A&M before the war, during his training before shipping out, his letters from Europe, and those written while he was serving with the Northeast Air Command in Newfoundland in 1953-54. (Unfortunately, we did not find any of her letters to him.) They make up a major portion of the supplementary material on the website. We also found many official orders, certificates, and other documents from this time period, which I also scanned and included, as well as many photographs, and other miscellaneous materials that Dad kept—most importantly, his small, 3x5-inch notebook containing navigation information and notes on the last 26 missions, and his navigator's log covering the Atlantic crossing in July of 1943. The letters and documents were especially helpful in putting together the timeline of Dad's military service and in answering questions that came up while I was studying the Journal.
We have donated the original Journal, along with most of the service-related photos, papers, and Dad's letters, to the Air Force Historical Research Agency. Materials related to his service with the Montana Air National Guard were donated to the Air National Guard historical office and to the museum at Malmstrom Air Force Base. We have sent electronic copies of the Journal and also a detailed exact transcription (in Word) to the Library of Congress Veterans' History Project and to the B-26 Marauder Archive
On the technical side, the only software needed to access all of the content on the website is a web browser and the Adobe Acrobat reader (Microsoft Word, or a Word viewer, is needed to view the Journal transcription). This reader is often included as standard equipment on computers these days, but if you need it you can download a copy from Adobe.
When I began the project I did not realize how many other documents and materials would eventually join the Journal in comprising its content. I found some excellent pictures in the two books Steve had bought for Mom (more about these later) that covered the Marauders' actions in the war. I thought they would make nice additions to the project, breaking up the long sections of text. I also knew of some photographs that Mom had saved and I scanned those as well. Betty also brought us a group of photographs that Dad had sent Mamaw during the war, and many of these were also used. Some of them were duplicated in Mom's collection but some were unique. I am most grateful to Mom for saving all these photographs, documents and other items, and find myself having to retract the teasing we often gave her for being such a "packrat."
I am also very grateful for photos loaned by Mrs. Eleanor McKenna, the widow of Dad's friend Charles W. ("Mick") McKenna (who became Dr. McKenna, PhD., after the war), and for her general support and encouragement. Mick was much better than Dad about labelling photographs with dates and names, so even though some of his photos were duplicates of Mom's copies, they still provided valuable information. Although Mom and Mrs. McKenna never met, they kept in touch regularly until Mom's death. I am proud and happy to continue our family's relationship with the McKennas, a great way of bringing the past into contact with the present. The picture at the left is of Dr. McKenna's memorial plaque in the Columbarium (where the ashes of cremated veterans are laid to rest) at Arlington National Cemetery.Marauder Men, by John O. Moench was invaluable. Its detailed listings of missions were especially helpful, clearing up problems with dates, names, and targets, and the background information provided by the narrative gave me an understanding of terms and procedures that was very useful. (Since the book is a history of the 323rd Bombardment Group, it of course does not cover the missions Dad flew while with other groups. Most of his missions, however, were with the 323rd—luckily for me as a researcher!) Overall, the book helped me situate the events of the Journal in a larger context that increased my appreciation for Dad's work both in writing the Journal and in enduring the experiences that it recounts. Kenneth T. Brown's book (Marauder Man) and Roger A. Freeman's (B-26 Marauder at War) were also helpful with background information and pictures. Complete bibliographic information for these books is given here.
I found a multitude of websites, from official archives to hobbyists' projects, that were helpful in explaining acronyms and unclear terminology, in providing pictures, and in fleshing out some of the actions, equipment, and other items mentioned in the Journal. Almost all of these tantalizing tidbits led to fascinating stories; I included in the glossary as much as I felt was necessary to make the journal accounts understandable. But I also included links to the websites in case any readers want to pursue these matters further. The bibliography has a complete listing of the books and websites that I used in the project, plus some additional websites of interest that I encountered.
And, finally, I want to thank most heartily my friend Renny James, for her wonderful suggestions on layout and graphic display; my son Hal for his editorial help with this introduction; my husband Henry for his help with digital photography; and my brother Steve and sister Joan, for their encouragement and also their help in sorting through the mass of papers, photos and other items we found at Mom's house. In addition, I also thank Scott Schrader and Kathe Lehman-Meyer, in the St. Mary's University Academic Media Center, for technical assistance, advice and encouragement; General Julius Braun (Ret.) for providing background and technical information, especially concerning the "Rocket Coast"; and Dr. Rosemary Clark, for her help with French translations.
As I worked on this project during the year following Mom's death, it was emotional therapy for me, a way of touching her and Dad's lives at a time when I was most in need of that contact. But I also found it to be a very rewarding intellectual experience. I learned so much about the great conflict at the center of the Journal and about the sacrifices and experiences of this "Greatest Generation" in a very personal way. I hope it likewise brings to those who read it both the emotional satisfaction of touching family history, and the intellectual satisfaction of learning fascinating new things. Nothing would please me more than to have this project inspire young relatives in years to come to learn more about the great historical happenings of the mid-twentieth century, and of the part that their family played in them.
As close to my parents as working on the project made me feel, it also highlighted my sadness at not being able to share this experience with them. This was especially true when I would come upon a puzzling reference in the Journal. What I wouldn't give for the opportunity to discuss these questions with Dad! (I did often wonder, while working on the project, how such a direct collaboration with him would have worked: would he have been eager to talk about his experiences, or would he have been one of the elderly veterans you hear about who never discuss what happened in the war?) And I wish I had asked Mom more questions, too, although fortunately I did have some of her reminiscences to draw upon. Since I was not able to confer with Dad about points that needed clarification, I was forced to find what answers I could through external research, piecing together comments from letters and what Mom had told me, and, finally, making the best educated guesses I could. I tried always to note when a statement of mine is speculation rather than a fact backed up by some supporting documentation.
Incidentally, in the explanatory and supplementary text that I have written I made the decision to refer to Dad as "Billy," since that is how Mom (and Mamaw) always addressed him and referred to him. (Some of his letters indicate a somewhat ambivalent attitude on his part to his name; he sometimes signs them "Billy," but more often "Bill" and even "Lew" after a discussion of that nickname that was given to him by his buddies overseas.) Since some of the readers of this project always knew him as "Uncle Billy," and since, of course, some of the readers never knew him at all, I felt that referring to him as "Dad" throughout might be confusing. Referring to him as "Billy" and to Mom as "June" also helped me to see them as they were during the war, long before they became parents, and helped me feel a bit more like a historian while working on the project.
However, I am not a historian, but I am a fortunate daughter. So in closing, I want to dedicate this project to my parents with all my love and gratitude. How many other veterans had such fascinating adventures, but never took the trouble to record them? We are unlucky in not having had Dad with us to reminisce about this time, but we are luckier than countless other families in having the Journal, in all its detail, to tell us about what he did and how he felt. We have both him and Mom to thank for it, him for writing it and keeping it after the war, and her for preserving it, along with the various other documents and items that were so useful to me in the project. I am very proud to be their daughter and to have had this opportunity to study such a remarkable document recording a portion of a remarkable life.
—Kathleen Lewis Amen, 2006 & 2015
|Back to Main Page|