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Combat Reporter

Don Whitehead's World War II Diary and Memoirs

John Romeiser

Publication Year: 2006

No one bore witness better than Don Whitehead . . . this volume, deftly combining his diary and a previously unpublished memoir, brings Whitehead and his reporting back to life, and 21st-century readers are the richer for it.-from the Foreword, by Rick AtkinsonWinner of two Pulitzer Prizes, Don Whitehead is one of the legendary reporters of World War II. For the Associated Press he covered almost every important Allied invasion and campaign in Europe-from North Africa to landings in Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, and Normandy, and to the drive into Germany. His dispatches, published in the recent Beachhead Don, are treasures of wartime journalism.From the fall of September 1942, as a freshly minted A.P. journalist in New York, to the spring of 1943 as Allied tanks closed in on the Germans in Tunisia, Whitehead kept a diary of his experiences as a rookie combat reporter. The diary stops in 1943, and it has remained unpublished until now. Back home later, Whitehead started, but never finished, a memoir of his extraordinary life in combat.John Romeiser has woven both the North African diary and Whitehead's memoir of the subsequent landings in Sicily into a vivid, unvarnished, and completely riveting story of eight months during some of the most brutal combat of the war. Here, Whitehead captures the fierce fighting in the African desert and Sicilian mountains, as well as rare insights into the daily grind of reporting from a war zone, where tedium alternated with terror. In the tradition of cartoonist Bill Mauldin's memoir Up Front, Don Whitehead's powerful self-portrait is destined to become an American classic.

Published by: Fordham University Press


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p. i

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ii-v


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pp. vi-vii

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Editor’s Note and Acknowledgments

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pp. viii-ix

The Donald F. Whitehead war diary covers an eight-month span, from September 1942 to April 1943, and provides the primary source material for this book. My transcription has retained the original spelling and punctuation. Interpolated or clarifying material is bracketed immediately following. The second source for this project is an unfinished typescript of a book that Whitehead was clearly planning to write on his...

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pp. x-xiii

No one bore witness better than Don Whitehead. Among World War II combat correspondents, he was one of the few whose powers of observation and literary sensibilities remain vibrant generations later. A self-effacing former advertising manager for a newspaper in Harlan, Kentucky, Whitehead possessed the priceless impulse to go to the sound...

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pp. 1-8

Throughout his distinguished career as a journalist, Donald Ford Whitehead always aspired to be where the action was. From the time he was a young boy growing up in Harlan, Kentucky, where he once witnessed a murder between feuding families, Whitehead not only understood the necessity but relished the opportunity to witness the breaking news he was charged with reporting. Like his friend and fellow journalist...

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One: From Manhattan to Cairo, September-October 1942

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pp. 9-28

Actually, I don’t believe I ever thought I’d be chosen as a war correspondent for the A.P. It was one of those vague and incredible jobs about which you read with a great deal of envy for those who were helping write the history of World War II. When I read the stories of Bob St. John and Larry Allen and Quentin Reynolds and Drew Middleton I felt...

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Two: Cairo Journal, October-November 1942

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pp. 29-56

We left Luxor behind at 6:30 a.m. and headed up the Nile for Cairo. With each mile it was easier to understand why the river has played such a lead role in the history of this land of antiquity. In America our rivers are important but not vital arteries of agriculture and commerce. But here—Egypt is the Nile. The desert pushes down to its very shores. It is...

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Three: In Pursuit of Rommel (Libya), November 1942-February 1943

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pp. 57-122

Again I’ve just missed the RAF advance party. It’s hard to get anywhere traveling in convoy. We broke camp at 6:30 this morning after a cup of hot coffee for breakfast. I rode with Keith Siegfried who shepherded the convoy. We reached Halfaya Pass at 10 a.m. and never have I seen such a traffic jam. Almost as far as I could see the plain between the escarpment and the sea was filled with trucks, tanks, cars and everything on...

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Four: Victory in Tunisia, March-April 1943

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pp. 123-150

After today all copy will be routed to Algiers instead of Cairo. My first story via Algiers was about 12 American boys who joined the Canadian airforce in 1940 and fought with the RAF. Now they’ve transferred to the U.S. airforce. I stayed with Warrener until after lunch. Then Capt. Steve Gordon drove up. I packed my kit on the truck. Eric Bigio has...

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Five: Sicily, July-August 1943

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pp. 151-206

During the war there always were lively discussions among the correspondents concerning the fundamental differences between the American soldier and the soldier of other nations, particularly the British.
In some ways, the Tommy was a more desirable soldier—from the military point of view—than the American. Centuries of fighting for Empire had taught him to accept personal responsibility without question...

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pp. 207-213

It is important to explain the frontline soldier’s attitude toward the newspaper correspondent. I distinctly remember bitterly resenting the fact that they were able to come to the front at their discretion and then return to headquarters, where warm food, warm beds, and warm tents...


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pp. Image 1-Image 8

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pp. 215-226

Cairo, October 12—America’s armed forces are shoving aside the twin barriers of time and distance to pour a rising tide of men and materials into four vital fronts of the second world war: the Middle East, Russia, India, and China. America is on the move in Africa...


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pp. 227-230


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pp. 231-236

World War II: The Global, Human, and Ethical Dimension

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p. 237

E-ISBN-13: 9780823247349
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823226757
Print-ISBN-10: 0823226751

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 213305704
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Combat Reporter

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Subject Headings

  • Whitehead, Don, 1908-.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Campaigns -- Africa, North.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Campaigns -- Italy -- Sicily.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Journalists -- Diaries.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Personal narratives, American.
  • War correspondents -- United States -- Diaries.
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