Lt. Reichard’s WWII Diary – January 7, 1943
Introduction by Will Seippel, CEO – WorthPoint.com
Tom Brokaw called them The Greatest Generation—and they were. They lived through the greatest changes a generation has ever seen, from horse-and-buggy days to men on the moon. As children, they struggled through the Great Depression. In their teens and 20s, more than 16 million of them marched off to war in Europe and the Pacific to save the world from fascism.
Some 400,000 were killed in action. Today, World War II veterans are in their ’80s and ’90s.
Nearly a 1,000 a day are dying, and they are taking their memories with them. Most of them never really talked much about the war. Having grown up in a military family, and having never really understood what my dad did in WWII or Vietnam, I have always been intrigued reading other soldiers’ stories. Thus, when I learned of a group of WWII papers available at a local estate sale, I jumped at the opportunity to purchase them.
Finding my way to the sale was an arduous task in Atlanta’s northern suburbs. Twisted roads and limited signage, and I was running several hours late. I did manage to get to the sale and was amazed that most of the items I was interested in were still there and priced quite reasonably.
It was a sale that you shake your head at and question the pricing logic as many of the better WWII items were priced fairly and some of the Korean- and Vietnam-era items were priced way too high, as the sellers assumed all of the late officer’s items dated to WWII. In such a sale, there is no chance to keep the collection together unless you overpay.
I also found it fascinating that a Lt. Reichard, to whom the items had belonged, rose to the rank of captain in the war and later became a flourishing artist in Atlanta. He obviously was interested in photography, as I found his photographic work throughout the house.
Coincidentally, at the time I bought his diaries, I discovered what looked like some of his photos of the 1944 Mt. Vesuvius eruption, which ended up unattributed in a National Geographic article. I attribute the connecting of the dots on this to fate as I never read the magazine. (I never even knew I had a subscription.) Something made me pick up and look at a copy my older son had left on our kitchen counter. It opened right to the page where they showed a picture of a WWII army bomber trying to fly around the ash cloud that was eerily similar to one in Reichard’s dairy. I went on to read his diary entry for that day in which he writes vividly about the experience.
Other questions that I have may never be answered, as this was an estate sale, with the former owner of the goods being deceased. Although Reichard left us a detailed record of these years, many questions screamed at me, including:
• How did he end up going from being a Dartmouth grad to the lieutenant of a motor pool?
• Why wasn’t his family interested in the items, and who are the remaining relatives?
• Another soldier’s gripping postwar diaries were with his. These discussed the return to civilian life and praying to God that he is not wiped out by floods or crop disease as a farmer with consistent bad luck. How were these men related?
Lt. Reichard began writing in his diary on January 1, 1943. In February, he bought a camera and began taking some photos. For the next three years, he wrote almost every day. When I started reading his diary, I thought it should be shared and that perhaps WorthPoint’s community of collectors, people like me who are intrigued by the past, might find the diary as fascinating as I did.
So we decided to have the diary transcribed. Kathleen Long, a producer from Los Angeles, is transcribing the diary. Our Peabody award-winning editor, Alison Harder, is working with teacher Jeremy Goldson and the students in Mountain Vista High School’s Theatre Department in Colorado to record the first few weeks of the diary. She is also editing the readings and the transcribed entries to create short videos for each day.
On January 1, we’ll begin posting Lt. Reichard’s diary, one day at a time. In February, if there is still interest in the diary, we’ll begin adding his photos. Our newsletter editor, Greg Watkins, will soon begin posting a few lines each day about what was happening in the world in 1943. We’d like to find a high-school history class or a group of veterans that would be interested in taking on that aspect of this project. If you are interested, contact Mary Brenneman at firstname.lastname@example.org, and put Lt. Reichard in the subject line.
If you are a veteran, a member of the Greatest Generation, or just interested in history, drop us a note, and let us know what you think of Lt. Reichard’s diary and our project. We are fairly sure we’re not the only ones interested in what one soldier was thinking 65 years ago when the entire world seemed in turmoil, and our young men and women marched off to war to save the world for future generations.
This project is our way of acknowledging our debt, appreciating our freedom and saying thank you to the men and women who fought on the battlefield and also to those who stayed home and helped save the world by supporting the war effort.
January 7, 1943 Diary page (click to enlarge)
Transcript of diary entry January 7, 1943
Thursday, January 7, 1943 McClellan Field, Sacramento, CA
How these days manage to get by so fast is more than I can see. It seems as though the ink hasn’t time to dry on one entry of this diary before I start to put in another. Some times it scares me a little. Today was normal. The men received instruction on rifle slings and training down of various small arms they are liable to use in the course of the next few years. I gave a lecture for about an hour on infantry tactics then we ate dinner. After dinner we put on our packs and marched down to Del Paso Park for some practical demonstrations of what we had discussed in the morning. It was very interesting and we got a lot out of it besides a good work out physically. It was rough.
This evening I went to a show up on the main Post. When I came back I was told to get in touch with the Adjutant. He informed me that the whole 1710th was pulling out for Boise Idaho. Brrrrrr! I’m shivering now just thinking about how cold it is in that country. I don’t understand the move but then there are a lot of things I don’t understand any more so I just don’t bother. We should pull out within two days. One thing that makes me sore is that we are not taking our equipment after all the _______ we have done these last six months. We are not even the 1710th any more. That makes me mad too because we are proud of that number. Well we just got to move and that is all there is to it. I guess I’ll turn in after a letter to Ginnie.
To view previous diary entries, click here.
The Day That Was: January 7, 1943
• President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered the State of the Union address to members of the seventy-eighth Congress:
“Any review of the year 1942 must emphasize the magnitude and the diversity of the military activities in which this nation has become engaged. As I speak to you, approximately one-and-a-half million of our soldiers, sailors, marines and fliers are in service outside of our continental limits, all through the world. Our merchant seamen, in addition, are carrying supplies to them and to our allies over every sea lane.
“Few Americans realize the amazing growth of our air strength, though I am sure our enemy does. Day in and day out, our forces are bombing the enemy and meeting him in combat on many different fronts in every part of the world. And for those who question the quality of our aircraft and the ability of our fliers, I point to the fact that, in Africa, we are shooting down two enemy planes to every one we lose, and in the Pacific and the Southwest Pacific, we are shooting them down four to one . . .”
“We Americans intend to do this great job together. In our common labors, we must build and fortify the very foundation of national unity—confidence in one another . . .”
“I have reason to know that our boys at the front are concerned with two broad aims beyond the winning of the war; and their thinking and their opinion coincide with what most Americans here back home are mulling over. They know, and we know, that it would be inconceivable—it would, indeed, be sacrilegious—if this nation and the world did not attain some real, lasting good out of all these efforts and sufferings and bloodshed and death.
“The men in our armed forces want a lasting peace, and, equally, they want permanent employment for themselves, their families and their neighbors when they are mustered out at the end of the war . . .”
“Let us remember, too, that economic safety for the America of the future is threatened unless a greater economic stability comes to the rest of the world. We cannot make America an island in either a military or an economic sense. Hitlerism, like any other form of crime or disease, can grow from the evil seeds of economic as well as military feudalism.
“Victory in this war is the first and greatest goal before us. Victory in the peace is the next. That means striving toward the enlargement of the security of man here and throughout the world—and, finally, striving for the fourth freedom—freedom from fear . . .”
“A tremendous, costly, long-enduring task in peace as well as in war is still ahead of us.
“But, as we face that continuing task, we may know that the state of this nation is good—the heart of this nation is sound—the spirit of this nation is strong—the faith of this nation is eternal.” (http://www.infoplease.com/t/hist/state-of-the-union/154.html)