Lt. Reichard’s WWII Diary – January 1, 1943
An 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 1, 1943 Diary Entry (click to enlarge)
January 1, 1943 McClellan Field, Sacramento, CA
“This is the beginning of a new diary, an overseas diary in which anything can and probably will happen. I hope I live to complete it and many more to come. The new year came in with the same old story as resolutions go and of course the war takes its proper place of importance. However, we all enjoyed ourselves last night and got as high as we expected. Today I got up an hour later and went over to the mess hall for breakfast. After breakfast I started into the hell that each day has been since we received our working orders. Shortages lists and a million other reports have to be gotten out and all the equipment has to be cleaned thoroughly, oiled and packed. It’s quite a job. The big wrecker was painted and proper marking put on. I went down and saw Capt. Johnson at IV ASAC and cleared up some troubles then back to the field. We are all ready for a psychopathic ward. My paycheck didn’t come in so we put a tracer on it. This evening I found out the voucher had been put on the dead head box so a new one will be made out and I should get paid tomorrow. I got a letter from Federman with $3.00 in it so bought a pipe. Tonight I stayed in the office late. Things are beginning to look a little bit clearer now. Im getting a little restless and hope we get orders soon.”
The Day That Was: January 1, 1943
• German troops of 1st Panzerarmee (von Kleist) in the Caucasus begin withdrawing from the Terek front to avoid being cut off by Soviet forces attacking from the northeast toward Rostov-on-Don. (http://www.feldgrau.com/Jan..html)
• A force of “Liberator” heavy bombers (Consolidated B-24), escorted by “Lightning” fighters (Lockheed P-38), attacked Japanese cargo ships in Kiska Harbor on the east coast of the island of Kiska in the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. Six enemy “Zeros” attempted to intercept the attack, and one was shot down. A near-hit was scored on one small ship. Clouds prevented complete observation of results. No U.S. planes were lost. (http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/comms/1943-01.html)
• “Dauntless” dive bombers (Douglas SBD) dropped bombs in the vicinity of Kokumbona, where Japanese headquarters on Guadalcanal Island were believed to be located. Dense jungle growth prevented observation of results. (http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/comms/1943-01.html)
• The submarine USS Nautilus (SS-168) evacuates 29 civilians from Teop Island in the Solomons. The salvage vessel USS Rescuer (ARS-18) is grounded and sunk in the Aleutians. (http://www.blountweb.com/blountcountymilitary/wars/ww2/timelines/1943_ww2.htm)
• Americans’ annual salaries are capped at $25,000, part of a short-lived plan designed to curb inflation. The law will be repealed within the year.
• The San Francisco Examiner launches the “Save a Life With a Knife” campaign that urged readers with sturdy hunting knives, with blades at least 4-inches long, to bring them to campaign headquarters at 1025 Columbus Ave. or to the Examiner’s Want Ad Lobby at Third and Market Streets. The knives were to be shipped to the jungle-fighting fronts by airplane. (http://www.sfmuseum.net/war/43.html)
• The University of Georgia defeats UCLA 9-0 in the Rose Bowl. (http://ourgeorgiahistory.com/year/1943)
• The Donald Duck film Der Fuehrer’s Face is released to theaters. The original title was Donald Duck in Nutziland. (http://www.islandnet.com/~kpolsson/disnehis/disn1943.htm)