Lt. Reichard’s WWII Diary – January 4, 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 email@example.com, 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 4, 1943 Diary Page (click to enlarge)
Transcript of diary entry January 4, 1943
Sunday, January 4, 1943 McClellan Field, Sacramento, CA
Well this morning I got up bright and early. It was cold but clear. Two days with out rain is really too much to expect. Things were pretty quiet over at the office when I came over. We are all packed except for a few details to be taken care of the last minute. The boys clothes needed cleaning pretty badly so I had them collected and took them down town to see if we could get some two day service on them. I talked the cleaner into a promise to have them by Wednesday. That ought to be safe.
On the way out I stopped in to see 4th Asac. Hqs. They had a phone call coming in from Patterson Field that took all the wind out of my sails. Our orders were canceled. We were not going. After all that packing and planning. I felt pretty sick because I really wanted to go. I argued for an hour and a half but got nowhere. No reasons. They didn’t know anything themselves. I came on out and told the men. A more disappointed lot you never saw. We have been training for six months for this job and now we can’t go. It will take months to put the men back on such a keyed up mental plane again. Out of [ink blotch] men only two weren’t itching to go and the moral could not have been higher. Now weve had our props knocked out from under us. I wrote to mother and Virginia. I’m going to ask for a leave as soon as I figure I can get a decent one. I feel all let down & rung out. It’s a sin to key a man up that way then let him down. It’s a waste of time and energy.
Letter from Ginnie to Lt. Reichard on University of Maryland Stationery
Ginnie's Letter January 4, 1943 page 1
Ginnie's Letter January 4, 1943 pages 2-3
Ginnie's Letter January 4, 1943 page 4
Monday Jan. 4, 1943
Just received your three air mails today and am heartsick. Everytime the phone rings I get ill with fear. For once in our lives we literally pray that they won’t buzz our room (one for all & all for one in 405) As God is my judge I swear I won’t let you down. I’ll keep the letters rolling in. If by any chance you don’t get any for long periods of time just remember I am writing regularly. Just always remember that, and trust in me.
Don’t be lonely while you’re away – that is if you have time to be! I’ll be thinking of you as near to every minute as one can. I can’t be lonely now because you’re in my heart crowding everything else out. I can’t even call a dream my own
anymore. And that’s the way I want it to be, for always.
When I read your letter a million old memories flooded my mind. I’ll never forget the expression on your face when you squeezed the kiss meter and I registered “amaturish.” All the soldiers laughed and I did too ’cause I knew different! Our last hour together you slept with your head in my lap. And remember the time I sewed name tapes on your socks (or should I say sock!) and got blood all over them from where I cut my finger. You were horribly disgusted with me, but not half as mad as when I watched you shave.
P.S. That mustache shall always be a subject of anxiety to me, as well as a sore spot.
But the things I’ll never forget as long as I live are the feeling of your arms around me, the promise in your eyes when we talked about the future, and other things I can’t put down on paper. If only I could just be with you for five minutes or hear your voice again. Just one thing more to hang on to. Why aren’t people ever satisfied?
We’ve had more than our share of good luck. I’m going to worry like the devil until I hear you’ve landed safely. When
you once reach your destination I know everything will be O.K. You’re strong and you’re smart – and you’re lucky!
Besides, God won’t let anything happen to you. He practically promised me that!
Sweetheart, nothing is connected in this letter but you’ve always done a good job of figuring me out, so maybe by sticking the pieces together you can see how utterly and completely I love you. Darling, love me all the time & never
stop loving me. I don’t think I could get along without you. We’re so wonderful!!
All my love, Ginnie
To view previous diary entries, click here.
The Day That Was: January 4, 1943
• TIME magazine names Joseph Stalin Man of the Year. (http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19430104,00.html)
• Seven Soviet armies launch “Operation Ring” against the Germans at Stalingrad. Adolf Hitler had grossly underestimated the Soviet Union’s ability to defend itself. The German army still has a lot of power, but all that Hitler can hope for is the spending of a vast amount of money and men in continuing to occupy the Soviet Union. Finland’s government already sees Germany as losing the war and is interested in getting out as soon as it can. (http://www.fsmitha.com/time1943.htm)
• As Japanese troops began a planned withdrawal from Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, U.S. units attacked and gained high-ground positions in the vicinity of Mount Austen, capturing an enemy field piece. Six enemy counterattacks were repulsed with 150 Japanese killed. Patrols in other sectors killed 20 additional Japanese and captured howitzer mortars and light machine guns. (http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/comms/1943-01.html)