October 25, 2002
By the time you read this, Laura and I will have returned from the annual reunion of the Stars & Stripes Association, made up of former staff members of the various European and Pacific editions of that venerable Army newspaper, The Stars & Stripes. This year's reunion was held in Honolulu, which is where our edition was published during World War II. It was distributed to American military personnel throughout the Pacific Ocean area. I had the great good fortune to be assigned to that edition, and it was a memorable experience. It also was one of the most interesting periods of my life, partly because of the talented and gifted men I served with in that unique endeavor.
Although we griped about Army life in general, we were well aware that we were living in that paradise known as Hawaii and not dodging Japanese Samurai warrior bullets in a cold and wet jungle foxhole. But each and every one of us believed we were rendering an authentic service to lighten the load for those brave GIs who faced the enemy daily. We had stacks of letters from those men to prove they read and appreciated the paper. It was written, edited and distributed by enlisted men, and its daily "Letters to the Editor" column was a relief valve for many GI complaints.
The S&S originated during the Civil War but achieved much of its fame during World War I with superb deskmen and writers like managing editor Alexander Woollcott; Harold Ross, founder of The New Yorker magazine after the war; Steve Early, who became FDR's press secretary; and others. In the World War II editions, some of the paper's stars were cartoonist Bill Mauldin; and the CBS-TV curmudgeon, Andy Rooney. Our paper had Jerry Siegel, creator of the Superman comic strip character; David Stern, the originator of Francis, the talking mule, which became a movie series with Donald O'Connor in a starring role; and a stable of capable newsmen from all parts of the U.S. including all the metropolitan areas-New York, Chicago, St. Louis and Los Angeles, and all the points in between. That included one novice from Perry, Oklahoma. All of us took great pride in our work. The seasoned writers and editors were willing to share their knowledge and expertise with anyone who cared to ask for it. I was transferred from the 98th Infantry Division to S&S and served first as a general assignment reporter and later as a copy desk editor. You can bet I soaked up a lot of great tips on newspapering from those guys.
Sadly, the ranks of my contemporaries have been drastically thinned by the aging process and not many of my Mid-Pacific colleagues are able to attend. These reunions are not nearly as much fun as they used to be when more of my wartime pals were still frisky and ambulatory. Perhaps I'll have more to say about this bittersweet reunion later on, but I just wanted to let you know that The Stars & Stripes torch is still being passed on, even in this time of a very uneasy peace.