Friday, February 15, 2013

The Best of YANK (excerpt)

Yank magazine was created by enlisted men for the targeted reading audience of fellow enlisted men. Much of its content was written in military-ese and has a humor and style directed at those experiences that the enlisted man might appreciate. Therefore it probably wasn't the best publication for the general public to read.

In late 1944 the Yank editorial staff thought it had enough material that it might be nice to create a book for the general public's reading pleasure. They created "The Best of Yank" which was published in 1945 while the war was still raging.

The following is just an excerpt from the introduction of that book which shows just some of the involvement and effort and danger that the Yank correspondents experienced during World War II.

Yank editorial staff, therefore, consist entirely of enlisted men. Many of them have turned down the opportunity to get a commission because it meant leaving Yank. Some of them in civilian life were experienced writers and editors on big metropolitan dailies and slick paper magazines; Others were mere copy boys or reporters from small-town newspapers in town's like Paducah, Kentucky, and Long Beach, California. They live under military discipline and work for army pay (and not high pay, at that; most of them are corporals and buck sergeants and staff sergeants). Yank's main editorial office is in New York, where it publishes a U. S. edition for the camps in this country and prepares rotogravure, offset and letterpress pages for its overseas editions, printed weekly in London, Sydney, Honolulu, Rome, Paris, Cairo, Tehran, Calcutta, Puerto Rico and Panama. The Paris edition of YANK, incidentally, made its first appearance early in September, 1944, rolling off a rotogravure press that only a few weeks before had been printing the Paris edition of Wehrmacht, the German Army’s equivalent of YANK. The New York office also puts out weekly an Alaska edition, shipped from Seattle to Alaska and the Aleutians, and a general overseas edition for overseas bases not covered by the foreign printing operations. In addition to its regular Раcific edition, the Honolulu bureau of YANK also publishes a South Pacific edition, and a pony-sized Pacific Air Mail edition for troops on the lonely islands of Admiral Nimitz's far-Flung ocean command.

With such a worldwide territory to cover, YANK’S editorial staff naturally sees plenty of overseas duty. The editors, writers and photographers are rotated constantly from desk jobs to combat assignments, from the main office to the overseas bureaus and from one theater of operations to another. For instance, Sgt. Joe McCarthy, YANK’s managing editor, who received a Legion of Merit for helping to establish the Army weekly as a worldwide magazine, is now in France, has reported the war in Italy and was the first American GI to enter Athens when it was liberated.

Then there is Sgt. Merle Miller who after he had established the Pacific edition in Honolulu and landed in the Marshalls as a combat corespondent, returned to the U. S. to work for four months as an editor in the New York office and as a YANK correspondent in Washington. Then he went overseas again to France, where he became editor of YANK’S Paris edition. Sgt. Dave Richardson won the Legion of Merit for his front line coverage of the New Guinea campaign for YANK. Then he went to Burma and completed one of the toughest assignments undertaken by a correspondent in this war—a 500-mile march through the jungles with Merrill’s Marauders that took him behind the Јар lines for three months.

When he returned to civilization, Sgt. Richardson wrote to the office:

"Besides the regular 60-pound horseshoe-type pack which every Marauder carried (containing a blanket, poncho, kukri knife, three to five days rations, entrenching shovel, water wings for swimming rivers and an extra pair of shoes) I lugged two cameras, film, notebooks, maps, pencils and my carbine. And I brought along a typewriter. But the only chance I had to use it was during a two-day rest period after our first battle. I spent the first day repairing the damage that had been done to it by the incessant rain and by its being carried on a mule over bumpy ground. The second day I managed to bat out some picture captions. The rest of the time my stories had to languish in my notebooks because we usually walked from dawn to dusk, spending the rest of our time before dark cooking supper (no fires were allowed after dark in this Јар territory) and after dark sleeping in our ponchos and blankets on the ground, often in pools of water from the heavy rains.”

Miller and Richardson are not the only YANK men who have seen more than one side of the global war. Sgt. George Aarons and Sgt. Burgess Scott, after a tour of duty in Britain in 1942, went all the way from El Alamein to Tunis with the British Eighth Army. A few months later they established what they considered a record for long-distance jeep travel, starting from Cairo, driving to Aleppo in Syria to make a memorable picture story of the execution of two Nazi spies, and then turning around and going all the way across Africa to Algiers. There they managed to load their jeep on a transport plane and take it to Italy, where it асcompanied them on several trips to the Cassino front, landed with them at Anzio and chugged into Rome with the advance tanks of the 1st Armored Division. Scott has returned to the States for a tour of duty in YANKS main editorial office, but Aarons and the jeep are somewhere in France. Aarons says he won't be satisfied until he drives the jeep in triumph up to the front door of YANK'S Berlin bureau.

Then there is Sgt. Walter Peters, a veteran of many air missions over Europe (he was the only American correspondent on the murderous Schweinfurt raid), later cited for bravery under fire with the Infantry at St. Lo and now on his way to China to write about our Chinese allies and the men who are flying the B-29s. And Sgt. Georg Meyers, decorated for his conduct in the invasion of Attu. And Sgt. Walter Bernstein, who probably beats every YANK correspondent when it comes to globe trotting. Bernstein left the U. S. in the early spring of 1943, traveled by ship across the South Pacific to Australia and then across the Indian Ocean to the Persian Gulf. He spent some time in Iran and then moved to Cairo and to Algiers, just in time for the invasion of Sicily, where he saw action with the 45th and 3d divisions. When Sicily fell, he returned to Cairo and traveled in Palestine and Syria. He c then went to the Italian front when it was near Naples and left it to return to Cairo again to cover the conference between Churchill, Roosevelt and Chiang Kai-shek. In the spring of 1944, Bernstein managed to make arrangements with Yugoslav Partisan representatives in the Middle East and Italy for a personal interview with Marshal Tito, who had not yet been visited by a correspondent from an English-speaking country. The partisans took Bernstein from Italy to an island in the Adriatic andthen landed him on the Yugoslavian mainland where he walked for a week across German occupied territory and over the mountains to Tito’s headquarters.

"That walk was a nightmare," Bernstein wrote afterward. "We only had actual trouble once when we had to cross a main road at three in the morning between two German garrisons about a kilometer apart. We sent about ten men to each garrison to start a little disturbance and keep them busy and while they were doing that we double-timed across the road and into the woods on the other side. The bullets were flying around but nobody got hurt except a few Germans or Chetniks. That was the only real trouble we had, although we were near the Germans on several other occasions, but the walk itself was dreadful: over all the mountains in Yugoslavia. We would start in the morning and by three in the afternoon we would be up at the snow line and then we would go down the other side and start up again on the next mountain. We would walk sometimes all night and part of the next day and then sleep for a few hours and start again and I would lose all track of time and think that the dawn was sunset or vice versa. Anyway, I wouldn't want to do it again. I got sick when we finally arrived at headquarters, ran a fever for a few days and my eyes wouldn’t focus, but I stayed in bed a while and ate and slept and got over it."

Then Bernstein got his interview with Tito. A few days later the Anglo-American mission in Yugoslavia discovered that he had entered the country without proper permission and hustled him back to Italy on the next available plane. "It had Pullman seats, no less,” says Bernstein.

Thus far in the war, two YANK men have been killed in action. Sgt. John Bushemi was fatally wounded by Јар mortar fire during the invasion of Eniwetok in the Marshalls. Sgt. Peter Paris, the first enlisted man to cross the threshold of the New York office and report for duty when The Army Weekly was established in May, 1942, met his death on D Day in Normandy when he landed with the first wave of the 1st Division. Others have narrowly escaped with their lives. Sgt. Barret McGurn was hit by mortar fire during the second battle of Воugainville. And during the fighting at Gloucester Bay, Sgt. Dick Hanley, a staff photographer, climbed out of a foxhole 15 yards from the enemy and turned his back on the Japs to make a picture of some Marine machine gunners. "Go ahead," the Marines told him when he deliberated the wisdom of such a risk. "If they get you, we'll get them." Hanley managed to return to cover still in one piece.

Sgt. Joe McCarthy the editor of Yank magazine was once quoted as saying: if our correspondent survives, we have a story. If he doesn't, we have a casualty.


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