A musty first draft of World War II history

A co-worker at The Morning Call whose father fought in the Battle of
the Bulge told me last week about a World War II treasure trove in the
newspaper’s library.

Frank Warner said there are half a dozen binders on a shelf that contain weekly summaries of the war as it unfolded from 1939 to 1945, written by staffers of the old Call-Chronicle.

I had to see for myself. Sure enough, there are six binders containing faded-yellow, musty clippings – one for each year of the war. The first is dated Sept. 10, 1939, nine days after the war began with Germany’s invasion of Poland, and goes to Sept. 1, 1940. The last covers Oct. 8, 1944, to Sept. 9, 1945, seven days after the Japanese surrender ceremonies.

It was a huge effort, coming at a time when folks got their news from newspapers, magazines and radio.

The binders are titled “World War II Review.” For each week of the war, the Sunday Call-Chronicle ran through the events and disclosures of the past seven days for its readers. The stories are lengthy – around 50 column inches – and tell as much as the military and the government were willing to divulge in a time of censorship. Most of the accounts I saw had no byline identifying the Call-Chronicle writer, but some credited a W.R. Reinert.

The stories started on Page 1. An editor’s note for each says: “In order to correlate war events of the past week, the Sunday Call-Chronicle presents the following summary of important news based on what we believe to the most authentic reports available.”

I looked up the binder that has the entry for June 14, 1942, containing reports of the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway in the Pacific. Regarding Midway, which followed the Coral Sea battle and took place June 4-7, the newspaper wrote: “The full story of this second engagement has not yet been told, but again Army and Navy reports are that losses to the Japanese are far greater than those sustained by the American forces.”

After each installment ran, someone in the newsroom clipped the story and pasted it neatly into the three-ring binder. That went on for six years.

Together, the binders contain a precious first draft of World War II history, reported as it happened and presented to Lehigh Valley residents hungry for news of the fighting — and a big picture that would help them understand the conflict.

2 responses to “A musty first draft of World War II history

  1. so very important at a time when funds for maintenance for military monuments are so poorly maintained worldwide

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