Monday, February 25, 2013

A funny thing happened on my way to the bestseller list

This blog post is brought to you by Oral History Audiobooks

   I've had some interesting experiences promoting my books and audiobooks. A couple of years ago, at the Greenwood Lake air show, where I was displaying my audiobooks, to the right of my table was Dutch Van Kirk, the navigator on the Enola Gay; and to my left were two Tuskegee Airmen. I felt like a history sandwich.
   Then today, as my Amazon Kindle e-book edition of "A Mile in Their Shoes," which I made available for a two-day free download promotion (today, Feb. 25 and tomorrow, Feb. 26), was climbing the ranks of free Kindle books in the History category, I found my book at Number 38, just below, at No. 37, the Gettysburg Address. Pretty cool company, if you ask me.
   Then something caught my eye. It was the stars signifying the reviews of the free edition of the Gettysburg Address; there was only an average of four and a half stars for 53 reviews. So I looked a little closer and discovered there were three one-star reviews. How could anybody trash the Gettysburg Address? Fortunately, only one of the one-star reviews was from some reprobate who probably has a Confederate flag hanging in his trailer. A more reasonable one follows, although still nobody should give the Gettysburg Address a rotten review, I mean, now I don't feel so bad about the handful of trashy reviews my own books have gotten, I'm in some pretty good company. Anyway, here's the review of the free edition of the address that I just mentioned:

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful

1.0 out of 5 stars A review of Format, Not This Amazing Speech, January 19, 2012

Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)

This review is from: Gettysburg Address (Kindle Edition)
There are surely many who would like to own a copy of the Gettysburg Address. Read with an understanding of the times, one can't help but be moved by the eloquence of Lincoln's words, and the careful crafting that made this one short speech, so memorable.
What I am reviewing here is the Free "Vanilla Electronic Text" version of the speech which is available for Kindle. Though serviceable, I can't recommend it. For whatever reason, the publishers have chosen to replace commas with elipses. So that you get:
Now we are engaged in a great civil war ... testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated ... can long endure.
Available elsewhere, for free.
Pam T~
mom/history lover

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

More pictures from the archives

A Company, 712th Tank Battalion, officers at Amberg, Germany. Back row,
from left: Morse Johnson, Sam MacFarland; front row, from left, Bob
Hagerty, Ellsworth Howard, Howard Olsen, Jule Braatz
   I used this picture on the cover of the first edition of Tanks for the Memories. In the back row are Morse Johnson and Sam MacFarland, whom I mentioned in my previous post.
   Bob Hagerty, on the left in the front, and Morse Johnson were both from Cincinnati, Hagerty from the Norwood section and Johnson from, I think it was called Far Hills. Both were sergeants in the horse cavalry, both received battlefield commissions, and both distinguished themselves in the battle for Oberwampach, as did Howard Olsen, third from the left in the front. When the 712th Tank Battalion was stationed as occupation troops in Amberg, Germany, after VE Day, Hagerty and Johnson often faced each other as opponents on a court-martial board; Johnson, a lawyer in civilian life, as the judge, and Hagerty as defense counsel.
   Hagerty recalled one particular case involving an enlisted man named Everett Bays, who was court-martialed on three occasions. The first two were for minor offenses, stealing a jeep, things like that. But the third offense occurred while the battalion, already in Marseilles, was waiting to be shipped out for home. Bays got drunk and got into a fight with an officer from a different outfit and beat the officer pretty seriously.
   Don Knapp, whom you may have seen interviewed on "Patton 360," remembered the fight for which Bays was court-martialed. At the battalion's 1993 reunion, Knapp recalled a conversation he had with Tony D'Arpino, who also was interviewed in Patton 360.
   "D'Arpino said, 'You remember that night when we were going home, we were in this area," and he says, 'it was all muddy.'
   "And I says, 'Yeah, and they had strips of wood to walk on.'
   "He said, 'And Bays got drunk and he was an ex-prizefighter and he was slapping people around.'
   "I said, 'You don't remember, Tony, but I was charge of quarters that night.' By that time I was a staff sergeant.
   "And he said, 'No I don't.'
   I said, 'Well, I picked up a log out of that walkway,' because he had hit one guy real hard and I walked in he was slapping somebody. And I said, 'Cut it out, Bays.' You know, appealing to his better nature.
   "And he said, 'You shut your mouth or you're gonna get it, too.'
   "And I've got a .45, but he had one too.
   "I said, "You put that gun down.'
   "And he said, 'What the hell are you gonna do about it?'
   "I said, 'Why don't you put the gun down?' And I says, 'We'll settle it.' And I'm holding the thing in back of me, and I thought to myself, if he comes up close I'm gonna nail him, because I couldn't take him. That guy was a prizefighter. I was not about to go up against him without something. I wouldn't shoot him, but I had this big birch log in my hand in back of me and he didn't see it because he was half-bombed and I thought, I've been around drunks before and if he's up close he's gonna get you but he was kind of staggering, I thought, 'I'm gonna stay back and I'm gonna let him have it alongside the head.' I think somebody, they all jumped on him when I was talking to him. Bays. He was something else."
   Luckily for Bays, the officer he injured shipped out for home the next morning, and all the court-martial board could do was take his deposition. Bays still was court-martialed, but got off with a slap on the wrist. As Hagerty recalled, the battalion commander, Col. Vladimir Kedrovsky, was so incensed over the outcome that he fired the whole court-martial board. The battalion, Bays included, shipped out the next day.
Ellsworth Howard

   Ellsworth Howard, second from the left in the group picture, was the A Company executive officer until Clifford Merrill was wounded on July 13, and then he took over as company commander until August 18, 1944, when he was wounded at the Falaise Gap. He returned later in the war.
   I never did a formal interview with Ellsworth, but did do a couple of brief interviews during battalion reunions. Following is an excerpt from the first edition of "Tanks for the Memories":
   Ellsworth Howard:  "You could only get a replacement tank if you lost one in battle, and the replacements were slow in coming through. We had a void of tanks for a long time.
So I started battle losing them on paper. And then the durn war ended before my tanks balanced out. I had four or five too many, and we had to turn them in at Nuremburg.
   "We went to an ordnance place down there and turned the tanks in, and they wouldn’t take but just the number listed in the table of operations.
   "I said, 'What am I gonna do with the rest of them?'
   "'That’s not our problem.'
   "So I found a field down there right close by, and parked those tanks, got out and left. A week or so later a guy named Marshall House called, and he said, 'Are you by any chance from Louisville?'
   "I said, 'Why, I sure am.'
   "And he said, 'Well, this is Marshall House.'
   "I said, 'Why, I remember you, Marshall.' And we talked about old times.
   "And then he said, 'What about these tanks down here?'
   "I said, 'I can’t hear you. It must be a bad connection.'"

Howard Olsen

Jule Braatz

Here are some more photos:

Jim Cary, left, and Joe Fetsch. Cary was the original
C Company commander, was wounded on July 3, 1944,
took command of B Company when he returned,
and was wounded on Jan. 9, 1945 in the Battle of the
Bulge. Fetsch drove a gasoline truck and was wounded
on April 3, 1945, in the explosion at Heimboldshausen.

Colonel George B. Randolph

Colonel Randolph's body when he was killed during
the Battle of the Bulge. This picture appeared
in the Saturday Evening post, although he was
identified only as a colonel.

A platoon of A Company tanks in Bavigne, Luxembourg during the Battle of the
Bulge. The driver of the lead tank is Dess Tibbitts; the tank commander, on the left
side in the lead tank, is Lt. Wallace Lippincott, Jr., who would be killed a few days later.
 The commander of the second tank is Sam MacFarland. The commander of the fourth tank is
Hank Schneider, who would be killed by a sniper in March of 1945 on the day he received
 his battlefield commission.
Dess Tibbitts in 1988

The Rev. Edmund Randolph Laine and Ed Forrest

The entry in Rev. Laine's diary for the day Ed was killed. The death is noted
as a footnote, because it would be 13 days before the telegram arrived.

(More pictures to come)

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Some pictures from the archives

Lisa Keithley and Dale Albee
   In 1999, Lisa Keithley of Vancouver, Washington, contacted me via email after finding a story by her great-grandfather, Walter Galbraith, on my web site, She said that after her great-grandmother passed away, she inherited Walter's memorabilia from World War II, including his uniform, and she was doing a school project on his service.
   I immediately remembered Walter Galbraith. He was one of the most upbeat, humorous veterans I'd interviewed, even though he was in remission from cancer and would pass away only a year or two after the interview. I used a couple of his stories in my first book, "Tanks for the Memories." Like the story about the time he went to check on "Little Joe." Little Joe was the generator in the tank, which was parked near the side of a building during what likely was the Battle of the Bulge. It was early in the morning and the rest of his crew was inside the building.
   A 75-millimeter round was in the chamber of the tank's cannon, and as Walter climbed into the tank, his foot accidentally hit the solenoid that fired the gun. There was an explosion in the ground in front of the tank, and Walter immediately feared that he might have killed somebody. As he climbed out of the tank prepared to "face the music," as he said, the sergeant came running out of the building, nobody had been injured, and the sergeant muttered an expletive and said something like "I drove over that spot three times last night and didn't go over that mine!"
   Relieved, Walter then heard Andy Schiffler, the driver of another tank in his platoon, begin to say "That was no mine ..." so Walter grabbed Andy and told him to shut up.
   I also remembered Dale Albee, who was Galbreath's tank commander, telling me how he teared up when he heard that Walter had died. Galbreath was Albee's gunner during a particularly harrowing incident during the Battle of the Bulge when the platoon stopped a counterattack in the middle of the night, as well as through many other incidents.
   Lisa mentioned in her email that she lived in Vancouver, Washington. I had traveled to Prospect, Oregon, to interview Albee, and I thought, heck, northern Washington, southern Oregon, heck, they're practically neighbors, how far could that be? (279 miles, thank you, Mapquest). So I asked Lisa if she'd like to meet her great-grandfather's lieutenant.
   Dale said he had a daughter he was going to visit in Vancouver over the holidays that year, so he visited with Lisa, resulting in the above meeting, which was covered by the Vancouver Sun.

A Company officers, 712th Tank Battalion, Amberg, Germany, 1945

   I used this picture on the cover of the first edition of "Tanks for the Memories." It shows six officers from A Company -- five lieutenants and a captain -- in Amberg, Germany, where the 712th Tank Battalion was stationed after the war in Europe was over.
   Because my father was in A Company, I took a special interest in the veterans of A Company, and although none of the men in the photo are alive today, I was able to meet all six of them, interview four of them at length, and one of them briefly a couple of times during reunions.
   The two men standing are Morse Johnson, on the left, and Sam MacFarland. I wrote an earlier blog entry about Johnson, although I failed to mention that there are only two statues that I know of dedicated to veterans of the 712th. One is of Tullio Micaloni, a sergeant who was killed at Seves Island in Normandy and who is one of four soldiers on the 90th Infantry Division monument in Perier, France. The other is Morse Johnson, and it stands near the Playhouse in the Park in Cincinnati's Mount Adams district. Unlike most statues dedicated to heroes, Johnson isn't riding a horse or sticking his head out of a tank, in fact you likely wouldn't know it was him unless you read the plaque, as the statue is an abstract figure of a human form. After the war, Johnson was a patron of the arts, and was a founder of the Playhouse in the Park, which even today has a Morse Johnson Society for donors.

The Morse Johnson Memorial
   Johnson entered the horse cavalry and became a sergeant, later receiving a battlefield commission with the 712th. His platoon withstood nine counterattacks at Oberwampach during the Battle of the Bulge. When I interviewed Morse in 1992 during a trip to Cincinnati, he apparently was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, which would claim his life a few years later.
   Standing to Morse's right is Sam MacFarland, who introduced me to the 712th Tank Battalion Association, and helped me find three veterans who remembered my dad (who was wounded twice but survived the war, and passed away in 1980). I would love to have interviewed Sam, but he died of cancer before I attended another reunion. Shortly before passing away, Sam wrote in a letter to Ray Griffin, then the battalion association president, that "Time is succeeding where Adolf Hitler failed."
   I heard many stories about Sam, including one where he learned while in combat that his wife, Harriet, had given birth to a daughter. He was a sergeant at the time, and conferred with the members of his crew as to what she should be named. They came up with Lucky. Sam was one of 14 members of the battalion to receive battlefield commissions.
   If a picture is worth a thousand words, I'd better post this before the rest of the day flies by, and I'll get to the four men sitting in the front row, from left, Bob Hagerty, Ellsworth Howard, Howard Olsen and Jule Braatz, in my next post.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Accidental Conspiracy Theorist

A scene from The Twilight Zone, "The Purple Testament"
   I should have known better than to reference The Twilight Zone in the introduction to my new two-CD audiobook "Premonitions, Visions, Nightmares and Other Unexplained Circumstances." Of course I remembered the episode about a World War II soldier who can look into another soldier's face and tell if that soldier is going to be killed, what could be wrong with mentioning that? YouTube, that's what.

   So I go to YouTube and do my due diligence, typing Twilight Zone and World War II into their search thingie and before you can say Clem Kadiddlehopper I learned not only that I was looking for Episode 19 but that it was titled The Purple Testament.

   Naturally, I thought I'd watch the few minutes of it that were available on YouTube. The first segment I watched was either in Spanish or Portuguese, it was posted by a Brazilian so it was probably the latter, and even though I didn't understand a word, the music was sufficiently creepy to get the show's message across. Then I found pretty much the same footage in English and watched that.

   But was I finished? Nooooo. There was a picture from Episode 19 with the title "Was Kennedy's Death Predicted in Hollywood?" Click. The video begins with a line of text saying that we all know that Sept. 11 was predicted, superimposed over a scene of Homer Simpson looking at a tourist flier that says New York and a big dollar sign followed by the number 9, and just to the right of the number 9 are the twin towers so that it looks like 9 11. What? You have an argument with that? How about a screen shot from a 1993 Mario Bros. game showing smoke rising from the Twin Towers?

   And then the question: Did Hollywood predict the death of John F. Kennedy. The soldier who could see the strange light in the faces of those about to die was named Lieutenant Fitzgerald. John F. Kennedy was a lieutenant in World War II and his middle name was Fitzgerald. Of course the conspiracy theorist who uncovered this misspelled his name as Frizgerald, but we all know that JFK was not John Frizgerald Kennedy, why let a typographical error get in the way of a good conspiracy?

   Needless to say, there are eight minutes and 48 seconds of items like "This soldier's name was Freeman ... Orville Freeman nominated Kennedy for President."

   Oh. Did I mention that the video begins with a photo of a sign painted on a highway overpass that says: "Caution 9' 11" "

   Which brings me to my newest double audio CD, which will be available shortly in my eBay store. Here are some excerpts:



Saturday, February 2, 2013

Two (or maybe three) Degrees of Separation

   Three of my Facebook friends have forwarded me a rather touching story, purported to be true, about a teacher whose life was changed by a forlorn kid who is so inspired by her that he grows up to be a famous doctor and has the wing of a hospital named after him. The story, accompanied by a picture of a famous painting by Norman Rockwell, is a genuine tearjerker. The only problem, according to a meticulously researched article at, is that it's fiction, and like some kind of urban legend has been making the rounds since before the Internet was of kindergarten age.
   What isn't fiction, however, is a link between the Rockwell painting, which is titled "Happy Birthday, Miss Jones" but may be more commonly known as "The Teacher," and the 712th Tank Battalion.
   Prior to World War II, Edward L. Forrest, who would become a lieutenant in the 712th, lived in Stockbridge, Mass. After graduating from Clark University in Worcester, Mass., he worked for a year or two at the Stockbridge Bank, and later taught at Williams High School. His best friend was Dave Braman, who would be a fighter pilot in World War II and later would become the postmaster in Stockbridge.
   Ed Forrest was rail thin, wore glasses, had blond hair, and would have been right at home in a Rockwell painting. Rockwell, who moved to Stockbridge in the early 1950s, used local people as models for some of his paintings. But Ed would never get the chance to be in a Rockwell painting: He was killed on April 3, 1945, in an explosion in the village of Heimboldshausen, Germany.
   Dave Braman's wife, Anne, however, did pose for Rockwell -- as the teacher in "Happy Birthday, Miss Jones" -- and Anne Braman worked with Ed at the Stockbridge Bank before the war. I had the great fortune to meet the Bramans during a visit to Stockbridge when I went to interview Dorothy Cooney, who was Ed's girlfriend when he went overseas. There's also a video shown at the Rockwell museum in which Dorothy can be seen riding her bicycle down Main Street. And Dave Braman's father, who owned a general store in town, posed in a painting called "The Marriage License."
   There's more about the Bramans in an article at, but here's an excerpt:
The man who posed as the town clerk in The Marriage License was Jason Braman, who ran the little department store in town. His daughter-in-law, Anne Braman, says Rockwell picked him for a special reason. Braman's wife had just died, and Rockwell thought posing for a painting might snap him out of his depression.
"Norman said he had used people like that before, that it seemed to cheer people up," Anne Braman says. "And it did. After the Post cover came out, dad was just so proud. People came around to see him and he'd say, 'Would you like me to sign my name on your magazine?'" The next year, Jason Braman died.
Anne Braman's turn to gain a measure of immortality came in 1956. Rockwell asked her to pose for a Post cover that also turned out be one of his most enduring. It was called Teacher's Birthday.
She was not a teacher. At the time, she recalls, she was working either in the family store or as a receptionist at the Austen Riggs Center, a psychiatric care center in Stockbridge.
But to Rockwell in 1956, she was the perfect model for the school teacher, and she says she had no trouble with the role.
"He asked me to wear tailored clothes, but I've always worn tailored clothes, so that wasn't hard. He really went into details, though. I forget what kind of shoes I wore, but he didn't like them. We were at the grammar school posing with the children, and my shoes bothered him. His wife, Mary, was there and he asked her to take off her shoes. I put on her shoes, and he liked them for the picture. They were abou three inches too big for me, but he said they were fine. He was such a perfectionist.
She has no idea where the original painting is now. A great many of Rockwell's Post covers and inside illustrations have disappeared. Once he finished them, they became the property of the magazine.
"I suppose," says Anne Braman, "that some executive at The Saturday Evening Post had a daughter who was a teacher and he asked if he could have the painting. So they gave it to him. I often said to Norman, 'Who would want it, who would want it?'"
   Ed Forrest was the one name I remembered from my father's stories when I was a kid, so when I began going to reunions of the 712th Tank Battalion in the late 1980s I would ask the veterans if they could tell me anything about him, as well as about my father. Ed was one of the battalion's original officers, was wounded in Normandy in July (within a day of my father being wounded), returned in November and was killed in April of 1945, so a lot more A Company veterans remembered Ed than remembered my dad, who joined the battalion as a replacement.

   After I published the first edition of "Tanks for the Memories" in 1994, I decided to see if I could find anyone in Stockbridge who remembered Ed. My dad said Ed's father may have been a minister. So I called information and asked if there was anybody with the last name Forrest in Stockbridge, Mass. The operator said there were none, but that in the neighboring town of Lee there were three. I asked for all three numbers, and as I recollect it didn't even cost me extra -- like tales of the Great Depression, I find stories about telephone calls to be historically important as well as entertaining, considering the dramatic changes that have overtaken the telecommunications industry. I've recorded some really fascinating stories about phone calls; unfortunately, one of them, like the story of the teacher, is probably not true, look for it in a future posting. But I digress. One of the three names I was given was that of Elmer Forrest, and thinking that was a good old-fashioned name, I called him first.

   His wife answered, and when she gave him the phone, I said that I was looking for anybody who might be related to an Ed Forrest who was killed in World War II.

   "He was my brother."

   I don't know why I immediately asked the following question, but I did: "Was your father a minister?"

   I can't recall the exact wording but his response was something like: No, my father was an alcoholic.

   I explained that my father knew Ed during the war, and said he thought that Ed's father may have been a minister. The minister, Elmer said, was Mister Laine -- the Rev. Edmund R. Laine -- whom Ed worked for as a teenager. Elmer said their mother died when Ed was 14, he had a big fight with his father, and went to live with the minister in Stockbridge.

The Rev. Edmund R. Laine and Ed Forrest

   I asked Elmer if Ed had a girlfriend before he went overseas. Elmer told me there was a woman in town who Ed dated, and that she never married and still lived in town. That woman was Dorothy Cooney, who I eventually contacted and interviewed. I also learned that although Reverend Laine had since passed away, a diary that he kept was in the history room of the Stockbridge Library. I made an appointment to see the diary, hoping to find out what was written in the entry for the day Ed was killed. I wound up photocopying the entire diary, or rather half of what was available. There were two volumes, one covering 1936 to 1940, the other from 1941 to 1945.

Dorothy Cooney (note the vintage telephone)

   Fast forward to April 3, 2008. OMG, I only just realized that that was the 63rd anniversary of the day Ed Forrest was killed. I received the following email:
Dear sir
My name is William Goertzen and I'm a teacher at a college for 12 till 17 year olds. I teach History and each year we spent about 10 weeks on World War Two. One of our fieldtrips is to Margraten, an American Burial site for soldiers killed in action; our school adopted the grave of one of these soldiers. With our classes we visit the grave once or twice a year, we pray for this man and we put some flowers at his grave in order to honor him and all those who died for the freedom of Europe and the Netherlands.
 Since October 2007 i have seen searching for information on Edward L. Forrest, 1Lt of the 712 th Tank Batallion. All I know is that he was killed in action on 3rd April 1945 and his ASN = O1017955. Now our idea is to make a wall inside the school with information and photos of Ed
Forrest, so the War becomes 'touchable' for our pupils; it becomes more 'real' if they can look at and read about this lieutenant. We also hope to honor this particular soldier by creating this wall in our school, at a place where pupils pass every hour/lesson.
 My problem is that I cannot seem to get any further on the internet. All trails lead to dead ends. I've sent forms with requests to the Department of the Army Administration section in Virginia, I've filled in a form of the NARA in Missouri, but no news yet. A mister Paul Wilson of North Carolina helped me on my way; Aparently Ed Forrest lived in Stockbridge, Berkshire County, MA., but all my nternet searches lead to dead ends.
 In all of your interviews with veterans of 712th TB, I only once came across the name of 1LT Ed Forrest, mentioned by one of the veterans. Perhaps You could help me on my way, so I could learn more about his death but especially about the man behind the name; he also has or had family; I'd like to obtain information and pictures in order to make my remembrance wall and to use it in order to point out to 12 till 17 year olds that WW2 must never be forgotten.
 I hope to hear from you very soon and I would like to thank you already for reading my mail.
 Yours sincerely
William Goertzen, teacher at Carbooncollege in the Netherlands.
   I wrote to Mr. Goertzen and told him I had a wealth of information about Ed. Elmer had since passed away, and when I tried to call Dorothy, who would have been thrilled to know that Ed's memory was being kept alive by a school in Holland, I learned that she, too, had passed away only a few months before.

   I was able to put the teacher in touch with Elmer's son David Forrest, who sent him a family portrait showing Ed as a young boy. And I sent him some of the artifacts Dorothy had given me, including a telegram telling her to meet him in Providence, R.I., before he shipped out.
  The reason there wasn't more about Ed on my web site,, when Mr. Goertzen was doing his research was because I had learned so much about Ed's difficult life and his tragic death, that I hoped eventually to include it in a book. Today there is a display in Carbooncollege about the life of Ed Forrest, the soldier whose grave the students adopted.

The display about Ed Forrest at Carbooncollege in the Netherlands
    The story of Ed Forrest's life and death is one of the key story lines in my forthcoming book, "The Armored Fist," due out in April from Fonthill Media, a prominent British publishing house.
   Please watch for an announcement or email me if you'd like information about reserving a copy to be delivered as soon as it's available.

The excerpt in Reverend Laine's diary for April 3, 1945, the day Ed Forrest was killed

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