Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year from Oral History Audiobooks

The Rev. Edmund Randolph Laine

   One of my New Year's Resolutions is to advance my transcription and preservation of the diary of the Rev. Edmund Randolph Laine, pastor of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Stockbridge, Mass., during the World War II years. Laine raised Ed Forrest, who was killed on April 3, 1945. Ed was a buddy of my father in combat, and in researching Ed's life back in 1995 I learned of the existence of Laine's diary, which the Stockbridge Library allowed me to photocopy.
   As 2016 came to a close, I thought I might be able to find something appropriate in my archives, but a search of the phrase "new year" on my hard drive only brought up an excerpt from an interview with tank driver Tony D'Arpino, who described a furlough he received at Christmastime in 1943. When he left he was in the 11th Armored Regiment of the 10th Armored Division, and when he took a cab back to his barracks ten days later the sign out front said C Company, 712th Tank Battalion. Unbeknownst to him, the battalion had been taken out of the division and renamed as a separate, independent tank battalion. He was a bit confused, to say the least.
   And then I remembered that a few years back I began scanning and transcribing some of the entries from Laine's diary, so I thought, I wonder what he said on various New Year's Days. I have not yet scanned the entry from Jan. 1, 1945. Ed was still alive and about to take part in the Battle of the Bulge. Following is a loose transcript of the entry for that date (you would understand why I say "loose" transcript if you could see Laine's handwriting).

Monday, Jan. 1, 1945: A very warm day - 52 degrees at noon - raining hard - very dark. Up 9:20, shaved. Radio - music (WQXR) & News). 10:25 - breakfast. Package from Springfield. 11 - Holy Com. (17) - service men & women prayed for by name. 1:45 - helped Miss F. put guest room in order. Put Christmas tree & Christmas picture away. Wrote V-mail letter to E. (No. 981). 2 - Mr. Kingdon called - father died. 2:10 - to P.O. Read "Times." Read "Times." 3 - had tomato soup, turkey sandwiches & peaches. 3:30 - "Pepper Young's Family." Raining very hard. Rec'd END. Read in "Yankee Lawyer." ("Ephraim Tutt") Dozed in chair. Read "Eagle." Read in "Yankee Lawyer." 6 - News - Quincy Howe & Bill Costello. Storming hard. Read in "Yankee Lawyer." Radio music. Snowing. 10 - News - Henry Gladstone. Had hot milk, toast & baked apple. 11 - News - John Daly & William L. Shirer.

   Like many of the entries in the diary, this excerpt is full of little historical treasures. Take the line, "Read in "Yankee Lawyer" ("Ephraim Tutt."). I admit I had never heard of Ephraim Tutt, so I asked my friend Mr. Google. Who knew that only a few years ago a book would have been written about Ephraim Tutt.

   Here's an article about the book: The Myth of Ephraim Tutt

   Ed Forrest was killed at Heimboldshausen, Germany, on April 3, 1945. It was curiosity about what Laine wrote in the entry for that day that inspired me to begin reading his journal. I have scanned that entry. Note the thick black cross at the beginning and what appears to be an underlined footnote at the end saying "Eddie killed this day in Germany at about 12 p.m. our time." With the time difference of about six hours, it was just about dusk in Germany when a German ME-109 fighter plane attacked some railroad cars, two of which were empty but fume filled gasoline tankers, setting off a huge explosion just as Ed, his company's executive officer, was setting up his headquarters in the basement of a nearby house.

    The reason his death is recorded in the diary as a footnote is because it would be 13 days before Rev. Laine learned of Ed's death, and the entry was already pretty full, not to mention that with several lines for each of five years on a page beginning in 1941, the entry for 1945 was already at the bottom of the page.
   Well, it's almost midnight. I have to make some phone calls and start wishing close friends and relatives a Happy New Year. So I'll close by saying "Happy New Year" to all my Oral History Audiobooks aficionados and thank you for your interest in these remarkable bits of history.

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