Wednesday, January 12, 2011

An Indignant Book Review of the 1945 Pictorial Handbook of Military Transportation

I've scanned some 1945 documents recording a lively exchange of letters regarding the book Pictorial Handbook of Military Transportation. Basically, it amounts to an entertaining book review. It's an example of ignorant decision makers at the top excluding the important efforts of the little guys on the ground. Click on the document images in this post to read larger versions.

In order for you to fully appreciate the letters, allow me to give a little back-story. I wrote a book about my grandfather's US Army port battalion in WWII. I interviewed him and a dozen other veterans. These guys unloaded supply ships in Normandy and various European ports while under direct fire from the Germans. Port battalions were part of the the US Army Transportation Corps (TC), which also included truck companies, railroad battalions—any units to do with moving troops, equipment, and supplies. A few months after the war the TC published a book to commemorate it's efforts in Europe. Lt. Colonel Harold E. Bonar of the 517th Port Battalion in Antwerp was eagerly awaiting his copy, and was frustrated to find the book made no mention of port battalion troops. The first image is the angry letter he wrote to the Chief of Transportation, publisher of the book. If I may paraphrase, Bonar's letter says something like "Dude, we transported like ALL of the war supplies in Europe, and you didn't even mention us. Thanks for nothing."

Since this is the Army, the letter had to go through the proper channels. It first went to the Colonel Edward C. Forsythe, commander of the 13th Major Port, which was the headquarters unit managing all supply operations in Antwerp. He forwarded the letter along with his own note of support (see 1st Ind. in image at right).

The next level of command passed the letter on to the desk of L. Colonel Abraham J. Rosenblum, the Chief of Transportation responsible for the book. (see 2nd Ind. in image at right).

Rosenblum then writes back, saying there wasn't room in their book to include the port battalions, there isn't reader interest, and quit yer belly-aching. (see 3rd Ind. in image at right).

He ends his response by saying "You guys have nothing to complain about, so forget it." (see top of the letter in image at right) Forsythe, the commander of the 13th Major Port back in Antwerp responds by saying something to the effect of "I guess we all have our opinions. Still, you shouldn't have ignored the port battalions, They are an accomplished group. You stink." (see 4th Ind. in image at right)

Forsythe then forwards the lame response from the publisher back to our boy Lt. Col. Bonar at the 517th Port Battalion. (see 5th Ind. in image at right)

Finally, Bonar addresses his port battalion troops, saying "The TC isn't sorry, but at least we told 'em off."

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