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Accuracy important when recording history of the 99th years ago

Accuracy important

when recording

history of the 99th


     The primary purpose of publishing the Checkerboard is to record the history of our 99th Infantry Division in combat during World War II.

     That's the goal.

     It will be important, hundreds of years from now, when historians seek information by researching this publication. They'll read your articles and the stories about the 99th. And they need to be assured that what they read is the truth.

     It becomes the editor's duty to separate the wheat from the chaff . . . a duty that's nearly impossible.

     Nearly all the stories published are first-hand accounts. And while none of us blatantly seeks to be deceiving, there always will be some inaccuracies.

     Most of the problems of fact are not due to deception, but come from the ravages of time and faulty memory. We remember something that may not have happened, and we forget things that did.

     That's why we publish the articles, and that's why members are encouraged to answer if they have different opinions.

     Eventually we arrive at the truth.

     Often it's typographical errors which cause the problem.

     J.R. McIlroy's excellent article in the 1/00 issue was carefully researched, and accurate. It was a first-hand account. But errors creep in when articles are keyboarded. Mac was in the third platoon, not the fourth platoon.

     And, on another page, his photo was published as he talked with Jim Langford, not Jake Langston. Jake was in G/394 and Jim (who was on the tour in October) was in I/394. That was a publishing error. We knew better but didn't do better.

     Another publishing error in the 1-00 issue was the address in Richard Costa's excellent article. He lives at College Station, not College Hill. If you tried to contact Dick and your letter bounced back, it was because of our error. If you'd like to send and e-mail, his address is: dickcosta@prodigy.net.

     Faulty memory is another form of error that creeps into our accounts. After 50-plus years, memory can play tricks.

     Some people remember deep snow on Dec. 16-17-18. Others recall that the snow came later, it was only patchy snow those first few days.

     One guy recalled going "behind enemy lines" and another from his unit wrote that he wouldn't have had to go far, for the enemy was only 15 yards away.

     Another guy said many of his outfit were captured, and a member of the same unit says none of their men were captured during December or January 44-45.

     Not all the stories are documented, but they all are written with the same thought in mind — to preserve history.

     By publishing them, and honing the results, the goal will be accomplished.

     One of the all-time best individual accounts of combat is Harry Arnold's "Easy Memories" about E/393. Before Harry died, at his own hand, he contacted the editor and gave complete permission to republish his book. It will be done when time and space allow.

     Many others have written good accounts. Recently your Checkerboard received a well written and carefully researched comprehensive memoir by another E/393 ASTP veteran, Radford Carroll. It's a dandy. It's excellent for research, and in your Ol' Editor's opinion is highly accurate. While there is not sufficient time nor space to publish it, the book has been sent to Dick Byers of the Archives Committee who will read it and see that it is placed among the archives at the Military History Institute for future research and historical purposes.

     Another such book, "My First 22 Years," by Walter Hochwald follows the same format. It's an excellent source of information. Walter was in Hq/393. He will make copies of the book available to others for a price of $23 which covers copying and shipping costs. Write to him, W. Hochwald, 6 Canyon Ridge, Irvine CA 92612.

     Another such work, though much smaller, covers the wartime history of Co B/324th Medics. It was written by James R. Van Allen who was first sergeant of that company. Ed Hojnowski, who was a motor officer in the 324th Medics, spent about two years carefully researching Van Allen's notes and photographs, and put it into the form of a book. He sent copies to the Checkerboard and to the 99th Archives Committee (Harry McCracken, chairman).

     The thrust of this message is that we attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff. When someone sends something that is a bold exaggeration, we sometimes tone it down. Sometimes we don't because we are not certain. But we do attempt to edit carefully, so future historians will not be misled.

     In the meantime, send your information to the editor if you would like to have it shared with others . . . and above all, send it to the Archives Committee as a valuable source for future researchers.

— Bill Meyer

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