I thought the two-part in-depth piece on World War II by Lee Sandlin was one of the most factual and engrossing of the many articles I have read concerning this subject ["Losing the War," March 7 and 14]. He told it like it was and caught the horror and suffering of this tragic war.
I feel that I am qualified to make the above evaluation, as I spent almost four years in the U.S. Army as an infantryman (1st gunner on a caliber 30 light machine gun). I was with the 66th Infantry Regiment, assigned to Patton's Army, as infantry support to one of his tank units. We fought through France, Germany, and halfway through Austria before the war ended.
I found Mr. Sandlin's article especially interesting because I had just finished writing my own WWII memoirs--a three-hundred page account of my war and combat experiences. I did not necessarily write this for publication but so that my children would know about a significant period in their father's life before they arrived on the scene. And I found all of what Mr. Sandlin wrote concerning combat and its effect on the soldier to be very similar to what I had lived through and wrote about.
Therefore, I don't at all understand the letter from Richard Hayes (4/4/97) criticizing Mr. Sandlin's piece. The several things he complained about seemed like just nit-picking; and for him to say "Sandlin couldn't find his point....[and that it was] unfortunate your fine paper has been degraded by this guy's rantings," was ridiculous. Mr. Sandlin used much more restraint in answering him than I would have.
Mr. Hayes was also wrong when he said that the soldiers in the battle zones celebrated when the war with Germany ended (by firing their weapons, getting drunk as possible, burning their tents, etc). Mr. Sandlin was correct--there was no celebrating by those of us in combat, for we had been told, even before the war ended, that as soon as peace was declared in Europe we would be shipped to the Pacific to take part in the land invasion of Japan. That was something we did not look forward to. We wanted to go home. We didn't celebrate.
Again I want to say how superb I thought this piece was and I also would like to commend the Reader for opting to print it in its entirety even though it took two editions. I think it rates a Pulitzer Prize.
N. Lake Shore Drive