Soldier of the Press: Covering the Front in Europe and North Africa, 1936-1943

Overview

Threatened by each side in the Spanish Civil War with death as a suspected spy, decorated for saving an airman’s life in a bullet-ridden B-24 Liberator over Greece, war correspondent Henry “Hank” Gorrell often found himself in the thick of the fighting he had been sent to cover. And in reporting on some of the world’s most dangerous stories, he held newspaper readers spellbound with his eyewitness accounts from battlefields across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

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Overview

Threatened by each side in the Spanish Civil War with death as a suspected spy, decorated for saving an airman’s life in a bullet-ridden B-24 Liberator over Greece, war correspondent Henry “Hank” Gorrell often found himself in the thick of the fighting he had been sent to cover. And in reporting on some of the world’s most dangerous stories, he held newspaper readers spellbound with his eyewitness accounts from battlefields across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

An “exclusive” United Press correspondent, Gorrell saw more than his share of war, even more than most reporters, as his beat took him from the siege of Madrid to the sands of North Africa. His memoir, left in an attic trunk for sixty years, is presented here in its entirety for the first time. As he risks life and limb on the front lines, Gorrell gives us new perspectives on the overall conflict—including some of World War II’s lesser-known battles—as well as insights into behind-the-lines intrigue.

Gorrell’s account first captures early Axis intervention in Spain and their tests of new weaponry and blitzkrieg tactics at the cost of millions of Spanish lives. While covering the Spanish Civil War, he was captured by forces from each side and saw many brave men die disillusioned, and his writings offer a contrast to other views of that conflict from writers like Hemingway. But Spain was just Hank’s training ground: before America even entered World War II, he was embedded with Allied forces from seven nations.

When war broke out, Gorrell was sent to Hungary, where in Budapest he witnessed pro-Axis enthusiasts toast the victory of Fascist armies. Later in Romania he watched Stalin kick over the Axis apple cart with his invasion of Bessarabia—forcing the Germans to deal with the Russian menace before they had planned. Then he saw twenty Italian divisions mauled in the mountains of Albania, marking the beginning of the end for Mussolini.

Combining the historian’s accuracy with the journalist’s on-the-spot reportage, Gorrell provides eyewitness impressions of what war looked, sounded, and felt like to soldiers on the ground. Soldier of the Press weaves personal adventures into the larger fabric of world events, plunging modern readers into the heat of battle while revealing the dangers faced by war correspondents in that bygone era.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826218513
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 7/6/2009
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 6.70 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Kenneth Gorrell discovered the original manuscript of Hank Gorrell in a family attic. He is an associate with Booz Allen Hamilton and lives in Northfield, New Hampshire.

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Table of Contents

Foreword John C. McManus McManus, John C.

Introduction Kenneth Gorrell Gorrell, Kenneth 1

1 Prologue 6

2 Little Caesar 14

3 Civil War in Spain 22

4 Prisoner of War 30

5 The Simpson Case 37

6 The Siege of Madrid 43

7 Interlude: Reflecting on Events, 1936-1939 55

8 London: September 1939 63

9 Balkan Powder Keg 70

10 Nadia of the Gestapo 81

11 Lieutenant Bill Belle 92

12 Hitler: "Carry Out Plan Number Four!" 103

13 Vichy Treachery 117

14 Taxi to Teheran 128

15 Interlude: October 1941-May 1942 146

16 Malta Convoy 154

17 The Retreat to Alamein 165

18 Rommel Hits a Stone Wall 179

19 "The Lull Continues in the Western Desert" - BBC 188

20 "Winnie" Comes to Alamein 199

21 "No Retreat and No Surrender" - Montgomery 208

22 "Milk Run" to Benghazi 219

23 The Bombing of Navarino Bay 224

24 The Battle of Alamein 234

25 Rommel Packs Up 242

26 Benghazi's Fall 252

27 The Yanks Bomb Naples 262

28 The Death of Private "X" 269

29 The "Ladies from Hell" Attack 277

30 The Fall of Tripoli 286

31 Conclusion (But the War Goes On) 397

Index 303

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A reporter's walk through the Spanish Civil War and the beginning of World War II.

    Soldier of the Press is a fine addition to the body of literature that includes the works of Ernie Pyle, Robert Sherrod, Richard Tregaski, et. al.. Press coverage of war in the 1930s and 1940s was very different than it is today. Reporters would often take a stand rather than claim a somewhat artificial objectivity. Yet, there were aspects of the press that would look very familiar today, like the coverage of Hollywood being more important than events in the Spanish Civil War. Henry illustrates these with a direct, no nonsense style.

    In covering war, Henry Gorrell had some surprising viewpoints on the issues of war, the Axis, Russia, and the western democracies. While some of his interpretation of events may not have stood up well against historical scholarship of later years, it is his perspective on events that offers a fresh look into contemporary perceptions. Unlike the more famous correspondents above, Henry covered fronts often considered outside the mainstream history of the period (at least in the US). Henry presents the Spanish Civil War as the dress rehearsal for WWII. He also covers the Balkans and the British campaign in North Africa with candor and humanity. His book ends in 1943 with the war still raging. One wishes that he could have included his experiences from the rest of the war.

    Read this book. It's historical value of both the events and the workings of the press are solid and the perspectives fresh. You will feel like you're with Henry as he moves from one exotic escapade to another.

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