LACONIA — Steve White, owner of Wild Bird Depot store in Gilford, will be reading a recently discovered diary that his father, Irvin White, kept during World War II on his live, radio show, Bird Calls, as a special Veteran's Day program on Monday.
''I just wish I could have known about this before. I would have loved to have him share this with us,'' says White, who said that the diary was discovered after his father died in 2004.
He said that his father started the diary, which was written in a letter format, shortly after he entered the army at the age of 17 in September of 1940 and it vividly describes his father's thoughts about the war.
''He grew up in Whitman, Mass. and was the youngest of four brothers. He wanted to volunteer but he needed his parent's permission. The first time he went to the Brockton recruiter's office he was turned down because he didn't weigh enough. He was a pound and a half under the minimum weight, so the next time he went he ate a pound of bananas and drank a gallon of water before he was weighed and just made it,'' says White.
''He wanted to enlist rather than being called up and wait for the draft. Everyone knew the war was coming and it was just a matter of time before we would be in it,'' said White.
He says that his father was sent to Fort Devens, Mass., for training and was shipped out of New York for duty in the Middle East on June 3, 1942.
''The diary describes how they had to wait to ship out and made several aborted attempts because the German U-boats were hitting so many ships right off our coast. They finally made it down to the Carolina coast out and went all the way around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa and up into the Indian Ocean and to the Suez Canal.''
His father was a staff sergeant with Company B of the 84th Organized Mechanical Battalion,which was stationed in Damascus, Syria and whose task was to load and drive trucks and supplies all the way up to the Russian border..
''He never saw combat, but the conditions in the Middle East were brutal. One hundred and twenty degrees was considered comfortable,'' says White, who said that as many as 500 vehicles would be in the convoys, which would take a week to 10 days to reach the Russian border where they were turned over to the Red Army.
''Dad said that the Russians weren't really all that friendly and the Americans didn't trust them very much. And the people who lived in the areas where the convoys passed through were really poor. There was a lot of poverty and despair in that part of the world and he wrote a lot about that in his diary,'' said White.
He said that he would have loved to have had his dad share those things with him that he wrote in his diary, but noted that he was like other men of that generation, who, once they came home from the war, never talked about it.
''He was my hero. He did what he knew needed to be done and then put it behind him. He never made a show of being a veteran,'' said White.
He said that he has read excerpts from his father's diary on his radio show in the past but that this will mark the first time the entire 30 plus pages will be read on air. The program begins at 8:15 a.m. on WEZS 1350-AM.
Steve White, owner, Wild Bird Depot, holds a diary that his father, Irvin, kept during World War II and the medals that his father was awarded for his wartime service. He will read from the diary during his Monday morning radio show on WEZS, 1350 AM. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
Irvin White served as a staff sergeant in a mechanized battalion during World War II which was based in Syria and delivered trucks to Russia. (Courtesy photo)