Mason City Globe-Gazette

Mason City, IA

02 Oct 1944




G.I.'S Little Interested in Fall Election

(Iowa Daily Press War Correspondent)

Somewhere in the Mediterranean war Theater, (IDPA) -- "A lot of the GI's will vote if a ballot is put in their hands and it isn't too much trouble to fill out, but there is little interest among the enlisted men as a whole in the coming election in the United States."

The speaker was T/5 John Murphy, 21, chief of news production at allied forces headquarters in the Mediterranean theater of operations, whose job is to get and write stories of GI's in action and send them to home town newspapers.

Murphy, a general assignments reporter on the Chicago Daily Sun before he enlisted in the army 2 years ago, came overseas as a hospital corpsman 9 months later and had been on the new assignment 3 months when the writer talked with him.

"The average youth under 25 at home takes little interest in politics," Murphy added. "Here thoughts of home with most of the boys are mom, dad, little brothers and sisters, brides and sweethearts.

"Soldiers overseas hear no political speeches either from a platform or on the radio, nor do they hear many conversations about candidates or issues. Those who receive home town newspapers, pay little attention to campaign stories and editorials. All mostly read the Stars and Stripes, which carries little about what even the presidential nominees are saying and doing, and of course, no editorials on any side. Don't think, though, that a lot of fellows, who now pay little attention to politics, won't get into it when they get home, especially on anything they think might affect them."

Murphy was well up front most of the action in Italy so far. He eats, works, plays and sleeps, with his GI comrades and as a keen young observer, who himself has well defined ideas on those who are running for office and what they profess to stand for, is well qualified to express an opinion on soldier voting.

Officers, who on the average are older than the enlisted men, are more interested in the election. Some who came in from civilian life have been active in politics. Some have held office. Others hope to hold office after the war. Some, especially those who have been out of the states for a long period, have become too occupied with their present tasks to study the political situation nationally and in their home sectors.

Soldier voting officers are doing everything possible to encourage and enable brother officers and enlisted men in their outfits to cast ballots. They must not drop the slightest partisan hint.

"Often I am asked by a GI how I think he should vote," said a captain. "I have to smile and tell the questioner what the regulations are as to me in my position. I couldn't answer if I were permitted to because I haven't made up my own mind. My main job now is to help beat Hitler on the soonest day fate will select."

No voting officer likes his job for fear of a "kick back" from some source of other.

"If a contest were close back home somewhere and a candidate were to charge that certain soldiers had not been given full opportunity to vote by their officer that officer might be put in a difficult position," a major said. "You know what may occur in the heat of an election fight."

Ralph Howard Peterson, 29, the NBC war news broadcaster in Rome, is the son of Mrs. H.J. Peterson of Estherville, Iowa, and the grandson of the late widely known A.O. Peterson, a former mayor of Estherville. His uncle, Russell Peterson and his aunt Lucille Peterson reside in Estherville, where she is librarian.

Ralph Peterson broadcasts under the name of Ralph Howard because NBC has an announcer in London by the name of Elmer Peterson. He was born in Casper, Wyo., spent part of of his boyhood in Estherville; was graduated George Washington university; is married; used to be with the Washington Times-Herald and the International News Services, and has been on the microphone in Algiers, Naples and Rome. His father is dead.

The youth has spent several summers at Spirit Lake and says that when he returns to America he will stop in Washington only long enough to pick up Mrs. Peterson, who will go with him to Estherville. Then he and his mother and wife will proceed to Spirit Lake where he will take a long rest.

Iowa scored high when 2 Hawkeye GI's were among the 54 of the more than 1,000 15th army air corpsmen recently evacuated from Rumanian internment awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Soldier's Medal.

Sgt. Maurice A. Scherzman, of Burley, got the Soldier's Medal among the 18 who were decorated for volunteering at great risk of life during August 24-26 to evacuate wounded American flyers, who had been interned in an enemy prison hospital in Rumania. The citation further states that these men, during an intense and heavy bombardment and strafing attack lasting continuously for 48 hours, carried wounded personnel to air raid shelters and medical supplies, bedding, food and clothing from blasted and burning building in order to insure the comfort and safety of the patients.

T/Sgt. Pete D. Stamatelos of Des Moines, was among the 28 who got the Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary achievement in aerial flight.

Ten of the other 51 were from the middle west.

The more than 1,000 returned prisoners, among whom there were several Iowans besides those decorated, held a final assembly at an embarkation depot at which Maj. Gen. N.F. Twinging, commanding the 15th air force, made the awards and gave each of the homeward bound men a letter of praise, good luck and Godspeed in which he said in part:

"I have only one regret on this jubilant occasion. I wish it had been possible to bring out of Rumania every officer and man who went down in the battle of Ploesti. Unfortunately there are some who will never return. The memory of their sacrifice is an inspiration to all of us."

American airmen materially aided in breaking German oil supply lines in Rumania, particularly at Ploesti after long, heavy and costly fighting.

Source: Mason City Globe-Gazette, October 2, 1944

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