The Marc Steiner Show

9/13 Geoffrey C. Ward and The War


It was known as the Good War and gave birth to what became known as the greatest generation. Of course we’re talking about WWII.  The American involvement in WWII is chronicled in Ken Burns’ latest documentary, The War which will debut on PBS September 23rd. Joining Marc this hour is historian, biographer and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award Geoffrey C. Ward.

Ward wrote the narrative and companion book The War: An Intimate History, 1941-1945 for the Ken Burns documentary which some are calling his best work.


Written by Marc Steiner

Marc Steiner

The Marc Steiner Show airs Monday thru Friday from 10AM to Noon on WEAA 88.9 FM. The show covers the topics that matter, engaging real voices, from Charm City to Cairo and beyond. Call us at 410.319.8888 or email us to participate live in the show, or share your comments on our site! Aren’t in Baltimore but want to listen? Stream the show live.


  1. A few years ago I went to DC for the dedication of the WWII Memorial and the wonderful Smithsonian WWII Homecoming. I sat in on a few staged (not scripted, by the way) conversations. I saw Navajo Codetalkers, Tusgeegee Airmen and soldiers from The Lost Division. I talked with many veterans. I was so moved by the experience that I just wandered about talking to nearly every Vet I saw sitting alone. I went up to them and said, “Thank you” and sat down with them and listened to their story — and EVERYONE had a story.

    Another reason — initially the main reason — I went down to the Reunion was to see the WWII entertainment. There was lots of music and genres, all from the early forties. I got to swing dance a little and enjoy listening to those “I’ll Be Seeing You” tearjerkers.

    During the breaks old USO films were shown on the big screens — whites for the white stories and “Negroes” for the “Colored” soldiers. During one of those breaks a Smithsonian aide walked a very small man in front of me to a seat on the side. As it turned out, there was a film of The Nicholas Brothers entertaining the troops screening at the time. I made the connection and walked over to them and met Harold Nicholas. What an honor to meet and shake hands with one of the two greatest dancers of American film and stage. (Need proof? Watch “Stormy Weather”). That moment ranks right up with my “Shook hands with Ted Williams” moments.

    After that meeting I started thanking vets. I met a soldier from the 442nd who talked about being in an American “concentration camp” and wanting to prove himself a loyal American. As an aside, I recently met a Japanese-American woman in my Contra dance group who spent her early years, as did her husband, in one of those camps.

    I met a soldier who was at Bastogne with the 101st Division and told him about my uncle Dan, who was captured and escaped during the battle. This soldier told me about his fear brought on by the around the clock shelling. I’m reminded of the line in “Band of Brothers” when the 101st was being encircled, “We’re Airborne, we’re supposed to be surrounded”. The soldier took a Silver Star he earned during the Battle of the Bulge.from his pocket to show me — and quickly put it back. He had lost too many friends to be able to celebrate the medal.

    I met a black doctor who served at an Army base in Massachusetts. He told me about his initial frustration when white soldiers, some who could barely read, not letting him touch them and calling him “Boy”. He laughed and told me his solution for the problem. Since he was the only doctor there and the soldiers were under orders to be examined, he had them put in the stockade for resusing an officer’s command. He said almost all came back and didn’t give him any trouble. If he heard words like “nigger, boy”, or they called him by his first name, back they went to the stockade.

    I also had a brief conversation with another black soldier who served as a guard in a southern POW camp. He said the Germans got more privileges than he did. What’s wrong with this picture?

    I talked with a soldier who survived the D-Day invasion. He was among the first of the American soldiers in England for training. While we were talking his English wife joined us. She told me about her neighbor’s house in London being blown up by a Buzz Bomb. Her parents, sufficiently terrified by the event, then sent she and her siblings to the country to be safer. She credits that bomb with helping her meet her future husband. “I’m the only person who can say that”, she said.

    I met a woman who was awarded a Purple Heart.. She was “winged” by a strafing attack. As a result of being shot she was sent back to the states. She told me she tried the rest of the war to get back to ‘the action” but wasn’t successful. She stayed in for a 25 year career and got back to England and to Germany during the Marshall Plan years.

    My father joined the Navy on December 8, 1941. My mother was not pleased, to say the least. Dad was pretty lucky with his specialty. a Pharmacist’s Mate. He spent the first half of the war at Bethesda Naval Hospital, awfully close to Hyattsville, my Mom and his incredibly cute orange-haired son (that would be me). He spent the balance of the war at the Treasure Island Naval Hospital in San Francisco. He occasionally rode a troop ship to help bring back wounded sailors and marines. The only thing he ever told me about his time in SF was having drinks at The Top of the Mark and celebrating VE and VJ Days.

    The high point of his service occurred in Washington, DC. Part of his assignment was to be at the Naval DIspensery in one of those ugly “temporary” buildings on The Mall. He was sent to the White House to deliver some medication. Once there he was taken to a room with President Roosevelt, General Marshall and Winston Churchill. The medication was for Churchill and Dad gave him the shot. As Dad related the story, Churchill shook his hand and said it was done so well he didn’t even feel the needle. Dad became Churchill’s “shot man” for the rest of his visit by the direct order of the Commander in Chief.

    I finally was overcome by all these wonderful veterans and sat down away from the activities to wipe my eyes. Then I left for Union Station to take the train home. In the station I encountered a veteran in a wheelchair and talked with him until his family was ready to head to the reunion. I had planned to do something else that weekend but cancelled it so I could return. It was one of the most special experiences of my life.I’m looking forward to watching the series on PBS.

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