Sunday, May 27, 2007

Book Review With Comments on Censorship

I finished reading Meredith's memoirs on his service aboard PT boats in World War II. At one point he talks in detail about the letters home being censored. They were not allowed to write about such things as enemy activity, unit locations, or boat strength.

All mail was censored. My mother never knew where I was for a year. As Exec of the boat, one of my duties was to read and censor the crew's mail, cutting out with scissors or razor blades anything that I thought might jeopardize our security; Marsh Roper censored mine. It was a task I didn't like. I felt I was prying into the men's affairs, intruding on their privacy, but it had to be done.

We listened to the news on the radio regularly and sometimes picked up Radio Tokyo, the Japanese propaganda station. Tokyo Rose, an American woman who worked for the Japs, liked to personalize her messages to us. She startled us several times by calling our PT skippers by name and boat number, with threats of retaliation for our barge attacks. How they obtained their information I don't know, but it made my censoring task more acceptable to the crew. - pg 115

Overall I tremendously liked this book. Ted Meredith took the letters he had mailed to his mother, mixed in research from other books like Devil Boats and At Close Quarters, and shared stories from the two PT crews he served with in the Pacific and Mediterranean to create a very personal view of the PT war that is worth reading. Even when his 23 year old views of the Papua New Guineans is to call them Fuzzy Wuzzies, apparently like everyone else in the PT force did, and complaining the local women are unattractive. Or when he talks about how many eggs his crew ate or how many times they had steak in letters to his mother.

Then there is the incredible moment when his boat PT 129 is ordered to ferry Gen. Douglas MacArthur between two islands. Meredith is worried sick about protocol because the whole crew, including him, are dressed barely in skivvies; but when MacArthur comes aboard the general doesn't bat an eye. Meredith does some impressive feats of seamanship to bring MacArthur smartly to the dock only to ruin everything on the departure by bending a prop because he had to show off some more. The whole event seemed so fantastic that it caused Meredith 50 years later to doubt it really happened until one of his crew said it was because of that incident he still smokes a briar pipe.

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