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History Often Depends on Who Writes It

Updated on April 16, 2018
William F. Torpey profile image

Graduated NYU in 1964. Worked in NYC for 2 years in public relations then as reporter and editor before retiring from The Hour newspaper.

William F. Hogan of Yonkers KIA in Naval Battle Near Guadalcanal

Seaman 2nd Class William Francis Hogan of Yonkers, N.Y. -- My Uncle Bill, Killed in Action on September 5, 1942.
Seaman 2nd Class William Francis Hogan of Yonkers, N.Y. -- My Uncle Bill, Killed in Action on September 5, 1942. | Source

USS Gregory in Port Circa 1942

USS Gregory sunk by superior Japanese forces near Guadalcanal after delivering a battalion of Marines to the island. Its sister ship, the USS Little was sunk in the same battle.
USS Gregory sunk by superior Japanese forces near Guadalcanal after delivering a battalion of Marines to the island. Its sister ship, the USS Little was sunk in the same battle.

Raising of the American Flag on Iwo Jima During World War II

Famous photo by Joe Rosenthal (The Associated Press) of United States Marines raising the American flag on a hill on the island of Iwo Jima where another of my uncles, Richard Dropauer, also of Yonkers, N.Y., was wounded.
Famous photo by Joe Rosenthal (The Associated Press) of United States Marines raising the American flag on a hill on the island of Iwo Jima where another of my uncles, Richard Dropauer, also of Yonkers, N.Y., was wounded.

From as far back as I can remember, I have been fascinated by history.

For this, and many other things, my gratitude goes out to the good Sisters of Charity of St. Peter's grammar school in Yonkers, N.Y. They helped bring alive, for me, many of the figures and events of history; for example, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Patrick Henry, Pope Pius XII, Henry Hudson and Napoleon Bonaparte as well as the Civil War and the French and Indian War.

Unfortunately, World War One was always one of the last chapters in the textbooks we studied, and we seldom got far enough back in the book to study that important part of our history. We knew a lot more about World War II in those days, but the war wasn't history as much as it was current events.

While my interest in history continues to this day it was in those early formative years that I developed a passion for the subject.

Japanese Forces Sink the Gregory

I was only a child when Allied soldiers were dying on the beaches of Iwo Jima, where an uncle was wounded, and German U-boats hunted their prey in the Atlantic. Another uncle, William F. Hogan, after whom I was named, was lost near Guadalcanal when his ship, the USS Gregory, (a fast transport APD, converted from an obsolete destroyer,) was outgunned by Japanese destroyers and sunk early in the war.

But, as young as I was, I remember my feelings about that war very well. I recall the feelings of pride I had when my older brother, Don, started a Victory Garden in the backyard of our apartment house. Although I have no artistic talent at all, I used to try to draw airplanes and tanks; I learned how to make paper airplanes; I was eager to see the patriotic designs -- airplanes, tanks, etc. -- on the ration stamps we received.

Hitler's Face on the Palisades

And there was a darker side, no doubt influenced by many of the double features I watched in Yonkers movie houses, including "Destination Tokyo (1943)," "Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)," and "Back to Bataan (1945.)" Not only was I fearful that Frankenstein, or the Wolfman, may have been hiding under my bed, but, occasionally, I would have nightmares of Japanese Zeros attacking New York along the Hudson River, where an outcropping of vegetation created what looked like a perfect picture of Hitler's face on the cliffs of the New Jersey Palisades across the Hudson River during the war.

All these images resurfaced in my memory in March while I was editing a story about Yuko Tojo, granddaughter of Gen. Hideki Tojo, the object of American hatred from Pearl Harbor to V-J Day and beyond (My grandmother, whose four sons all served gallantly in the war -- including Uncle Bill, refused to buy anything marked "Made in Japan" for more than three decades.)

General Hideki Tojo Hanged

Yuko Tojo sought to honor the general's wish to hold a memorial for the war dead and to rehabilitate the memory of Tojo, who was hanged after the war for crimes against humanity.

This incident gave me pause. It's been said that the history of the world will be written by the victors; if the Axis powers had won World War II, what would the history books say about us then?

In my history book, George Washington really did cut down that cherry tree; Errol Flynn was an American hero, not a Nazi spy; and, as I'll always believe, Bing Crosby was truly a nice guy.

I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on Aug. 5, 1999.

Do You Believe That Public Schools Offer Adequate Emphasis on American History?

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Hitler's Face as seen on the Palisades During World War II

The "Hitler" face, c. 1941 as seen from the Hudson River on the Palisades of New Jersey. See upper left side of rockslide. Another rockslide obliterated the face after WW II. (Photo by the Yonkers Ferry Corporation).
The "Hitler" face, c. 1941 as seen from the Hudson River on the Palisades of New Jersey. See upper left side of rockslide. Another rockslide obliterated the face after WW II. (Photo by the Yonkers Ferry Corporation).

The Changing Views of Yonkers: North Broadway at Getty Square

(1/5) Pacific Lost Evidence Guadalcanal Episode 3 World War II

(2/5) Pacific Lost Evidence Guadalcanal Episode 3 World War II

(3/5) Pacific Lost Evidence Guadalcanal Episode 3 World War II

(4/5) Pacific Lost Evidence Guadalcanal Episode 3 World War II

5/5) Pacific Lost Evidence Guadalcanal Episode 3 World War II

In Memorial for William F. Hogan from President Roosevelt

Source

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    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      4 months ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thanks for your comment, Dan Dildy. History is a fascinating topic, but even more so when it comes so close to home as the loss of my Uncle Bill Hogan. His letters to his mom, my grandmother, were read to all of us by my Uncle John Hogan, where Uncle Bill told of earlier gun battles with the enemy where he was proud to have won the battles.

    • Dan Dildy profile image

      Dan Dildy 

      4 months ago from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

      A very interesting piece, Bill. History BECAME my most-favorite topic when my mom kicked me off the high school basketball team (I’d just been promoted from the Junior Varsity team). The nuns at St. Catherine didn’t mess around either from then on. But studying WW 11 was, and still is, of great interest to me!

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      3 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thank you, handymanbill. I appreciate you nice comment.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      3 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I'm glad to make your acquaintance, B. Milton Cuppy, Jr. Did you read the link on this hub titled, "The Fighting Hogans?" If not, I'm sure you would be interested in it. It's about my Uncle Bill Hogan, but it includes (at the bottom) the reports by 10 of the Gregory's crew on the battle and sinking of the ship obtained by a cousin of mine from the Freedom of Information Commission. I will be 80 on May 29.

    • profile image

      B. Milton Cuppy, Jr. 

      3 years ago

      My fathers youngest brother, my uncle, was also killed on the Gregory. I too, remember WWII very well. I will be 81 in December.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      3 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      If we don't learn from history, That Grrl, we're destined to regret it. Thank you, handymanbill.

    • handymanbill profile image

      Bill 

      3 years ago from western pennsylvania

      Like this one and is well written.

    • That Grrl profile image

      Laura Brown 

      3 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

      History is misunderstood. It's not some dusty old book at the library. It's happening every day all around us.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      5 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thank you, miscellanea. Welcome to my world.

    • miscellanea profile image

      Tarik Aarbaoui 

      5 years ago from Morocco

      Such a great article I would say, really insightful and must be reread :)

      I like your style and im gonna be one of your readers!

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      There are all kinds of conspiracy theories about the World Wars, Hello, hello. But it must remembered that in WW II Japan attacked the U.S., and Hitler declared war on the U.S. Churchill did not become prime minister until May 1940 when the British and French already were outmaneuvered by the Germans. Churchill, through his speeches and his purposeful efforts to win President Roosevelt's support was very effective in obtaining the aid he needed to stave off Hitler's attacks. His speeches and his appearances were an inspiration, not only to the British but to most Americans. He was the perfect example of the right man in the right place at the right time. I read your hub titled "A Land Fit for Heroes" but I remain unconvinced. I agree that war should be avoided whenever possible, but -- unlike the recent "wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan -- World War II was unquestionably unavoidable.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      As promised, here I am. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your hub. To me, the only bad guys are on the top who declare war and they were just as fanatic as Hitler was. I am only talking about the war and not about the Holocaust. People suffered so much on both side. The soldiers only fought for what they believed in on both sides. Some soldiers go over the top and that again on both sides. As for Churchill I don't think he was such a great leader. To begin with he send the whole British army to the Normandy beaches and didn't know the German army was there. If Hitler would have given the command the whole army would have been wiped out. I am sorry but even to little me with no idea it wasn't a hell of disaster. Of course, afterwards on D-Day with the American Army and the world behind, of course, he wins. Churchill only won because the Armerican Army came into it. Also the Nazi had to be wiped out. Can you imagine if they won? It would have been nothing but a bloodbath. It just had to go. The other point is that they fought practically on all front and the whole world. I can't believe how our soldiers kept it up.

      Regarding Churchill, read my hub 'A Land Fit for Heroes'. I found this article in the papers and I was surprised about how fanatic he was. Propaganda has a lot to answer for on both side and it causes so much hurt and trouble.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Churchill has always fascinated me, LondonGirl. I remember him well from WW II when he often raised his hand with the "V" for Victory sign. He was a great leader, and I saw him often in the movie newsreels. And he was indeed an historian.

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 

      9 years ago from London

      As Winston Churchill said, "History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it."

    • profile image

      ColdWarBaby 

      9 years ago

      I hear that!

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Accuracy in history, ColdWarBaby, is ideal, but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      The good guys and the bad guys is a comic book approach, Bob. During WW II we were all (with only a few exceptions) gung-ho against the Japanese and Germans, but there was no had no choice but to stop their encroachment on us and the rest of the world. That's a lot different than what the Bush Administration is doing today. People are people everywhere, both good and bad. History books will always be written from the point of view of the survivors, but it's important to own up to one's own mistakes. It's never the messenger's fault, but he's the one who usually gets blamed. Very convenient.

    • profile image

      ColdWarBaby 

      9 years ago

      Old or new Bob, I prefer a history that's accurate.

    • profile image

      Bob 

      9 years ago

      Bill, as you know I'm a histroy nut too.Liked your column. Now to business, I was always taught in school that the USA were the good guys. Movies from Hollywood during WW2 made the enemy , the ememy, and we were the good guys. Along come the 60's and things start to happen with our education.movies and media. Krushev said back in the late 50's that the commies would bury us from within.I believe he was right. Movies today portray our troops as the bad guys. Educators have rewritten our history books to where our fore-fathers should have stayed in Europe.The early Americans cheated and stole the Indians lands. Never a word about the massacres of the settlers by the indians. I won't even mention the so called main stream media as you know my feelings well about them. Yep, I guess history depends on who writes it. As for me , I like the old history better.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      History is always fascinating to me, ColdWarBaby, but it's always wise to take it with a grain of salt. It's much too easy for historians to "accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative." Thanks for commenting.

    • profile image

      ColdWarBaby 

      9 years ago

      Even before reading Orwell I knew this, if enough people believe something is true, it becomes the "truth".

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