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Found in an Attic: Firsthand Accounts of World War II Experiences

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 2.53.44 PMKen Gorrell of Fibrenew Lakes Region, grew up in an old New England farmhouse that has been in his family for generations. As a child, he would spend hours combing through the attic in search of lost treasures, convinced that there had to be an old coin, a map or other valuable trinkets waiting to be found. What he ended up discovering was an original manuscript of his grandfather’s cousin and once war-time United Press Correspondent, Henry ‘Hank’ Gorrell. “Eyewitness” as it was originally titled was a firsthand account of Hank’s war experiences from 1936 – 1943.

soldierofthepressKen revisited the manuscript as an adult and decided to take on the job of seeing it published as “Soldier of the Press: Covering the Front in Europe and North Africa, 1936-1943“. First, Ken spent time carefully editing the original manuscript, modernizing the spelling of place names and making sense of sections that had been cut out as a matter of security. He later fact checked the dates, names and places that Hank wrote about and finally negotiated a publishing deal with the University of Missouri Press.

Threatened by each side in the Spanish Civil War with death as a suspected spy, decorated for saving an airman’s life in a bullet-ridden B-24 Liberator over Greece, war correspondent Hank Gorrell often found himself in the thick of the fighting he had been sent to cover. And in reporting on some of the world’s most dangerous stories, he held newspaper readers spellbound with his eyewitness accounts from battlefields across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

gorrell3An “exclusive” United Press correspondent, Gorrell saw more than his share of war, even more than most reporters, as his beat took him from the siege of Madrid to the sands of North Africa. His memoir, left in an attic trunk for sixty years, is presented here in its entirety for the first time. As he risks life and limb on the front lines, Gorrell gives us new perspectives on the overall conflict—including some of World War II’s lesser-known battles—as well as insights into behind-the-lines intrigue.

Gorrell’s account first captures early Axis intervention in Spain and their tests of new weaponry and blitzkrieg tactics at the cost of millions of Spanish lives. While covering the Spanish Civil War, he was captured by forces from each side and saw many brave men die disillusioned, and his writings offer a contrast to other views of that conflict from writers like Hemingway. But Spain was just Hank’s training ground: before America even entered World War II, he was embedded with Allied forces from seven nations.

gorrell1When war broke out, Gorrell was sent to Hungary, where in Budapest he witnessed pro-Axis enthusiasts toast the victory of Fascist armies. Later in Romania he watched Stalin kick over the Axis apple cart with his invasion of Bessarabia—forcing the Germans to deal with the Russian menace before they had planned. Then he saw twenty Italian divisions mauled in the mountains of Albania, marking the beginning of the end for Mussolini.

Combining the historian’s accuracy with the journalist’s on-the-spot reportage, Gorrell provides eyewitness impressions of what war looked, sounded, and felt like to soldiers on the ground. Soldier of the Press weaves personal adventures into the larger fabric of world events, plunging modern readers into the heat of battle while revealing the dangers faced by war correspondents in that bygone era.

Ken and Holli GorrellKen Gorrell and his wife Holli own and operate Fibrenew Lakes Region in mid New Hampshire. To contact the Gorrell’s, visit their website at: www.fibrenew.com/lakes-region

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Meet the author

Jesse Johnstone

As the President of Fibrenew, I have the privilege of working with an exceptionally talented team at Head Office and in the field with our franchisees. Witnessing the achievements of our Franchise Partners in their businesses is a source of deep fulfillment and gratification.

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