Stanley Weintraub's new book, "Final Victory," focuses on the wartime 1944 presidential campaign of Franklin D. Roosevelt. One chapter of the book, released on July 2, details the process used for World War II soldiers to vote in the 1944 presidential election. The research for that chapter was made possible through the relationship formed with local history buff Phil Zimmer, The Post-Journal's former family editor Dave Emke and Weintraub.
It was a difficult process for Weintraub to find soldiers who served during the election who also recall voting in it, and that's where Emke came in. He interviewed Zimmer about the importance of the book, in an attempt to track down area residents who'd be willing to comment on their experience.
"It simply could not have been done without Emke," said Zimmer. "We were looking for a very small percentage of veterans who had fought, were 21 at the time so they could vote, were still alive and could still recall having voted. At that point, dodging bullets and other things, they would have had other thoughts on their mind. Those life or death situations were the things that would have stuck in their memory, rather than filling out a piece of paper for something going on back home."
Guy Taylor, left, of Mayville, along with his barracks-mates Privates Lauetsky, Alvin Buterbaugh and Michales are pictured in Camp Forrest in Tennessee.
Weintraub utilized resource people around the country to find examples of veterans who voted, how they voted and why. He didn't look for veterans of one party affiliation or another, because he wanted a sample of the uniformed electorate.
"Phil Zimmer, a very knowledgeable guy only known to me by mail, assisted by rounding up a few vets in Chautauqua County with long memories," said Weintraub. "I depend on history buffs like Phil. I'm sure he didn't ask for party affiliations. And, I ruled out no one who volunteered his memories."
The article quickly created a connection with Guy Taylor of Mayville, who served from 1941 to 1945 as a Staff Sgt. with the 33rd Division, 131st Infantry, HQ Company, and was detached in Europe to the Allied Supreme HQ 156th, as a radio specialist.
"One vet whom Phil asked, Guy A. Taylor, then an Army Staff Sgt. in France, remembered voting for FDR because 'there was not anyone better.' Of course the only president he ever knew as an adult was FDR," said Weintraub. "Many in the Navy voted for Roosevelt 'because he was a Navy man.' He had been a young assistant secretary of the Navy during World War I. Those who recalled voting for Gov. Dewey often claimed that 12 years in office was enough for one man and besides, the war was nearly over. It would last six more months in Europe, longer across the Pacific. Much of the service vote went predictably for the President, but that did not affect the outcome. It would be FDR's final victory. He died suddenly on April 12, 1945, of a cerebral hemorrhage. His newly elected vice president, former senator Harry Truman, almost unknown to the public before his nomination, would run the rest of the war and in 1948 take on Tom Dewey, who lost again."
Taylor, in addition to another Chautauqua County resident, Capt. J. Norman Johnson of Jamestown and Pfc. Andrea "Andy" Coletti of Bronx, were featured in the "Service Vote" chapter of "Final Victory." According to Weintraub, the chapter deals with another problem with present echoes.
"The 'Outs' in 1944 wanted to make it difficult for those in the armed services to vote, figuring that young people would largely vote the other way," he said. "In the current election season we see laws passing legislatures with requirements to keep many from voting by claiming the possibilities of false identification and fraud. Some things never change."
As such, the book's dust-jacket flap includes the line, "Some things never change."
"Presidential campaigns are full of innuendo, hype and worse," Weintraub added. "Think of the 'birther' charge on one side and the claim from the other side that the social safety net will be eliminated an impossibility."
According to Weintraub, the book is a good read for those who encounter news of the current presidential campaign.
"Misinformation and 'spin' dominate elections, from minor offices to the major leagues," he said. "This has always been happening because campaigns seek votes by every means, high and low. This was true even in the wartime presidential election in 1944, and my hope is that readers of 'Final Victory' will see that there is nothing new in raw politics. The goal is to win office, or keep it. Thus my book is furnishing not only history, but perspective."
"Final Victory" touches on many concepts ranging from attacks on President Roosevelt for having dictatorial ambitions, the allegations by republicans that Roosevelt was ill and unfit to run for another term and that he was responsible for the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. On the other hand, the democrats attacked republican candidate Tom Dewey as having no experience to run a war, the derision he experienced for wanting to cut taxes in the middle of a war and for wanting to down programs like Social Security.
Zimmer, who made sure to pick up a copy of the book himself, believes "Final Victory" offers great insight into the importance of voting.
"I think it's important because it says a lot about our country that here we we're in the middle of a horrific enterprise, and that our government would take the time and the energy to make sure the fighting men and women had the opportunity to vote in that election," said Zimmer. "Consider the German's situation under Hitler, the military had taken an oath of allegiance directly to Hitler, not to a government, not to a constitution, but rather to the individual. They obviously did not have much of an opportunity for voting in 1944."
For more information visit amzn.com/0306821133 or search Amazon for "Final Victory: FDR's Extraordinary World War II Presidential Campaign."