Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Pogue's War

Pogue's War: Diaries of a WWII Combat Historian

Forrest C. Pogue
WITH A FOREWORD BY Stephen E. Ambrose
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 432
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Pogue's War
    Book Description:

    " With a foreword by Stephen Ambrose and a preface by Franklin D. Anderson Forrest Pogue (1912-1996) was undoubtedly one of the greatest World War II combat historians. Born and educated in Kentucky, he is perhaps best known for his definitive four-volume biography of General George C. Marshall. But, as Pogue's War makes clear, he was also a pioneer in the development of oral history in the twentieth century, as well as an impressive interviewer with an ability to relate to people at all levels, from the private in the trenches to the general carrying four stars. Pogue's War is drawn from Forrest Pogue's handwritten pocket notebooks, carried with him throughout the war, long regarded as unreadable because of his often atrocious handwriting. Pogue himself began expanding the diaries a few short years after the war, with the intent of eventual publication. At last this work is being published. Supplemented with carefully deciphered and transcribed selections from his diaries, the heart of the book is straight from the field. Much of the material has never before seen print. From D-Day to VE-Day, Pogue experienced and documented combat on the front lines, describing action on Omaha Beach, in the Huertgen Forest, and on other infamous fields of conflict. He not only graphically -- yet also often poetically­­ -- recounts the extreme circumstances of battle, but he also notes his fellow soldiers' innermost thoughts, feelings, opinions, and attitudes about the cruelty of war. As a trained historian, Pogue describes how he went about his work and how the Army's history program functioned in the European Theater of Operations. His entries from his time at the history headquarters in Paris show the city in the early days after the liberation in a unique light. Pogue's War has an immediacy that much official history lacks, and is a remarkable addition to any World War II bookshelf. Franklin D. Anderson, Forrest Pogue's nephew by marriage, is a longtime educator. He lives in Princeton, Kentucky.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7081-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Stephen E. Ambrose

    Forrest Pogue may well have been one of the best-educated sergeants in the U.S. Army in World War II. At age eighteen he had earned a bachelor’s degree at Murray State Teachers College in Murray, Kentucky; at nineteen he had a master’s degree in European history from the University of Kentucky; and at twenty-four he had a Ph.D. in European history from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. In 1937–38 he studied at the University of Paris and became fluent in the French language. (So fluent that after the war he could interview Charles de Gaulle without an interpreter.)


  4. Preface
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    Franklin D. Anderson
  5. Chapter 1 London in the Spring of 1944
    (pp. 1-19)

    England in the spring of 1944 was weighed down by the masses of guns and equipment which the British and Americans had brought together for an early return to the continent. Wags said that but for the barrage balloons, which could be seen straining at their cables throughout the country, the island would sink beneath the waves. The Western world had gathered its might for an unprecedented amphibious attack against Hitler’s Festung Europa.

    Among the hundreds of thousands of Americans helping to swell the population of the United Kingdom was a small group of combat historians, of whom the author...

  6. Chapter 2 We Learn Top Secrets or We Are BIGOTED
    (pp. 20-35)

    With our fellow members of the First Army historical team, Garth and I in late April journeyed down to Bristol, where First Army was located in the grounds and buildings of Clifton College. For the first time since I had left Memphis I became conscious of the difference of rank at the railway station in London. Tickets for Garth, a staff sergeant, and for the officers were first class. I was only a buck sergeant and had to ride in second class with a corporal who also came along. As a gesture of solidarity, the others joined us, and the...

  7. Chapter 3 Waiting in Cornwall
    (pp. 36-44)

    For the stay in the marshaling area, and for the invasion, we had been shifted from the G-3 to the G-1 section, and lumped with a miscellaneous party of War Department observers and liaison officers. At 8:30 on the morning of 23 May we started with them from Norton Manor to Cornwall. The area back of G-3 headquarters was in an uproar from daybreak on as the vehicles were assembled and everyone tried to find his proper place. I had been assigned the back of a covered truck which contained—in addition to Colonel Talley’s sleeping quarters, office equipment, and...

  8. Chapter 4 Crossing the Channel One Day Late Friday, 2 June–Thursday, 8 June (D+2)
    (pp. 45-63)

    The first day of June was our last day in the marshaling area. We had spent the last few days cut off from the outside—no papers and no mail, although occasionally a rumor came in. Word reached us that a push had at last started in the Anzio region. “Good,” we said, “that will hold some of the Germans away from the north.” We had a scare on the evening of 30 May when a German plane hit an oil dump near Falmouth. As the great flashes of flame appeared and a heavy curtain of smoke overhung the sky,...

  9. Chapter 5 The Lieutenant John Spaulding Interview 9 February 1945
    (pp. 64-75)

    The best account I got of the advance from the water’s edge was that of Second Lieutenant John Spaulding, a lawyer from Owensboro, Kentucky, who led one of the first groups to the bluff overlooking Omaha Beach. Below I have given the story as he gave it to me:

    “We loaded into LCVPs from larger ships at 0300. The companies were divided into sections and each LCVP had thirty-two men, including a medic, plus two navy men. I was leader of the first section of Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Division, and we were scheduled to go in on the...

  10. Chapter 6 First Days in the Field Friday, 9 June (D+3)–Sunday, 11 June (D+5)
    (pp. 76-88)

    Our first home ashore was at the V Corps command post in an apple orchard to the east of Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, along the bank of a small creek, which the French maps dignified with the name of the Ruquet River. Spread out in eight or ten fields in the shadow of the hedgerows and under the apple trees were the vehicles and tents of the corps. As we looked out a few thousand yards away to the barrage balloons over the ships in the harbor, we felt little security, since we were still so near the water’s edge. The planners had...

  11. Chapter 7 First Interviews in the Field Monday, 12 June (D+6)–Sunday, June 18 (D+12)
    (pp. 89-118)

    Lieutenant Fox and I started our first real interviewing on the twelfth. Previously, we had been junketing about and gathering general impressions, but doing little else. We first visited the 116th Infantry, which had come in at H-Hour and had lost heavily at the edge of the beaches. The men had now rested a little, but they were still tired from almost continuous fighting since the landing—haggard cheeks, sunken eyes, leaden feet, dearth of spirit seemed to characterize them as they waited in the fields for an order to move out again. They griped in a mood of self-pity...

  12. Chapter 8 The Last Weeks of June Monday, 19 June (D+13)–Mondy, 3 July (D+27)
    (pp. 119-138)

    While sleeping with three others under a command car in the motor pool, I was awakened by rain that found its way through a hole in the car. It had wet my head and shoulders, and had run underneath my blankets to make them soggy. And then it was cold. My clothes were wet, I shaved in a downpour, and the food, which we still ate outside (I noted pettishly in my diary that the officers had eaten under canvas since the first week), got wetter and wetter. I sat in Fox’s pup tent all day, trying to type out...

  13. Chapter 9 Writing History for a Change Tuesday, 4 July (D+28)–Monday, 17 July (D+41)
    (pp. 139-153)

    On the eve of Independence Day, Major O’Sullivan sent a jeep for me and asked that I come to First Army for several days to write a preliminary history of the landings on Omaha Beach. He felt that I could be spared from interviews on current actions because the American forces were in an almost static position in the Saint-Lô area. Stubborn German resistance in the hedgerows limited our advance to what seemed yards each day, and the horrible weather made effective air support impossible. So the time was taken in piling up supplies near the beach and in planning...

  14. Chapter 10 The Breakout at Saint-Lô Tuesday, 18 July (D+42)–Sunday, 30 July (D+54)
    (pp. 154-175)

    The long awaited fall of Saint-Lô took place on 18 July, but my diary bears no mention of it. We heard firing a few miles to our right during the day, but no report that the town had been taken. Since the 29th Division was no longer in our corps, there were at our headquarters none of the periodic messages that would have told of the steady advance of the special task force that pushed into the city.

    Good weather.

    Special service group came in during night. One was Jack Hieful—a former student from Astabula, Ohio—and another was...

  15. Chapter 11 Restless Days at the Rear Tuesday, 1 August (D+56)–Saturday, 26 August (D+81)
    (pp. 176-191)

    With the end of July, my carefree days of wandering around the front by jeep were temporarily brought to a close. On 1 August I was sent to Valognes to work on an account of the Omaha Beach landings. Colonel Taylor, the War Department representative, was there preparing a pamphlet on the subject for the army, but I was told to write something of a different nature which fit into the plans of the Historical Section, ETOUSA. Because the difference in interpretations of writing history still existed, I duplicated for a number of days the work Colonel Taylor was doing...

  16. Chapter 12 Liberated Paris Wednesday, 30 August (D+85)–Sunday, 3 September (D+89)
    (pp. 192-205)

    In the days just after the fall of Paris, when the Allies were speeding toward the German border, Seventh Army was marching rapidly northward from the Mediterranean, Bulgaria was leaving the war, and V Corps tactical headquarters was being set up near the Hotel des Invalides, I was reduced to such diary entries as: “Had first chicken in France—a wing but well cooked.” I fumed about not being able to see Paris, and my irritation was increased because there was a First Army vehicle assigned to us but neither John Hall nor I knew how to drive.

    Finally, Colonel...

  17. Chapter 13 Last Days in Normandy Monday, 4 September (D+90)–Sunday, 10 September (D+96)
    (pp. 206-210)

    While in Paris, I had actually lost sight of the progress of the war. There were many papers there but very little news. I spent the day I returned to Valognes reading the papers and army periodic reports. British forces were now in Belgium and U.S. forces were beyond Verdun. The Canadians had wiped out the Dieppe disaster by taking that port. The British papers for 3 September were beginning to scold their leaders for not advertising British efforts more. They stressed the fact that the battle for Normandy was won at Caen, and that the plan was Montgomery’s. Dispatches...

  18. Chapter 14 Watching Paris Come to Life Monday, 11 September (D+97)–Friday, 10 November (D+157)
    (pp. 211-236)

    The Lycèe Claude Bernard was a new school building on the outskirts of Paris which the Germans had used as a billet for their troops. The lights were still off, so we wandered about the huge halls by candlelight. We were pleased by the large shower rooms and the prospect of modern plumbing, but the water was cut off and the showers and water closets did not work—a fact which did not prevent some of the men from using them.

    The Germans had left in great haste, leaving books, pieces of uniforms, toilet articles, and notepaper scattered over the...

  19. Chapter 15 Opinion and Politics in Liberated Paris Saturday, 11 November (D+158)–Tuesday, 14 November (D+161)
    (pp. 237-248)

    Paris in the fall of 1944 mirrored the divisions, the hatreds, the despair, the hopes, and the future of France. In 1937–38 I had become heartsick about the condition of France and had gone home to tell my friends that she was no longer the great champion of freedom nor the great leader of Europe she thought herself to be. In 1939 I had given a series of lectures on the warring countries and I had said, incorrectly, that the Maginot Line would protect France but, correctly, that France did not have the will to fight. I had been...

  20. Chapter 16 Return to the Field Wednesday, 15 November (D+162)–Thursday, 30 November (D+177)
    (pp. 249-270)

    I returned to the front on 15 November after spending the morning at the Majestic talking with Colonel Ganoe, Colonel Marshall, and Colonel John M. Kemper—the last of whom had only recently come from Washington for an inspection tour. Colonel Marshall said that I would probably be summoned back soon to do more writing, but that for the moment I was needed at V Corps to conduct interviews on operations in September and October. As I left, some of the group joked and said that I was fleeing the cold of Paris for better-heated quarters at the front. It...

  21. Chapter 17 The Deadly Forest Friday, 1 December (D+178)–Saturday, 16 December (D+193)
    (pp. 271-291)

    The Hürtgen Forest is a wooded area in Germany that lies between the Belgian frontier and the Roer River north of the Ardennes. During the late fall of 1944 the name was also used to denote other forest areas to the north in which American soldiers fought.

    When the U.S. First Army moved into the Hürtgen Forest in November 1944 it was much like the other wooded areas of Germany: carefully preserved by forest masters who saw that the undergrowth was cleared away and who superintended the cutting of any trees in the area. There was nothing sinister about it,...

  22. Chapter 18 The North Flank of the Bulge Sunday, 17 December (D+194)–Sunday, 31 December (D+208)
    (pp. 292-305)

    The Ardennes counterattack didn’t seem very serious to us until 5:30 the morning of the seventeenth. At that hour, we were suddenly awakened by Captain Born and told to dress and be on the alert for an attack. The drop of parachutists by the Germans near Malmédy had been confirmed; there were rumors that some of them were in our area, and there was danger of a German armored breakthrough near Monschau, some eight miles to our front. There was no announcement of a general counterattack to the south of us, but what we heard was enough for a pre-breakfast...

  23. Chapter 19 Regaining Lost Ground Monday, 1 January, 1945 (D+209)–Monday, 22 January (D+230)
    (pp. 306-331)

    By the end of December, the German attack was well under control. New units were corning in from the States, and elements of divisions in the United Kingdom were flown in to the 99th and other badly hit divisions. Bastogne was relieved, and troops from north and south were pressing in on the flanks of the Bulge, while the eastward push had been blunted. Our chief worry at the end of the month was that an enemy attack might be made near Aachen.


    German plane over. Everybody turned out to see the fireworks. It went leisurely by.

    Several bombs...

  24. Chapter 20 Battle for the Dam Tuesday, 23 January (D+231)–Friday, 23 February (D+262)
    (pp. 332-342)

    Cold. Clear most of the day.

    Out early together with Topete to Mützenich to see Lieutenant Colonel Robert O’Brien and Major Charles Rousek of 38th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron . . . . We had dinner with them at their desk, while they discussed their part in the breakthrough.

    Had to put the windshield down; was very cold. Were 1,000 yds. from our furthest positions.

    Got stopped for speeding just outside Eupen. Played cards at night.

    Cold. Snowed last night.

    Russians are near Breslau. We made little progress yesterday. Our planes are catching some Germans as they pull out.

    Very cold,...

  25. Chapter 21 The Close-Up to the Rhine Saturday, 24 February (D+263)–Tuesday, 20 March (D+287)
    (pp. 343-350)

    1st and 9th Armies began attack to cross the Roer yesterday at 0330, after a 45 minute artillery barrage. Went across in assault boats. Had to put in bridges. Not too much difficulty to get some crossings.

    Heavy plane attacks.

    Captain Ferris came by from 78th.

    Some rain.

    Baker went back to 78th. 1st Army finishes taking Duren.

    Good news continues to come in on bombing of Tokyo. Fight on Iwo Jima costly and savage.

    Slightly overcast.

    Major Shappell came by.

    Sky overcast. Cleared later.

    Work on 78th Division story.

    Rained a little.

    Moved to Eupen to an old barracks...

  26. Chapter 22 Chasing the Armor Across Germany Wednesday, 21 March (D+288)–Sunday, 15 April (D+313)
    (pp. 351-362)

    Beautiful Day.

    Topete and I went to see 2nd Rangers at Mayschoss [?]. Talked to Major Williams, Captains Arnold and Slate, and Private First Class Helmuth Strassburger (from Louisville). Stayed from 11–6. Excellent interview. From their story it is clear that the attack was a real “rat race” to the Rhine after the Roer was crossed.

    Spent the night at Morienthal—a former school for the Fuhrers of farm groups. A huge winery nearby.

    Talked to several lads who were interested in getting back to school. Another one told of shooting prisoners. His wife had divorced him and married...

  27. Chapter 23 Another Form of German Culture—Buchenwald Monday, 16 April (D+314)–Tuesday, 24 April (D+322)
    (pp. 363-366)


    Routine work. Drove around town.

    Beautiful weather.

    Visited wrecked railway yards. Saw PW cages and places for liberated prisoners. Germans fill the hospital across street from us.


    To Weissenfels [?]. Attack on Leipzig under way.

    Got a German command car.


    Leipzig about taken.


    Routine work.

    Sent packages home.

    Leipzig completely ours. Nuremberg ceased fighting.


    Russians 16 miles from heart of Berlin.

    Rainy, cold, sleety, terrible.

    To Leipzig with Captain Fox, Knutson and Private First Class William L. Seiter,Detroit News,14800 Penrod Ave., Detroit, Michigan. Seiter is First Army photographer. We took pictures of castle...

  28. Chapter 24 A Non-Sober History of the Meeting with the Russians Wednesday, 25 April (D+323)–Monday, 30 April (D+328)
    (pp. 367-374)


    Interviewed Lieutenant Colonel Snead G-2 and Lieutenant Colonel Conran [?] of 69th Division.

    At night — told us that the Russians had been contacted during the afternoon. The following statement was issued that night.

    “Telephone conversation between Tracer 5 and Tryhard 6, 252135.

    “Contact was made at 1640 at Torgau with the 173d Company [Regiment] which belongs to the 58 Cardie (Guards) Division, commanded by Major General Rusokw [?]. He requested a meeting at 10 AM tomorrow morning. The coordinates are 6441 on the Elbe River. A Russian officer comparable to a major commanding the 173d Company [Regiment] returned with...

  29. Chapter 25 Pilzen on VE-Day Tuesday, 1 May (D+329)–Sunday, 13 May (D+341)
    (pp. 375-380)

    Cold. Left Naumberg at 0950 in convoy. Went to Autobahn near St—, thence south to Bayreuth and thence to Grafenwohr, about 20 miles from the Czech border and about 40 miles from Nuremberg.

    Extremely cold. Was bundled up like an Indian.

    Hitler’s death announced. Admiral [Karl] Doenitz takes over.

    Deaths of [Heinrich] Himmler, [Joseph] Goebbels also reported. Peace rumors float about. Count [Folke] Bernadotte [of the Swedish Red Cross] was intermediary. Himmler willing to surrender to British and US, not to Russia.

    Mussolini shot in Milan. Got pie-eyed.

    Some snow. Very cold.

    Berlin gives up.

    All German forces, nearly...

  30. Epilogue
    (pp. 381-382)
    Christine Brown Pogue

    When World War II ended in Europe in 1945, Forrest Pogue, an army historian attached to V Corps, had accumulated pocket-sized notebooks he had filled with jottings made while accompanying American troops from D-Day in Normandy across Europe, to Patton’s Third Army in Pilzen, Czechoslovakia. “We knew the war in Europe was over before the radio broadcasts,” Pogue said later, “because the lights came on in Pilzen and in every village near us.”

    Pogue hoped to expand his diary into a full account of experiences with the American troops driving eastward. Most pages of his little notebooks were packed with...

  31. Notes
    (pp. 383-384)
  32. Glossary
    (pp. 385-388)
  33. About the Author
    (pp. 389-390)
  34. Index
    (pp. 391-411)