Suppose you found a magic door that opened onto some of the most crucial battles fought in the Pacific during World War II?
That’s the kind of door I stumbled upon in February 2010 when my 91-year-old father, Edward James Reynolds, died and left behind a diary that recounts nearly every day he spent as a radar man on the aircraft carrier Yorktown during World War II.
As I opened and read through this remarkable little gem, all kinds of questions surfaced. First, how did this book survive in such perfect condition? The guy served on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific, for cryin’ out loud, where salt water, humidity, and rain were constants. And how did he manage to not miss a single day? We’re talking about approximately 545 days of entries, and they come from places as far flung as the Great Lakes Naval Base in Illinois, Virginia Beach, Central America, Pearl Harbor, New Guinea, the Marshall Islands, San Francisco, and sweet home Chicago at 1814 South Komensky Avenue.
And could this really be my father saying something like: “Arrived Pearl Harbor in afternoon. Impressed by Navy Band playing ‘Aloha’ as we pulled up to docks. Country beautiful. Women situation acute—125 men to every woman.”
Questions and curiosities aside, by the time I got to the part where my father laid eyes on the shiny new aircraft carrier that was about to propel him into harm’s way in the boundless blue, I was hooked. The diary became my way of experiencing the war vicariously. Gradually it dawned on me that his story belongs to everyone who benefited from his service in the Navy. If he and some 16 million other Americans had not stepped up to the plate the way they did, our lives would be profoundly different, and not in a positive way. So it is only fitting that the story of Ed Reynolds be shared, and shared as widely as possible.