WHEN the Slovak National Uprising broke out in Banská Bystrica in 1944, more than 8,400 people from 32 different nationalities joined tens of thousands of Slovaks in the fight against the fascists. One of them was an American reporter from the Associated Press agency: Joseph Morton.
Morton decided to write his memoirs in Slovakia that year. On October 7, 1944, he landed with a group of soldiers from the American Office of Strategic Services - OSS, which got the name DAWES - at the Tri Duby airport.
Morton, a friendly man with suave manners and tremendous courage, had already earned the trust and respect of the American armed forces as a journalist. He reported from the battles in Northern Africa. During the Allies' invasion of Sicily, he moved in the most dangerous areas, even though his wife, Letty, was expecting a baby at the time.
Morton flew three times to the territory of former Yugoslavia. During the first air raid on Rome, he sat in the middle bomber. He got to Bucharest when it was liberated by the Red Army.
Morton was famous, and his reports were in demand, but he did not have his memoirs yet. So on October 7 before dawn, he went to the military airport in Bari, Italy, in order to fly to Slovakia with a cargo of weapons and American soldiers.
The reporter did not board the B-17 aircrafts that returned from Tri Duby to Bari immediately with shot and wounded American pilots - even though everybody assumed he just dropped in for a visit to Slovakia. Morton had other plans. He placed a portable typewriter on a container at the side of the airport and wrote his first sentences.
Morton stayed with the DAWES mission, which was supposed to gather information about how to help the guerillas from the west, and how to coordinate the rescue of the American pilots.
In his book World War II: The Tragedy of OSS in Slovakia (Druhá svetová vojna: Tragédia OSS na Slovensku), published in 2004, Jim Downs writes about how Morton interviewed the partisan generals Viest and Golian, and how he shot at the Nazis with his ridiculously tiny pistol.
When the German divisions suppressed the Slovak National Uprising, the members of the DAWES group were also forced to flee to the mountains. They suffered hunger and frostbite, and most of them were captured.
Twelve American soldiers were shot after being tortured in the Mauthausen concentration camp. The 13th was Morton: a war reporter who the previous political regime remained silent about, and who Slovak journalists still know very little about.
Pavol Vitko is editor-in-chief of the military monthly Obrana (Defense).
6. Aug 2007 at 0:00 | Pavol Vitko