The Front Lines, daily publication of the 41st Infantry Division, ran the gamut of some of history's biggest headlines from the time of its debut in New Guinea on 15 May 1944, as a weekly news sheet of one hundred mimeographed copies to its peak publication of some three thousand copies at Zamboanga, Mindanao, where word of Japan's unconditional surrender was carried to thousands of Sunset men and attached troops in an eight-page special edition, dated Wednesday, 15 August 1945.

Another highlight of the paper's history was the record sixteen-page edition published when Germany surrendered to the Western Allies and Russia on  Tuesday, 8 May 1945. All but two of these pages were prepared in advance, in true newspaper tradition, and carried in crates from Biak to Mindoro and finally to Zamboanga, where the "lid" literally was knocked off one of the biggest stories of all time. All of the romance of the newspaper game went into the VE edition. A week prior to Germany's actual surrender, when the Nazis' collapse was inevitable, the Front Lines staff opened the crates which contained the pages numbered from 3 to 16 and aided by volunteers, headed by Bill Ostermann, from the Division's AG Office, worked long overtime hours putting the pages in proper sequence. Then came the newspaper game's "death watch," or sweating out the actual announcement that hostilities had ended in Europe.

To George Gregas, Pennsylvanian of G-4, went the honor of bringing the flash to The Front Lines. George overheard a telephone conversation in his office and dashed into Fort Pilar, where the headquarters group bunked, and aroused Edward H. Gerken, editor, and quondam reporter for The New York Sun, at about 11:30 P.M.  "Hey, Pop," he yelled. "Germany has surrendered!" And took off as a pony rider to spread the word verbally.

The Front Lines, which always had a small compact staff on regular duty, though often aided by piece work from volunteers with printer's ink in their blood, capitalized on preparing all Christmas, New Year's, Easter and any other special editions long in advance, having the headlines and art work ready to roll at a moment's notice. But even The Front Lines was caught short on the Japanese surrender story, since the collapse of Japan only ninety-odd days after VE-day was unexpected. However, as soon as the various peace offers began to break into the news, the staff again went into action, and succeeded in bringing out an eight-page special, though original plans had called for an edition surpassing in volume even that published on VE-day.

The integrity of The Front Lines was attested to in the various phone calls from troops seeking to verify rumors. One soldier even said, "If The Front Lines says it's so, I'll believe it!" In the course of the hectic week preceding actual announcement of the unconditional surrender by President Truman, the edition was prepared "for bed," with artist Edward Holland preparing an appropriate cartoon, and a "cut" of Mr. Truman. And the night before the actual announcement, members of the staff each took two hours of the "death watch" monitoring the radio, but the news did not break until shortly after 8:00 A.M. when a one-sentence announcement was cut into a routine broadcast of the news.

The Victory Special of The Front Lines made such a hit that a Marine Air Group unit asked for the paper's stencils so that it could run off additional copies for its own troops. The 41st ran off two thousand copies of this edition, and the Special Service outfit on the island ran off an additional one thousand. Furthermore, the demand for copies, which contained an account of the 41st Division by Major Roy Sherry, and a portrait of Gen. Jens A. Doe by Lou Wendell of G-3, was so great that a second printing had to be run off.

The Front Lines also had the signal honor of a commendation from the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt. On Biak in November 1944, the paper once again prepared an extra. Mr. Roosevelt was making his bid for a fourth term. Three columns were prepared, with two columns of back-ground material already stenciled in, and with the right-hand column open for the spot news of the election results. Most of the credit for this edition went to Bob Gillis of the Division's AG Office, who did all of the art work for this run, just as he had done much of the work for other editions. The paper "hit the streets" of Biak close on the heels of the actual radio broadcast. A copy of the edition came to the attention of the White House, and the following letter of commendation was sent to the 41st Division by Stephen Early, Presidential Press Secretary:


December 18, 1944

Dear Sergeant Scharper:

     Many thanks for sending me the special edition of FRONT LINES.  Your letter was so interesting that I showed it to the President, who was greatly impressed with the remarkable job which was done under such difficult and hazardous circumstances.

     The President asked me to send his congratulations to Private Gerken and the other men responsible for this achievement. More power to the 41st!

Very sincerely yours,

Secretary to the President

First Sergeant W. A. Scharper,
Hd., 41st Infantry Division,
APO 41

Paradoxically, The Front Lines began its career in the rear echelon. After the 4lst had hit Hollandia, Capt. Franklin Tourtellotte, then Division Special Service Officer, returned to Finschhafen and suggested that a news sheet be inaugurated for the boys in the rear. Dick Pekar was publishing one up forward. To Captain Tourtellotte (later Major) also goes the credit for the paper's name, which caught the fancy of the troops. Ed Gerken was made editor of The Front Lines, and was assisted by LaVern Hamlin of Marshalltown, Iowa.

Near the end of the Division's stay on Biak, publication of the paper was transferred from Special Service to the newly created I&E (Information and Education) Section, under Major Sherry. The TO called for three enlisted men, and Steve Mekuly of Chicago injected some "fresh blood" into the sheet. During its month's stay on Mindoro, the paper was reorganized with its larger staff and began to even up the righthand margins to give the paper the semblance of a printed sheet. And in this respect, it was Mekuly's painstaking care in what amounted to setting the type by hand which made the difference in physical appearance of the newspaper. The even margins, which required additional time and effort, since the copy first had to be typed out within the required number of "units" were maintained through Mindoro and Zamboanga, but were given up when The Front Lines hit Japan in favor of greater output of the news on such important subjects as redeployment, reconversion and other stateside highlights.

When the paper came under the jurisdiction of I&E, it had the advantage of being able to call on the section's draftsmen and artists, and to Seymour Fleischman and Jim Forsberg go the credit for many of the swell-looking headlines which adorned the front pages.

At Hiro, Japan, Paul Bluemle of Springfield, Ohio, formerly with the Daily News of that town, contributed his special talents as a reporter and rewrite man, and was elevated to the post of Associate Editor. On 13 December 1945, Paul became editor of The Front Lines, under the supervision of the new I&E Officer, Lt. Hugo R. Wichtel. Throughout the career of the paper, the sports news was excellently handled by Fred Down of the Division's Special Service Section, who gave freely of his off-duty hours to keep the troops abreast of news and results in baseball, football, basketball, boxing, and so on. Among others who contributed toward making the news sheet a success were Lou Friedman,  Larry King, Jim Barham, Henry N . Heine, Capt. Chester Kalwasinski, Aldo J. DeBenedetti and Peter Frank, who is best remembered as the paper's "European Consultant" in the "hot" days of the war in Europe.