Saturday, March 7, 2015

War Correspondent Documented the Lives of Hoosier Soldiers

Leo and Emma Litz moved into their brand new home at 914 North Arlington Avenue in 1938. The veteran Indianapolis News reporter had spent much of his time covering Marion County politics. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the 51-year-old journalist temporarily left his wife and his home to cover the war in the Pacific.  His column in the Indianapolis News called "Report From the Pacific" documented the stories of Hoosiers who were fighting the Japanese. Mr. Litz likely had an affinity for veterans as he had fought in World War One and had witnessed the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in the Hall of Mirrors in 1919.

Much in the same light as fellow correspondent and Hoosier, Ernie Pyle, Mr. Litz sought to tell the everyday kinds of stories facing the troops.  He went out of his way to get as much information about the soldiers as he could including their addresses and family members.  He told of the mundane, the humorous, and the horrible.  After the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, Mr. Litz interviewed the airmen who discovered the wreckage site and their daring efforts to save as many men from the ocean as possible. After the defeat of the Japanese, he went into Tokyo with American troops.  There he saw how desperate the Japanese had become towards the end of the war with so little food available. He traveled down to Hiroshima to see the devastation of the atomic bomb and his vivid reporting helped his readers understand the power of that weapon.  Later he found himself in the hospital in Tokyo near the cot of General Tojo, who had tried to kill himself.  While in the hospital, a fellow Irvingtonian, Captain Joseph T. Farrell, 34, of 934 North Lesley Avenue attended to both Tojo and Mr. Litz.  The two neighbors must have had a joyful reunion and could easily walk over for coffee upon their return to the States.

After the war, Leo Litz returned to Irvington and wrote a book about his experiences in the Pacific called Report From the Pacific (1946).  He enlisted a friend by the name of J. Hugh O'Donnell to illustrated his narrative.  The volume is a treasure of stories about Indiana men and women who served in the Pacific during World War II.  The chronicle should be indexed at some point so that descendants may learn more about the work and bravery of their grandfathers and mothers.  A product of his time, Mr. Litz frequently referred to the Japanese in a derogatory manner, but towards the end of the book his tone is much more sympathetic after he sees their hardships and horrors.

Below you will see a photo of Mr. Litz in the Pacific.  I have also documented all of the Irvington houses and families he notes in the book.  Of course, there are hundreds of others mentioned from towns like Rushville to Bloomington to Huntington to Gary.  Mr. Litz clearly deserves the same honors and accolades as other correspondents who risked their lives during World War II in order to tell Americans the stories of their veterans.

Indianapolis News correspondent, Leo Litz (on the right), chatted with Bill Madigen of Veedersburg, Indiana on the island of Guam.  (Report From the Pacific, 14)

After World War II, Leo Litz came home to 914 North Arlington to pen Report From the Pacific in 1946. 

Leo and Emma Litz built 914 North Arlington Avenue in 1938 and dwelled here until 1948. They later moved to Hamilton County, Indiana to manage a dairy farm.  They retired to San Diego and spent the remainder of their lives there.  

Leo Litz documented Captain Joseph T. Farrell of 934 North Lesley Avenue in his book Report From the Pacific. Captain Farrell provided medical aid to Mr. Litz in Japan.  

Major Louis A. Aull dwelled at 938 North Ritter Avenue as the son of Mr. and Mrs. Edward A. Aull.  He fell in love with an Irvington girl, Martha Lou Matthews, of 966 North Graham Avenue, and married her before shipping out to the Pacific. While stationed in the tropics, Mr. Aull received the joyful news that his wife had given birth to their son.  Leo Litz documented this touching story in his book Report From the Pacific.  

At a stop in Honolulu, Leo Litz interviewed Specialist Ned Tilman who grew up at 970 North Campbell Avenue. Mr. Tilman had been a swimming star in his youth and was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Blaine Tilman.  He held down a variety of jobs in the navy including his stint as a swimming instructor.

Towards the end of World War II, Leo Litz documented the departure of Hoosier veterans. Soldiers returning from Guam, Okinawa, Saipan, and other islands had to be processed at Pearl Harbor before going home.  This procedure could take several days.  While in the processing station, Mr. Litz interviewed Louis Townsend, 27, of 5617 Lowell Avenue. Mr. Townsend was anxious to get home to see his wife and children. He had not seen them in over two years.  
 Source:  Leo M. Litz, Report From the Pacific, Indianapolis, 1946.  All of the contemporary photos were taken on March 7, 2015.


  1. I wonder if the Indiana Historical Society would have any interest in re-printing that book...

  2. Good point to ponder, Don. It is loaded with names of Hoosiers who served in the Pacific Theater.

  3. I'm pleased to say that it is available (for around $10 including shipping) from used book sellers; I just ordered a copy. Also, it's still under copyright (probably). But once I get it, I may talk to people at the Historical Society.

  4. Mr Litz book is very interesting and well written. I believe I got my copy at local used book store. Was interesting to read of the stories of various servicemen from Indiana.