Reporter remembers World War II
CENTREVILLE — It was the war that changed the face of the modern world. From 1939 to 1945 the second World War grabbed the attention of those across the United States and Europe. Former Record Observer editor and longtime columnist Dan Tabler, a familiar face to Queen Anne’s County residents, was still in school when the war broke out. Shortly after his 18th birthday, he was joined with the United States Army.
Tabler recounted those years, from his perspective. After the stock market crash in ‘29, said Tabler, his father, Ray Tabler, a finance man, was recruited to re-open the Centreville National Bank and moved his family to Centreville. Tabler was attending Centreville High School and writing his first column, “Dots and Dashes by Dan” at the age of 15.
Tabler was 17 when he completed school in Queen Anne’s. “There must’ve only been 11 grades at the time,” Tabler recalled, and his father thinking him too young still sent him to complete his education with relatives in West Virginia.
“I have two high school diplomas,” laughed Tabler, but education, he said was important to his father and grandfather, who had served as school superintendent.
Tabler’s father who had served in the three wars prior, including the Spanish-American War and World War I, had been recalled by the army, he said. The elder
Tabler thought it was likely that his son might also be called upon to serve and suggested that he enroll at the Citadel.
“I’m glad I did [go]; one year of school there and I knew how to take orders, those upperclassmen sure gave us a hard time,” said Tabler.
His father proved right and one year into his schooling at the Citadel, Tabler was drafted into the army.
“I was going to the Citadel and the board grabbed me up,” Tabler said.
They let me finish the year out, Tabler recalled, and then I was put on a bus and sent to a recruitment center near Baltimore.
From 1943 to 1946, Tabler resided at Camp Lee in Virginia, serving his country. Tabler was told by his recruitment office that since he had good marks at school they would send him to Officer School.
“I said, I don’t want to be an officer,” said Tabler, “I told them put me in public relations.”
And so public relations was where he stayed. Camp Lee was the largest quartermaster camp in the country, said Tabler, 40,000 men large. Ironically, Tabler’s father was stationed at Lee also, as the finance officer.
“I never did tell anyone that,” said Tabler. But he was very busy sending media reports to the Washington and Richmond dailies. Tabler also wrote for The Camp Lee Traveler, the weekly newspaper for the quartermaster camp. The paper came by the name Traveler, said Tabler, for General Lee’s horses name.
“We were busy, always busy,” said Tabler, “getting the report from overseas and interviewing infantrymen who had done something excellent or different, something they’d gotten awards for.”
Tabler even interviewed German POW’s at Camp Lee.
Still, Tabler didn’t forget his readers back in Queen Anne’s, he contributed weekly to the RecordObserver with his column, “This Army Life.” Often his columns consisted of letters sent by military post to Tabler from his many acquaintances.
A regular writer to Tabler, was Private Walter “Woody” Woodford, a graduate of Centreville High School and former student at Washington College before his induction into the Army. One such letter was sent from “somewhere in the Southwest Pacific” and read, “Some time ago there was a hard, fierce fight here, but there are no Japs here now, except the ones pushing up daisies. The only fighting we do is against mosquitoes.”
Tabler also shared correspondence sent to parents of the men stationed abroad so that family and friends locally might be kept up to date. In one letter, sent from Sgt. George Aldridge, Queenstown, Tabler noted that it had been some time since they had last heard from Aldridge and he believed that Aldridge was currently in Germany even though his last correspondence had been lined, “somewhere in Luxemborg.”
“I have had quite a sojourn in Holland since I last wrote you,” Aldridge wrote, “While there I saw my cousin Tom Rhodes, of Queenstown ... it had been three years since I saw him last. He brought me news of many of the countr y boys.” Aldridge went on to say, “This is a nice country and is very beautiful. The people here are the coldest yet.”
Tabler also did his best to keep the folks back at home up to date with the men’s overseas addresses.
When finally the armistice was signed, Tabler got his separation papers, a copy which he carries with him still.
“I walked back into the Record-Observer‘s office on Lawyer’s Row, said Tabler. The editor said, “Good morning, Dan. There’s your desk, sit down,” and so I sat down and stayed there the rest of my life.”
Editor’s Note: Dan Tabler has been with the Record Observer in different capacities since 1940, with the exception of a brief period of time when he was associate editor of the Delaware State News for 14 years. He has served as reporter, advertising sales representative, columnist and editor. His column, “Writer’s Notebook,” runs weekly in the Record Observer still.
At his desk at Camp Lee, Dan Tabler reports the news from home and abroad.
A young Dan Tabler in his Army uniform at Camp Lee.