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Tuesday, 16 June 2015

George Lait, Highly Decorated Shock-Troop of the Press - and his Royal Portable Typewriter

George Lait covers the Pacific Theatre of World War II on his Royal portable typewriter for the International News Service. This photograph was taken in New Guinea on March 29, 1944.
Although George Lait's grand-daughter Vicki Hughes Orman might feel so, it's not me being lambasted. It's the blazing headline in Australian Truth on November 29, 1942, atop a George Lait story:
Reader Vicki Orman has just caught up with my late January post Shock-Troops of the Press - and their Typewriters and left a comment: "I applaud you for the credit you give these men who put their life in harm's way to get a story. However, my grandfather, George Lait, Independent News Service, was perhaps the most highly decorated war correspondent: Bronze Star with Combat V, Purple Hearts with Four Oak Leaf Clusters, National Defence Service Medal, Pacific Theatre Campaign Medal with four Bronze Stars, European-Middle East Campaign with three Bronze Stars, American Campaign Medal, World War ll Victory Medal, Philippine Defence Medal, Philippine Liberation Medal, Philippine Independence Medal, Basic Paratrooper Badge, Combat Infantry Badge. British Decorations: 1939-45 Star, Star of Africa, War Medal 1939-45.
"Impressive, isn't it? And I can't understand why he is never mentioned. I have an article that Ernie Pyle wrote about how he felt honoured to be seated next to George. Maybe you can shed some light on to this subject, because I feel he, George, my grandfather, should be mentioned in every article in which WWII war correspondents are credited."
Well, Vicki, I can shed this bit of light on your grandfather, from Combat Reporter: Don Whitehead's World War II Diary and Memoirs (2006), edited by John Beals Romeiser:
George Lait's passport application photo for his first trip overseas, 
to Europe in 1924, aged 17.
George Kersten Lait was born to Jacquin Leonard Lait and Laura Belle Leusch in Chicago on November 29, 1906; he died of lung cancer in North Hollywood on January 12, 1958, aged just 51. 
Below, from The Longest Night: Voices from the London Blitzby Gavin Mortimer (2005):
George Lait, second from right, New Guinea, May 1944
George in British military uniform in North Africa
George working with his father Jack Lait.
George's father, Jack Lait (1883-1954) was a journalist best known for his series of "Confidential" books. Born in New York City, he became renowned during his 50-year career in journalism as one of the leading newspapermen of the first half of the 20th century. He wrote a syndicated column called All in the Family for two decades, and his comic strip, Gus and Gussie, illustrated by Paul Fung, ran from April 13, 1925, to February 24, 1930. He was the editor of the New York Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror, and ended his career working for the Hearst Corporation. During his tenure as editor, the New York Daily Mirror gained the second highest circulation of any US newspaper. With Lee Mortimer, Lait wrote New York Confidential, Chicago Confidential and Washington Confidential. Lait and Mortimer's books inspired the films New York Confidential (1955) and Chicago Confidential (1957) and the television series New York Confidential. Lait died of a circulatory ailment in Beverly Hills, California, at the age of 71.
Jack Lait interviews Anna Hauptmann during a radio appeal to Anna's husband Bruno Hauptmann, accused of kidnapping and killing Charles Lindbergh's baby son. Below, Jack and an insert from his Gus and Gussie comic strip.


Vicki Orman said...

Thank you so much for the time and effort you put into this article, I was so pleasantly surprised. You had a few photos that I never saw and I will copy them and the article to place in his profile in our family tree.

When I was researching George and his father Jack, I found a bit of history that not even my mother knew and that was Jacquin "Jack" Lait was not born in New York or Chicago, he actually came from Russia when he was six years old with his mother and two sisters. His real name was "Jacob" and his father represented himself as a banker and swindled a vast amount of money from the immigrants. Isn't the internet great! There are no secrets anymore.

Again, thank you, and keep paying homage to those who fight for our freedom and those who report it back to us.

Vicki Orman

Tina Joseff said...

I have been doing research and archival cataloging for my family business - Joseff-Hollywood. I came across George Lait in various documents, and have a letter on Universal-International Pictures stationery to Joan Castle Joseff (my mother-in-law) dated 12/23/55 thanking her for the lovely Christmas remembrance, and hoping to see her at Janie's open house. He was a man of many great accomplishments - a true American hero. Enjoyed this article -
Tina Joseff - President Joseff-Hollywood