Dilts, Johnson examine former IU professor’s wartime letters, post-war career change
The World War II letters of IU journalism professor emeritus Ralph Holsinger are the subject of an article, “World War II and the Making of a Journalist,” in the latest issue of “Ohio History.”
Retired Media School faculty members Jon Paul Dilts, MA’74, and the late Owen Johnson draw upon Holsinger’s letters from the war to trace his decision to exchange a management career at RCA for a public service job in journalism. Holsinger’s military experiences, beginning with his personal involvement in the fighting at Salerno and Anzio, Italy, and ending with his witness of the horrors of post-war Germany, frame a profound shift in Holsinger’s sense of self-identity, Dilts said.
His letters, housed at the IU Archives, describe his efforts to make sense of the war and his place in it. Some of those letters ended up in print in Ohio during the war, surviving censorship, distractions, delays and Holsinger’s own uncertainty about how to describe the extraordinary destruction and disaster that was Europe in 1945.
After the war, Holsinger pursued a career in political journalism, working at newspapers in Piqua, Dayton and Cincinnati. He became the Washington correspondent for the Dayton Daily News and later, the managing editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer. In 1965, he joined the journalism faculty at IU. Holsinger retired from the university in 1989 and died near Washington, D.C, in 2004, still writing at age 86.
Besides his letters’ home, the archival collection at Indiana University contains Holsinger’s training notebook from the radio repair school he attended in Kansas City during the war, including journal-like entries and stories Holsinger wrote throughout his travels. The bulk of the letters are those to his parents, but there are also letters to his friend, Joe Augustine, who forwarded them to his hometown newspaper for publication, without ever asking his friend for permission.