Monday, March 2, 2009

Richard "Dick" Wheeler Famous Author and Marine Lived In Schuylkill County

Photo of Richard Wheeler as a Corporal In The USMC
Photo taken by Carroll Jochesm for an article in the Pottsvile Republican Weekender July 1987. Richard standing by picture of his buddies who raised the flag on Suribachi.



Just recently the battle of Iwo Jima was remembered. It has been 64 years since this bloody battle was fought. Numerous men from Schuylkill County both Navy and Marine Corps fought in this battle. The invasion took place on February 19. 1945. and ended on March 26, 1945.
The subject of this sketch is Richard “Dick” Wheeler a nationally acclaimed author who lived with his sister Margery Wheeler Mattox at the Interesting old property in Pine grove called “Nutting Hall”.
Richard was born in Reading and grew up in Laureldale, He graduated from Muhlenberg Township High School.
Richard always had a passion for writing and at a very young age he wrote for the Reading Shopping Bulletin. After graduating high school Richard enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
As a Marine he was in the battle of Iwo Jima and wrote the best first hand account of this battle ever written. He was wounded severely early in the battle and was evacuated to a hospital ship off shore were he heard the roar of cheering Marines and sailors as the first flag was raised on Mt. Suribachi. A few hours later the now famous flag was raised on Mt. Suribachi. This flag replaced the small flag initially raised and a prize winning photo was taken by Joe Rosenthal. But this flag raising was personal for Richard, for it was his company and his buddies in his platoon that raised the flag that day.

Richard Wheelers platoon was the men who raised the flag in the famous photo.

After a long recuperation in hospitals Richard was discharged and went back to his old job of writing. He wrote for various national magazines, among them the Saturday Evening Post.
He moved to Pine Grove in 1950 and lived out in the Swopes Valley. Richard was a friend of another Schuylkill County author the Pulitzer Prize winning Conrad Richter. In 1965 Richard wrote his excellent book about the battle of Iwo Jima called “The Bloody Battle for SuribachI” written from his personal memories. If anybody is interested in the battle I highly recommend this book. Richard in the course of his writing career penned 17 books dealing with military history from the Revolution , civil War to World War 2. Another great book on the Marines in World War 2, and which I use constantly for reference in writing up stories about the Marines is his book “A Special Valor” The U.S. Marines and The Pacific War.

Richard was also a consultant for the latest movies about Iwo Jima called “Flags of Our Fathers”, James Bradley used Richard’s book for reference on the battle. It was known that Clint Eastwood the director of the movie had his cast read Richard’s Book before starting the movie.
Richard also wrote many great books on the Civil War, all of which are in my library at home. I had the great fortune of meeting him at our Historical Society of Schuylkill County and at a book signing for his book “Witness to Gettysburg”.
Unfortunately Richard passed away on October 21, 2008. To me he his another of the true heroes of that Greatest Generation. And just by talking to him you would never know it, just like the true heroes they are.

My Favorite books by Richard Wheeler are
The Bloody Battle for Suribachi”

“A Special Valor” 1983

“Voices of 1776: The Story of the American Revolution in the Words of Those Who Were There” 1972

“The Siege of Vicksburg” 1978

“Sherman’s March: An Eyewitness History” 1978

“Witness to Gettysburg” 1987

“Witness to Appomattox” 1989

“Voices of the Civil War” 1990

“Sword Over Richmond: An Eyewitness History of McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign” 1991

“On Fields of Fury: From the Wilderness to the Crater” 1992

“Lee’s Terrible Swift Sword: From Antietam to Chancellorsville” 1993

“A Rising Thunder: From Lincoln’s Election to the Battle of Bull Run” 1995

“Gettysburg 1863: Campaign of Endless Echoes” 1999


Anonymous said...

Thank you for a great write up on Mr. Wheeler! He was an amazing man.

Rich Sloma said...

My respects to Mr. Wheeler and his family. My thanks for his contributions to the historical record and especially for his military service during World War II as a U.S. Marine. I had read many of Mr. Wheeler's books growing up in the late 1970s and early 80s. He was an outstanding author.