Ryan Scott Ottney
PDT Staff Writer
South Shore, Ky., author G. Sam Piatt has published his first book, “Men of Valor,” chronicling the stories of World War II veterans from southern Ohio and eastern Kentucky.
Piatt has enjoyed a career of more than 30 years in journalism, beginning with the Daily Times in 1970. He moved the Daily Independent in Ashland, Ky., in 1973 until he retired in 1998. In 2002 he came out of retirement to work at the Daily Times once again until 2004; then he returned again in 2007.
In 2008, the Daily Times began a weekly series called “Surviving Servicemen,” telling the stories of WWII veterans in the community. Piatt eventually took over the series all by himself and continued finding veterans for more than a year. He continued the series until he left the Daily Times again in 2011, but still contributes a popular outdoors column each week and occasional news contributions.
“Jim Giffords (from the Jesse Stuart Foundation) saw a copy of the Daily Times that had one of these stories on Page 1,” Piatt recalled. “He read it, and he said, ‘You got any more of these?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, 65 or 70.’ He said, ‘Let’s do a book.’”
More than 65 veterans are featured in his book, “Men of Valor,” which was published by the Jesse Stuart Foundation and released in September 2012.
“I made a lot of friends. These veterans are all in their upper-80s. When the book came out, I had to go back and find their phone numbers and I delivered personally just about every one. I went as far as Pike County. I wanted to make sure veterans had them,” Piatt said.
Nearly a dozen of the men featured in his book passed away before it was published, Piatt said, and he delivered the book instead to their families. Many bought multiple more copies to share with other members of their family.
“It makes me feel good that I took time to go and interview and get their stories down,” Piatt said, pointing to a photo of a wounded soldier on the cover of his book. “This Marine, he’s still living in Wheelersburg. He has 10 children. They all bought a book and they all wanted it signed. I have personally signed hundreds of books.”
That Marine on the cover is Earl “Bud” Otworth.
“He was in on three major battles in the pacific. He waded ashore as a Marine, and he survived two. And in Okinawa … he lay on the beach all day, wounded. The fighting was going on all around him and they couldn’t get a medic in there. But they did, and he lived. They got him off there. Now he’s 90, maybe 91,” Piatt said.
The book, he said, isn’t just for families of these veterans, but for anyone who enjoys history and wants to remember the brave efforts of American soldiers during WWII.
“This war was 70 years ago. Like it says in the introduction; most Americans of this generation don’t know anything about it, except they saw Saving Private Ryan and they watched the documentaries on the History Channel,” Piatt said.
Reading a quote in his book from tank gunner Mark Flemming after liberating a Jewish camp, Piatt said, “Such crimes against humanity should never be forgotten, and it’s good that America has a memorial (in Washington D.C.) to help people recall the terrible days of the war.”
He said he hopes that the stories in his book will help achieve that goal.
Piatt is now writing another book — a fictional novel titled “The Adventures of J. Tom Sycamore.” The story is about six boys pretending to fight wars on the Ohio River and having adventures in southern Ohio. He has already written 55 chapters, and hopes to finish the book this month. If accepted by the publisher, it could be available later this year.
“Every newspaper reporter wants to have a book. Let’s face it, newspapers are used in the bottom of bird cages and to wrap fish in. They don’t do that with books. This is a permanent thing that people hold on to and keep in their library. It gives you a sense of accomplishment that covering the daily news doesn’t, because people don’t even read a newspaper if it’s a day old,” Piatt said.
Since “Men of Valor” was released six months ago, Piatt has personally sold nearly 600 copies of his books, and many more have been sold by the Jesse Stuart Foundation, on their website and on Amazon.com. Piatt will be signing copies of “Men of Valor” on Memorial Day at the James Dickey American Legion Post 23 in Portsmouth. The book is also available now at the Portsmouth Daily Times office, located at 637 Sixth St., in Portsmouth.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or rottney@firstname.lastname@example.org.