Thank you for Everything, Dad, and Happy Father’s Day

This column, reprinted from several years ago and updated and expanded, is for me. Because of its extreme length I don’t expect many to make it to the end and my father’s magnificent letter from the South Pacific and I am fine with that. Not only is it a much-needed cathartic experience, it needs to be in print once again, whether anyone reads all of it or not. My father deserves it. It is more about the writing of the column than the reading and for my daughter to have. To those who do read it through, you will find that in order to write it I had to strip all the layers off and reveal things about myself that I normally would never do. It is the only way I can do justice to a remarkable man. ~ Steve Haskin

Thank You For Everything, Dad, and Happy Father’s Day

By Steve Haskin

The thank you is for a man without whom I wouldn’t be where I am today. He in his own way made it possible for me to enter the world of horse racing and become the writer I eventually aspired to be, meet and marry the most wonderful and beautiful woman, have the most wonderful and beautiful daughter, and complete the cycle by becoming a grandfather twice over with an adorable 4-year-old grandson and a beautiful seven-week-old granddaughter. My regret is that my father did not live to see any of it, at least not in an earthly sense.

I have been convinced all these years that he somehow has been guiding me and steering me on the right path through the entire journey, and that the words that flow from my mind and heart come from him. You will see why reading this column. I never have revealed anything about myself and my early life to anyone, except in my love letter to Joan, but I am doing it even more so now, as uncomfortable as it is, in order to pay tribute to a very special man. Some have read most of this already, but even if only a few read it now it matters little.

Although my father was an engineer by trade, working for Detecto scales, he was one of the best and most creative writers I’ve known, as you will see later on. What you will read if you decide to continue on after what needs to be said is said is a gripping and colorful account of life on an LSM ship in the South Pacific during World War II and a first-hand, personal look at the massive Invasion of Luzon and Leyte Gulf that needs to be published again. These words are the only physical items he left behind; the only evidence of who he was. So they must be preserved. This is my opportunity to do so, while thanking him and paying tribute to him. In order to do so, I must reveal parts of myself that were never meant to be revealed.

My father was a kind-hearted man who was plagued with the inability to say no to anyone asking for a favor. As a result, he was often taken advantage of, mainly by family members.

We never owned a new car, never went on vacations, except for one year when we went to a resort in Mt. Freedom, New Jersey called Ackerman’s. My Brooklyn street was my vacation spot. My most special moments with my dad came at Ebbets Field to see our beloved Dodgers. Oh, those drives up Bedford Avenue and seeing the light towers off in the distance. That was a magical sight to a 9-year-old. As was seeing my dad catch a home run in the upper deck in centerfield hit by future Hall of Famer Frank Robinson. It bounced off the railing and into his arms, with the bright red paint of the railing right there on the ball. So we not only took home a souvenir, we took home a part of Ebbets Field.

I was a terrible student all through high school and barely graduated, often cutting my first class and never participating, while hiding in the back of the room so the teacher wouldn’t see me. Adding to all this was my fear of taking tests, all of these foibles spurred on by a massive inferiority complex and an undiagnosed case of what I strongly believe to be Attention Deficit Disorder, which was unknown back then. Words went in one ear and out the other with little or no comprehension, which prevented me from being a book reader. I went out into the world knowing how to do absolutely nothing. My dad tried to build up my confidence, but to no avail. I will never forget my mother’s constant words to me: “You are your worst enemy.”

After several years of menial and demeaning jobs, I got a job working on Wall Street with the help of a broker who lived on our block and played softball with my father. First I was a page boy, then a copy boy, then a quote boy, then an over-the-counter stock trader. But I soon had enough of this cut-throat, dog-eat-dog world and left, despite having no skills, no background in anything, and no college diploma. All I had was my recent discovery and unbridled passion for horse racing, which I stumbled upon going with two friends one Friday night to Roosevelt Raceway. So it was harness racing that first exposed me to this new wondrous world.

It actually was my father’s gift of writing that had altered the course of my life. Like all those of my generation, I was called to the draft board in Lower Manhattan for my physical and testing during the Vietnam War, while working at the time in a printing factory, cleaning the machines and emptying out the garbage. It was a world of ink stains, mice, and cockroaches. I told the officer at the draft board office that I had asthma and he said bluntly, “Asthma is not deferrable.” So I came to terms with my fate and waited for the notice to come in the mail that I had been drafted. I’m sure I failed their written test and was destined to four years as a grunt in some rice paddy, if I survived boot camp.

My asthma as a child was pretty severe at times, and my father wrote a strong letter about how debilitating it was and how my service would have to be drastically limited. It was a powerful, articulate letter, as only he could write it, which he then had my longtime pediatrician sign, as well as our family doctor, who was widely recognized as head of Coney Island Hospital. He sent the letter to the draft board, and several weeks later I was informed that I had been classified as 4-F; physically unable to serve. It wouldn’t be the last time my father’s words changed my life.

So here I was several years later at Roosevelt Raceway and one of the most enlightening experiences of my life. I became fascinated and enthralled with the whole concept of racing and the beauty of the horses, and the intricacies of handicapping. Racing became all encompassing. My thirst for knowledge was insatiable, and I read every racing publication I could get my hands on, especially Turf and Sport Digest, which I would purchase by the dozens at a used magazine shop in Manhattan. It was during these days that I became enamored with an up-and-coming horses named Damascus, thanks to Fred, the person with whom I had gone to Roosevelt Raceway and who exposed me to flat racing. I had a new sports hero.

By the winter of 1969, I was gone from Wall Street, leaving Pershing and Company, but with no ambitions or skills. I was out of work for nine months, taking the subway to Battery Park every day to feed the pigeons and read the Sam Toperoff book, “Crazy Over Horses” over and over. That became my bible. My life that winter and spring was all about Arts and Letters, Majestic Prince, Top Knight, Dike, and Gallant Bloom. Racing was all encompassing, but I was on a path to nowhere. I was supposed to be looking for a job on Wall Street, several blocks from the park, but could not bring myself to return to that world.

Finally, after nine months and with nothing to offer anyone and heading for a life of more menial jobs, my father came into my room one night and asked me, “What do you want to do with your life? What are you passionate about?” I told him I had no idea what I wanted to do, and that my only passion was horse racing.

“Well, why don’t you try to get a job in horse racing,” he said. I had never even considered it. Having read the Morning Telegraph on the Subway every day I grew to admire some of their writers, mostly Charles Hatton, Joe Hirsch, and Barney Nagler. But I wasn’t a writer, except for writing several personal poems. And who actually made their hobby their profession, especially a sport? My father never really liked his job, and that was I thought a job was; just a job – 9 to 5 drudgery. Not something you loved to do more than anything. But my dad always had confidence in me and wanted something better for me. He wanted my job and my passion to be one and the same. But what could I do in racing?

“You can start at the bottom and work your way up,” my dad said. “Just get your foot in the door. I have faith in you that you can make racing your profession and be a success at it.”

He had turned on the light and lifted me out of my funk. He had given me hope. I immediately mailed out letters to the Morning Telegraph, New York Racing Association, and The Jockey Club asking for a job, stating all I had to offer was my passion and the willingness to learn. I was expecting nothing.

I received two rejections, but one afternoon, the phone rang and it was Charlotte Berko, secretary to Saul Rosen, editor of the Morning Telegraph (the Eastern and main edition of the Daily Racing Form), saying Mr. Rosen would like me to come for an interview the next day.

I never saw my parents so excited. I had no idea what to expect, so all I could do was foolishly memorize the winners of every Kentucky Derby, as if that was going to help in any way.

When I arrived, everyone was watching the World Series between the Mets and the Orioles. I went in for the interview and the first question Saul Rosen asked me was if I knew how to type. When I told him I didn’t he said to come back after I learned. I was devastated. What was I going to tell my parents? This was the last ray of hope, not only for me but for them. I knew how disappointed they would be when I came home without a job.

While there, I asked Mr. Rosen, an iconic figure in the industry, if I could get the past performances of Graustark, who had retired in 1966 and who my friend Fred had also turned me on to. He called in the librarian, Sol Seiden, and asked him to help me out. While Sol had someone Xeroxing Graustark’s PPs he told me he was going to need an assistant and suggested I start as a copy boy to get my foot in the door, and after I learned to type I could come in the library as his assistant.

The library? Horse books, horse photos, bound volumes of the Morning Telegraph going back 100 years? Talk about the proverbial kid in a candy store. Mr. Rosen said OK to the idea and I came home with a job, making far less than I was making on Wall Street. My dad was thrilled. I remember how proud he was of even the most trivial things. He would bring my rather pathetic photographs of horses to work with him and show them off as if they were works of art. He would come with me to Belmont Park, and also to the barn area to see horses like my latest favorite horse Arts and Letters. I remember going to Belmont with him in June of 1968 right after the track reopened after six years to see Dark Mirage win the Mother Goose and taking my first black and white photos. He had taken an interest in racing because of me. We watched the feature race from New York on TV every Saturday that I didn’t go to the track. I remember the thrill we both got watching Dr. Fager win the Vosburgh Handicap in record time under 139 pounds in his career finale.

The following year I started working at the Morning Telegraph as a copy boy, then a brief stay in the statistical department, then finally to the library as Sol’s assistant. In 1971 my father passed away suddenly at the age of 56. Our family – me, my mother, and my younger brother – was never the same, especially my mother, who lived into her ‘90s. My brother worshiped our father, and without his guidance would go on to have a pretty rough life.

When the Telly closed in 1972, and they opened the new Daily Racing Form office in Hightstown, New Jersey, fortunately they took me along. Many lost their jobs. Had Sol Seiden not left the library to work in the advertising department and had I not been promoted to head librarian I would have been one of those let go, once again staring into the abyss, with no future. But again I was in the right place at the right time. I don’t believe it was a coincidence.

In the early ‘70s I wrote a letter to the editor in the Thoroughbred Record and was so excited when I saw my name in print. I knew my father would have been thrilled regardless of how trivial that was. In the mid ‘70s I began freelance writing for the Sporting Chronicle for free, then Stud and Stable magazine and Pacemaker magazine, all in England. Then in the U.S. came the Thoroughbred Record, Louisiana Horse, and finally the newly formed Thoroughbred Times. I was so raw in the beginning and insecure that I wouldn’t send in a story until it was given the OK by DRF copy editor and writer George Bernet, who became my mentor and eventually the editor of the Form. Slowly I began building up confidence in my writing, thanks also to my beautiful bride, who was a gifted writer herself who had worked for the New York Racing Association’s publicity firm and then as NYRA’s public relations coordinator.. The more I wrote the more I missed my father, who I have always believed was the one putting the right words and ideas in my head.

After 20 years in the library, first in New York and then in Hightstown, I finally was taken out of the library to write full-time for the Racing Form to help combat the emergence of the Racing Times. I eventually took over Derby Doings from Joe Hirsch, at his request, wrote features and news stories, founded the feature Derby Watch, became national correspondent, providing lead coverage of all the big races, including the Triple Crown, the inaugural Dubai World Cup, and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, then moved on to the Blood-Horse as senior correspondent in 1998 after the Form was sold, again covering the Triple Crown and New York racing, writing six books, and being invited to Ballydoyle and Coolmore in Ireland, the opening of Meydan in Dubai, and, like in Dubai, receiving red carpet treatment in Uruguay.

What made it special was sharing it with my wife and daughter. I won numerous awards for writing (without ever submitting anything myself) and for lifetime achievement, culminating with election into the Hall of Fame, appropriately called the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Joe Hirsch Media Roll of Honor, joining at the time only 15 other writers – legends old and new, including my idols Charles Hatton and Bill Nack. And it was all because my dad lifted me out of the depths of hopelessness and suggested I get a job in racing, to follow my passion.

All I could think of as I accepted the Hall of Fame award at the Museum and saw my name on the Roll of Honor, in the presence of my wife and daughter and the rest of my family, was how badly I wished my father could have seen this. How proud he would have been. How he would have fallen in love with Joan and how much he would have worshipped our daughter, Mandy, and perhaps even his great-grandchildren. I can only believe that he somehow was watching this special moment unfold and that he knew he was the reason I was there accepting this ultimate honor.

If you have made it this far and feel as if you have an idea who my father was and what a special man he was, you might want to stick around and read this remarkable letter. One of the reasons I know for sure what a profound impact my dad had on my life and how he has been guiding me in my writing career is, as I mentioned earlier, the number of people who have read this letter and said they could have sworn it was written by me. I could receive no greater compliment. So I take you back to 1945 in the South Pacific and the most revealing look at my dad and the War in the Pacific through his eyes. These words are all I have of him other than memories.

Because of the length of this column and my dad’s letter written to his boss, many will not continue on and that is understandable. But it is just reassuring to me to know it is out there in print and not just a folded up letter on faded paper written in green ink lying in a dresser drawer.

January 21, 1945
Far East

The Navy may move slowly, but once they get started, things really begin to roll. We picked up our ship, which incidentally is an amphibious craft known as an L.S.M. (Landing Ship Medium (Tanks) at a Chicago shipyard. We remained there for a period of three weeks, outfitting the ship with supplies, equipment, etc. After the commissioning exercises, we started our journey, which was to take us through the States, the Panama Canal, through various South Pacific islands to our present operating base in New Guinea.

After leaving Panama, one could detect a wave of excitement rippling through the crew in anticipation of coming face to face with – not the enemy – but a real South Sea island Hula-Hula girl. But like other things that I had read and heard about these islands, I was doomed for a disappointment. Due to censorship, I cannot disclose the names of the islands we stopped at. But at these islands, of which there were many, we never did see anything that even resembled a Hula-Hula girl, let alone a sarong.

Where were all those Dorothy Lamours? The native women we did see were either too young or too old, too short or too long, too thin or too fat – but never in between. Somehow or another they seemed infatuated by brightly colored things. It was a very common sight to see these native women walking to church on Sunday wearing brightly colored dresses – latest American style creations of 1920 – and shoes (less stockings) the largest possible sizes manufactured, with such prominent colors as canary yellow, ruby red, a bright green or a dazzling orange. The large sizes were necessary due to their enormous feet. After church, we would burst with laughter to see how proudly they displayed their shoes – in their hands.

We kept hopping from island to island, doing various tasks assigned to us. Suddenly, a trip to one island brought us face to face with the grim realization that we were really part of this war, that our enemy was lurking nearby and we were helping to drive him out. We had undergone our first air-raid. For many months, even prior to my entrance into the service, I had given this very thing plenty of thought. What would my reactions be? Would I be afraid? Is it as devastating as I’ve heard it was? Now that it is over, I can truthfully say I was not afraid. Probably more angry than anything else. Angry at the fact that we – the L.S.M. 314 – could not do anything to bring the raiders down. The shore Anti-aircraft guns were keeping them high enough to prevent any serious damage.

After an hour or two of maneuvering, they dropped their bombs harmlessly in the ocean and several points on the island. Net result of the raid – several holes, with nothing hit but Mother Earth. Those raids were repeated every night of our stay there, and so regular in fact that we could almost set our watches by it. We finally moved out and pulled into a port in New Guinea.

Our next assignment came earlier than we expected. At last, the real thing had come along. We were going to participate in an invasion of a group of islands now being held by the Japs. The convoy assembled outside the harbor and prepared to get underway. It was a rather uneventful voyage – with nothing to be seen but a wide expanse of ocean. Four days later our objective was sighted. Timed to perfection, our convoy, supported by bombers and fighter escorts, arrived at the island precisely at H-Hour. The bombers made their run on the beach to wipe out any opposition. Meanwhile, all amphibious craft were standing by awaiting the signal to beach and unload their men and equipment. The beachings were made, opposition was very light, and the island was ours. Another step towards the final capitulation of Japan had been accomplished.

We returned to New Guinea and there awaited further instructions.. During all these months in the South and Southwest Pacific, I’ve had the opportunity to observe as well as to speak to the boys that have participated in such campaigns as Guadalcanal, Kwajelein, Saipan, New Guinea, and the first invasion of the Philippines. They’re a rough and tumble lot; boys that had once been farmhands, grocery clerks, salesmen, factory workers, and now transformed into the world’s greatest group of fighting men. But all this could not be made possible without the splendid co-operation of the home front.

The above mentioned operation we now know was in a way a preparation for a larger major operation. By the time you receive this letter, this operation will be old news. As a matter of fact, you probably know more of what happened than I do. However, I will attempt, to the best of my ability, to give you an eyewitness account of the Invasion of Luzon.

It all started back in one of the many harbors in New Guinea. Our task force was considered the largest ever to participate in an invasion. Our cargo consisted of Army personnel and vehicles. Unaware of what may lie ahead of us, we still left with the satisfaction of knowing, that back in our New Guinea harbor, we had left a Jap plane burning as a result of a morning raid. If that was a sign of what our Anti-aircraft fire was going to do, then the forthcoming campaign points to immense success.

The convoy proceeded rather smoothly. The evenings during our entire trip presented a full and beautiful moon as only the South Pacific can present. As beautiful as it was, it still had some bad aspects. Our convoy was lit up like a Christmas tree – making us an excellent target for enemy aircraft. This prompted us to call “General Quarters” at sunrise and sunset.

Early one morning, one of our escorting destroyers picked up enemy aircraft. The plane was visible by the entire convoy – circling us at will. It remained high enough to make us believe it was only a reconnaissance plane. If he spotted the convoy, which undoubtedly he did, then we can expect some uninvited callers before this trip is over. But we were prepared for all eventualities, and come what may, we’ll be ready.

We were rapidly approaching our objective, and how well we knew it. “General Quarters” became a daily as well as nightly routine. Enemy submarines one time and aircraft the next. All in all, sleep became something we faintly remembered from the past. I shan’t go into detail as to the various raids we experienced, but I can honestly say that a few more Japs had the distinguished honor of joining their honorable ancestors. We had the occasion to listen in on several of the “Radio Tokyo’s” news broadcasts. It provided us with many a hearty laugh. Our convoy was practically “wiped out” according to them. The operation was a huge failure. Of course, being part of the very convoy they mentioned made their reports sound silly. However, there are people back home that are gullible enough to believe all that rot. So think twice before believing their news reports. As a matter of fact, we didn’t lose a ship in the entire operation.

The New Year rolled in quietly and serenely. We had no time for any celebrations, and we continued to carry out our regular ship’s routine. However, it didn’t stop me of thinking of everybody back home. Although belated, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and successful New Year.

S-Day (equivalent to D-Day on the European front)

As dawn drew near, the island of Luzon began to take shape in the dawn’s light. We could see faint silhouettes marking our battleships, cruisers, destroyers, air-craft carriers, and hundreds of auxiliary ships, including landing craft. One hour before H-Hour our heavy ships continued their systematic bombardment of the beach. This has been going on for several days. Fire and smoke belched forth from these mighty guns. Flames and puffs of smoke marked the spots where these deadly missiles had landed. It’s hard to believe that anyone could survive this complete devastation.

Someone asked what time it was. Fifteen minutes to go. The first waves were preparing to hit the beach. Our time was rapidly approaching. We were going to be the first wave of the larger craft. Looking around at the Army boys and the crew showed us tense and earnest faces. Gone was all the hilarity that was so prevalent on the entire trip. They knew what was coming and what their task was. Last minute inspections of vehicles and sidearms were made. A high crescendo of blasts marked the final bombardment of the beach.

H-Hour had come. We kept maneuvering outside the harbor awaiting our signal to come in. The first waves had begun to land. Radio reports were coming in fast and furious. The first ten waves had landed successfully without any opposition. The Naval shelling had done its job well. Suddenly, our signal was given. We started to make our run on the beach. Many thoughts passed through my mind. Have the Japs been waiting for the larger craft? Would we meet the opposition that the previous waves had failed to meet? Would we reach far enough on to the beach to unload our cargo? We were now a thousand yards from the beach. Our bow doors opened like the jaws of some huge monster. The beach slowly loomed ahead – 500 yards….250 yards…100 yards – still no enemy fire. We felt the ship scraping bottom. Our momentum carried us forward. All engines had stopped. Slowly our bow ramp was lowered. The vehicles moved out, and everything went as planned.

From the extreme corner of the beachhead – as if arising out of thin air – we saw hundreds of Filipinos coming out to meet our landing parties. Those that were able, ran. The older ones, amongst whom were mothers carrying tiny infants, managed to walk at a rather lively gait. The scene that took place can hardly be described in this letter. They simply threw themselves at our boys, some shaking their hands, and the more brazen ones hugging and kissing them. Passing through the nearby town, in pursuit of the Japs, our boys were met by women coming out to meet them with wet towels – of all things to wash the grime and dust from their perspiring faces. Fresh eggs – indeed a rare treat out here – were freely given out. They wouldn’t think of having the boys do their own laundry. They protested any signs of refusal. But what can they do against a people so determined to do everything in their power to help us. The men worked endless hours unloading the ships. They were paid for it, but gladly would have done it for nothing.

These were the people we were freeing from Japanese enslavement. It made us thrill to the thought that once again they would be able to carry on a happy and normal life. They are not much different from us in their wants. These are not the barbaric natives we encountered in the wild jungles of New Guinea. Their civilization runs parallel to our own and we are all happy that whatever hardships we encountered thus far had not been in vain.

At the writing of this letter, we are anchored at some port, whose name cannot be disclosed. And so ended another milestone toward the ultimate defeat of Japan. I hope this letter has given you a complete picture of my activities the past several months.

I’ve got to run along now, so until you hear from me again – which will be soon – regards to all.

I remain,
Abe Haskin

(A postscript: The invasion of Luzon was one of the largest amphibious invasions in history. A total of 175,000 men went ashore along a 20-mile beachhead over a period of several days. On Jan. 9, 1945, 70,000 American troops landed on Luzon. One of those who walked ashore to greet the cheering Filipinos was Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Although the opposition on shore was light, the battleship Mississippi and light cruiser Columbia were lost to kamikaze attacks. The largest American Battle Monument Commission Cemetery outside of Arlington, Virginia is on Luzon where over 17,000 Americans are buried)

Thanks, Dad. Every gift I have been granted in life I owe to you. Every path I’ve taken you have been there to guide me. Every word I’ve written has come from you. All I can do to thank you is to preserve your memory and your words in this column.


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56 Responses to “Thank you for Everything, Dad, and Happy Father’s Day”

  1. Since Lil E. Tee says:

    Let’s keep the 3yo train going.

    I see a pretty good separation between Classic Causeway and the rest in the Ohio Derby.

    Classic Causeway
    150 Win
    75 Place

  2. Scott Silver says:

    Mr Haskin,

    Your article brought me to tears. Your Fathers letters to you were amazing. I am so sorry for the pain you must have endured on your Fathers early passing. Your Dad sounds like an amazing person.I really enjoyed your personal story as well. WWII was really the greatest generation. As for your career, really wanted something (Journalist for Horse Racing) and you went out and got it.

    I recently travelled from Florida to California to visit my 87 year old Dad. He just moved from his home for the last 32 years and into an assisted living facility. My Dads health is not good, but I am glad I got to spend some time with him over Fathers Day weekend. Life is short, and you never know what the future holds.

    Again, Thank you for your story.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thank you so much for your wonderful comments Scott and for sharing your precious moments with you father. I’m sure he was so thrilled that you traveled so far to see him. Those are the moments he will remember and cherish the most. I hope he can bounce back and his health improves. That truly was the greatest generation.

  3. Jiffy says:

    I too thought that maybe the column was too long to read, but once I got started, I couldn’t stop reading it. Your father did indeed have a way with words, and I especially liked the story of how you became a turf writer. I’m sure your father is very proud, and I’m glad you chose to share it.

    My father served in the Air Force in the Pacific during World War II. He was stationed on Saipan and was a gunner on a B-29. He never was one to discuss feelings, but he told a lot of stories about his experiences, mostly humorous or unusual ones. I was born a week after the Japanese surrendered. My father’s friends knew that he was expecting a telegram at any time, and they knew the general nature of the message. Two of them happened to be in the office when the telegram came. They read it, even though they weren’t supposed to, and ran into the barracks yelling, “It’s a girl!” Of course, it took a lot of time to get all the servicemen home, and there was a point system to establish priorities. There were points for those who had children, and by coming when I did, I enabled him to get home in two months. That’s when he met me for the first time.

  4. Matthew W says:

    Maybe if Bob had tried to murder an apprentice jockey they’d have only given him 30 days….

  5. Mike Relva says:

    Nice read Mr. Haskin.

  6. Debra says:

    Thank you so much for sharing the very personal and touching story about your father and his letter. Even though you didn’t have him as long as you could have, he sounds like quite a gem and you and your brother were lucky boys. His writing is beautiful and so much like yours.
    His account of the invasion reminds me of a series of WWII books I am just reading by a former high school history teacher, Matthew Rozell- “The Things Our Fathers Saw”. I highly recommend it if you haven’t heard of it.
    Again, I am so thankful you decided to share this on Father’s Day- a wonderful tribute to a cherished dad. I am sure you will meet again.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thank you so much, Debra. That sounds like a great book and I will look for it. I do hope we will meet again so I can thank him personally.

  7. Bigtex says:

    Steve, what a wonderful read with such vulnerability on your part, incredibly endearing, and a touching tribute to your Father. I love history, in fact, reading about Alexander Hamilton as we type. Your Father’s share of his experience in the Pacific is so rich with his writing style, you being the beneficiary, but ours, collectively, who love history. So incredible! Thank you for being so generous in so many ways with your article. With dad’s encouragement and insight into his son, the Hall of Fame was in inevitable for you and so deserving! Incredibly, we all are the beneficiaries, and continue to be, thanks to your continued contributions to the sport, and now, your autobiography. I did not enjoy the presence of my dad growing up but over the years he became a changed man, one which I came to love and respect. I was there with him for his last breath and was able to stroke his hair tenderly and tell him I loved him and thanked him for coming from the clouds to finish his race a champion!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thank you SO much, Tex. Your words man a great deal to me. Speaking of Hamilton we belong to the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society and this was well be for the play, which was outstanding. We have been to many of the Hamilton events in NYC. We used to go with our friends every year, I am so glad that you were able to be close to your father later on and was with him at the end. Thank you again for the kind words.

  8. Lynda King says:

    Steve, I cannot recall when I have enjoyed reading comments as much as those made on this post. So again thank you for sharing your Dad’s letter and telling us about your Dad and how he encouraged you to follow your dreams!

    Our fathers and mothers, cousins; uncles and aunts who served in World War ll were indeed from “the Greatest Generation” and one that we will never see in our lifetime again and probably never again in the history of our country.

    I would like to encourage all of you to visit the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia or take a virtual tour of the Memorial on the web-site.

    There is also a book titled “The Bedford Boys”. “Thirty-four Virginia National Guard soldiers from the town of Bedford were part of D-Day. Nineteen of them were killed during the first day of the invasion, and four more died during the rest of the Normandy campaign. The town and the “Bedford Boys” had proportionately suffered the greatest losses of any American town during the campaign, thus inspiring the United States Congress to establish the D-Day memorial in Bedford.”

    (My hometown and that of my Dad’s is Bedford.)

    • Deacon says:

      Lynda: WWII was very hard on everyone of that generation. Families suffered immensely! I had forgotten about Bedford, Virginia , thank you for reminding me.
      Happy Summer Solstice day.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thank you for sharing that Lynda. On our honeymoon Joan and I spent a week in Paris and then took a train down to Toulouse where we rented a car and I drove over 1,000 miles, ending up in Normandy and the D-Day beaches. What an amazing experience. Joan and I both kept diaries. That part of the trip was so emotional. I have special photo of Joan on a cloudy windswept day standing all by herself on Omaha Beach. What visions pass through your head of what transpired there.

    • Ms Blacktype says:

      Lynda: I so agree about the comments everyone has made on this post. The big WWII is 75 years in the mirror, but there are still precious memories out there to share. You have posted some AMAZING stuff recently yourself, especially on really obscure horse pedigrees — keep it up! Love reading it.

  9. bruce says:

    Hi Steve,

    Thank you for posting this again, it’s a great tribute to your father! And should remind all of us how precious time with our parents is! Time goes by so very fast, and before we know it they’re gone.

    Your dad would have been very proud!


  10. David Cade says:

    Steve – As a long-time fan of yours, I was aware of your inspiring personal history, which you shared with the readers from time to time. But until this moving post, I was unaware of the seminal, behind-the-scenes role of your dad in guiding you to your present status as a master chronicler of thoroughbred racing. But of equal or greater importance is his own chronicling of events in the Pacific Theater in WWII, from island hopping to get ever closer to the Japanese homeland, to the invasion of the Philippines. These important stories of and by the “greatest generation” must not be forgotten, as time dims memories, and young people have limited awareness of their tremendous sacrifices and achievements – which rescued the world from brutal totalitarian dictators in two theaters of war. So it is very fitting that you told your dad’s story in your post!

    I am quite a bit older than you, as my dad fought in WWI. However, I had two first cousins who fought in WWII, one of whom lost his life as an infantry lieutenant in the 3rd Armored Division ten miles from the German border in September 1944. This event was one of the drivers in my becoming a WWII historian, and I have written a lengthy monograph on the war and its key allied players, several chapters of which have been published in magazines. As my monograph states: “World War II was the most cataclysmic event in all of human history, in which 70-78 million people – civilian (67%) and military (33%) – lost their lives.” This is why your dad’s narrative is so important.

    You will appreciate the role of my other first cousin, who was a lover of horses. His grave marker includes this inscription: “Served under General Patton”. I only recently discovered that as a Private First Class in Patton’s Third Army, he was involved in taking care of the general’s personal horses, which he always had with him throughout the war, as Patton was a master horseman from way back. After the war in Europe ended in May, 1945, my cousin was transferred to the Pacific Ocean theater, remaining there until the war ended in September 1945. But before my cousin left Europe, Patton gave him a signed photo of himself, holding a riding crop and with a personal inscription.

    As you may be aware, many Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine units keep track of their WWII histories, and your dad’s letter certainly would be very important in that regard – if you haven’t already made such a contact. Best, Dave

    • Lynda King says:

      David, I am guessing that you know that it Was Patton’s Third Army that rescued the Lipizzans? They also brought out Arabian mares and stallions that had been kidnapped from the Polish National Stud by the Nazis. There is a really good book about the rescues titled “The Perfect Horse”.
      Since your cousin was caretaker for General Patton’s horses he might very well have been involved in the missions?

      • David Cade says:

        Lynda – Yes, very familiar with Patton’s amazing rescue of the Lippizaners, which date back some 1200 years as you probably know. Patton orchestrated that rescue effort with the same precision, speed and boldness as he did in rescuing the beleaguered 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge. By the time the rescue mission was actually carried out (May 1945), the war ion Europe was over. Unfortunately, I am not sure precisely when my cousin was transferred to the Pacific, so I don’t know if he was involved in the rescue effort, and there is no one left on his side of the family to consult. Thanks for commenting. Dave

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Wow Dave I dont know where to begin. What amazing stories you have to cherish and write about.And what legacies. I would love to read some of your writings. Hard to believe your dad fought in WW1. And thank you for the kind words,

      • David Cade says:

        Steve – Thanks. Assuming your email address remains unchanged, I will forward my monograph to you. As a historian yourself, I know you will find it interesting. Best, Dave

  11. Amy Hurley says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Steve. I think you underestimate the number of people who are interested in your backstory. (You do such a good job with horses and their connections, so it’s understandable that your own story would prove equally interesting.) You are blessed to have such loving relationships with your father, wife, daughter, grandchildren, etc. And you don’t take it for granted. How beautiful.

  12. Eileen T McAllister says:

    This is so wonderful! Thanks for sharing. you were indeed a lucky man to have such a wonderful dad and I’m sure you passed this on to your daughter and grandchildren. I love my dad and as he is nearing the end of his life with Louie body dementia I can honestly say he did his best but unfortunately so many traumas in his life left him unbalanced and narcissistic…i have a wonderful mother and my dad did his best, providing us with a good education and all the physical amenities. We went on nice vacations, had nice homes, nice clothes, good schools…my mom taught us to love him but he was very difficult to manage and could be very mercurial occasionally punching walls and breaking doors. It was scary. He also grew up in Brooklyn going to see the Dodgers and his grandfather was the creator of Steeplechase Park on coney island. Did you ever hear of the steeplechase Park, the funny place….there was a ride there called the steeplechase ride…it was a mile long race track around the park…had wooden horses racing and two people tied on their backs…i guess my grandfather liked racing….i guess that it where igot my love for it…i never saw it…my dad worked there when he was young on the parachute ride, which tower i believe still stands today. On fathers day i always remember my dad did his best…glad you had a great dad and i loved reading his letter…all the best…love your stories!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thank you so much for sharing all those memories of your dad, and also your mom. That is wild about Steeplelchase Park and your father’s grandfather. I went there several times with my friends and my mother forbid me to go on the horse ride. It looked pretty dangerous and you sure didnt want to fall off. But Steeplechase was so much fun with so many quirky things like the crazy mirror and the wind machine. There was one ride where you had one person lay on top of another person and it spun around at wild speeds, and I was under my buddy and wound up peeing on him. It was amazing place with that creepy looking clown face as the symbol.

    • Deacon says:

      What a great story, loved it!!

  13. Rachel fan says:


    I remember your column on Bloodhorse about your father and this one is equally moving and rich in its detail. What a great dad he was to you and your brother, and you’ve done him a great honor by sharing your remembrances with all of us your readers. I’m sure he would be proud beyond words to see what you’ve accomplished and how many lives you’ve touched with your own beautiful gift of writing and your love of these magnificent animals. We lost my dad when he was just past 50 years old. He also served in the US Armed forces, from the end of WWII through the wars in Korea and Vietnam. Like so many, he never spoke about his experiences in the military, but he served well and faithfully. I’m sorry he lived only long enough to meet his first two grandchildren. Like your father, he would have adored the 11 that followed and the 14 great grandchildren. My siblings and I do our best to honor his memory by taking care of the next generations and telling them his and my mom’s story. She is still with us and we celebrated her 100th birthday earlier this year. Happy Father’s Day to you!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Wow, what a family you have. That is a real blessing and at least he got to see two of them. Thank you so much for the kind and beautiful words. I really appreciate it..

  14. Since Lil E. Tee says:

    Thanks for sharing Steve. My favorite read of yours this year. All the best.

  15. Derek Manthey says:

    What a compelling read Steve, You Dad and his generation were and are the greatest generation and we should aspire to equal it. Fortunately my Dad was to young for all that. He did give my love for racing on the 1st Saturday in May 1964 by walking out the front door and yelling to come inside breaking up our sandlot baseball game. I thought I was in trouble but he made me sit down and watch the Derby. As an 8 year old at the time when they came out of gate awoke a passion in my life. That day Derby Derek was born. Thanks Dad ! we were losing the game anyway.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thank you Derek, Our fathers’ gifts come in many different packages. He sure gave you one and also saved you from losing the ballgame.

      • Spaldeen says:

        “Our fathers’ gifts come in many different packages”
        On top of the beautiful piece up top, a nice little bonus gem right there, Steve.
        Thank you…

  16. Deacon says:

    Happy Father’s Day Steve as I am a little late reading this. What a fantastic & heart felt story. I learned so much about you & your father. My dad served in WWII as well but in Europe. He was a 1st Lt. who fought alongside his platoon at the Battle of the Bulge. As most fathers he seldom talked about the war but his 3 sons knew or at least could feel what he went through.
    Before being drafted in the army he liked to go to Santa Anita. A couple of his friends talked him into going. He saw Seabiscuit win the Big Cap & totally fell in love in love with the sport. He & my mom divorced when I was 9, he was a hard man most of his life. He was hard on us but fair & the best times we had is when he took me to the race track. I got hooked, it was a nice distraction for me. As you know know the first race I ever saw was Swaps winning the Santa Anita Derby. My first love of a horse was Hillsdale, then Round Table, Sliver Spoon & Terry’s Secret if you remember him. I remember the first time & only time my dad said he loved me was a few days before his death at age 93.
    Your story stirred many forgotten memories in me so I want to thank you so very much for writing this piece.
    I usually don’t well up but your story brought it out.

    Many blessings to you and your lovely wife & daughter. May the rest of 2022 bless you immeasurably.

    Thank you so very much……..

    • Steve Haskin says:

      That was wonderful, Deacon. Thank you so much and for sharing those amazing memories of your father and tales of racing back in the day. Your father, like so many WWII veterans, suppressed their feelings and recollections on the war. My father never talked about it. I only have this letter.

  17. Kenny says:

    Unable to put it down until I read it all. Brought back many memories. Well done sir.

  18. Ms Blacktype says:

    Steve: I meant to read your entire piece as a prelude to wishing you a happy Father’s Day, but there are so many indelible images (starting with the red paint on the Frank Robinson home run ball caught by your father) I was quickly drawn in and I read for pure pleasure. Your mother was right — never sell yourself short!

    My dad was also stationed in New Guinea, luckily for him as an airplane mechanic. He actually got to fly out of the area to a speedy return home, but not before having to persuade a rather arrogant captain that a plane with no landing gear wasn’t fit to be flown. He, a mere corporal, grounded the plane over the objections of the captain, who grudgingly allowed the plane to be repaired before taking off. I only know that story because of a college assignment where we were tasked to interview our parents about their experiences during the war (parents are really tough interviews!). He, like so many in his generation, never talked much about WWII. He passed away nearly 20 years ago, but all the best parts of my memory of him live on in me. I only wish I could whistle like he did!

    Happy father’s day to you!

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thank you very much. Heroes come in all forms and he left you with wonderful memories. Thats all you can ask for

  19. diane kwolek says:

    Thank you Steve for sharing this with us. I can easily see where you get your writing talent from – your Dad could really pen a story and yes I read it all. I was very moved by your words about your fathers death” me, my mother and my younger brother – was never the same, especially my mother, who lived into her 90’s .” My father died when I was 9 years old (60years ago) and it was devastating for our little family, my older brother and my mother who also lived into her 90’s and never re-married. So, I can certainly relate to your grief and that “life was never the same.” Your Dad left you with a wonderful legacy of memories, shared joyful experiences of being together and true belief in you and your abilities. What a gift from your father which I know you treasure – Thank you again for sharing your Dad with us and as always keep writing – I so enjoy your column.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thank you very much, Diane. I do treasure every moment I had with him. I’m sorry you lost your father at such an early age

      • diane kwolek says:

        Thank you Steve for your kind sentiment, while I have few personal memories of my Dad, I do have memories of others, friends, family, students, scrapbooks and newspapers. Dad was not much of a student when young but he sure could play sports, so in his senior year of high school a major league baseball club paid to put him into a private prep school to raise his grades and later 4 years at Manhattan College, not a usual occurrence in the 1930’s. He played minor league ball until World War ll started then enlisted in the air force as a lieutenant. After the war he went into teaching and was I believe at the time of his death superintendent of athletics at a New Jersey high school. Of all the stories and memories I have heard the most poignant is when I have run into some of his former students, they all are so grateful to my Dad for” straightening them out ” as they say and all express that he ” changed my life “. That’s a wonderful legacy and I’m so proud of him – Just recently I learned that he supported us during the summer months one year when school was out by going to Monmouth race track and playing the ponies.. guess he was a decent handicapper cause the bills got paid and we ate.

  20. TommyMc says:

    Thanks for sharing your father’s letter. He was a very good writer. It obviously runs in your family. That letter gives us all a glimpse into what it took to win that war. It was fascinating to read. It’s a real shame that you lost him so early at only 56 years old. Happy Father’s Day.

  21. Sheila says:

    Interesting that even then your dad cautioned against “fake news”. being the daughter of a navy man who served in The northern Pacific I read every word. How proud you must be as well and aren’t we lucky in life to have fathers that believed so strongly in us. Happy Fathers Day to you and know your dad is up there beaming with pride and telling anybody who’ll listen, “yep! That’s my boy!”

  22. Lynda King says:

    Thank you Steve for posting your Dad’s letter. I have read it twice and both times I was moved to tears. (I had read it before but that was before I learned details about my Dad’s military service)

    Please bear with me as I tell this story and why your Dad’s letter was so moving to me this time.

    Sometime between 1987, the year my Dad passed away and 2015 when my Mom passed away, my Dad’s separation papers from the US Army disappeared. As a result I knew very little about his service during World War ll other than what little he told me when I was growing up. Like so many from that generation, he rarely spoke about his war experience. Repeated efforts to find a copy of my Dad’s discharge papers were totally futile. There had been a fire at the Army Records depot in 1973 and over 80 million records, including my Dad’s were lost.

    Among my Mother’s things I did find my Dad’s uniform insignia (patches, badges) that had been carefully wrapped and placed in one of her fire/water proof security boxes. I was able to recreate most of my Dad’s military service record from the patches as a result. My Dad was in the 6th Army that was garrisoned at Fort Sam Houston in Texas; nickname “Alamo Force” and in the Amphibious Division that saw a lot of action in the Philippines, New Guinea, Leyte and Luzon. The battle casualties for the 6th Army, alone, totaled 37,854 of which 8,140 were killed in action. My Dad was also in The Battle of Okinawa, fought on the island of Okinawa in the Ryukyu Islands (south of the four big islands of Japan) was the largest amphibious assault during the Pacific campaign of World War II. (In which over 60,000 troops were involved in the landing). American losses were were over 72,000 casualties, of whom 12,000 were killed or missing.

    It is possible that my Dad was on the same Navy ship as your Dad and possible as well that he was on the same landing craft in Luzon. It is possible too that your Dad’s ship was also involved in the Battle of Okinawa.

    Sadly the war against Japan and the battles fought by the American forces and the lost ships on these Pacific Islands has been pushed to the back burner. “About a quarter of the civilian, and Japanese and American populations about the island in spring 1945 were killed. There were about 100,000 Japanese killed or captured; many preferred suicide to the disgrace of capture.
    The battle of Okinawa (and for that matter the Battle of Luzon) have landed in a strange black hole, as far as the United States in concerned. The war was over (or nearly over at the outset) in Europe; the end in Japan was in sight, and American’s were returning to peacetime pursuits; president Franklin Delano Roosevelt died on April 12, the end of an era. The horrific carnage often draws blank stares from Americans.”

    Your Dad’s letter, an eyewitness account, of what happened on Luzon, so descriptively written, allowed me to see what my Dad saw, felt and experienced that day. This line, “They’re a rough and tumble lot; boys that had once been farmhands, grocery clerks, salesmen, factory workers, and now transformed into the world’s greatest group of fighting men.” brought me to tears.

    You have the same gift, Steve and I know you cherish the memory of your Dad just as I cherish the memories of my Dad.

    Happy Heavenly Father’s Day to Abe Haskin and to my Dad.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      That was wonderful, Lynda. Thank you so much for sharing. Wouldnt that be something if they were on the same ship. The Battle of Okinawa was a horrible mud hole with so many casualties. And the ships had to contend with the Kamikazes. I’m so glad you could relate to my father’s letter. You are a terrific writer in your own right. I will never forget the beautiful words you wrote in 2015 when I left the Blood-Horse. They really moved me…also my wife. I still have it, and it actually showed up on my Facebook memories the other day.. Thanks again for sharing that about your father and all the statistics regarding those battles

  23. Kathryn says:

    I loved your story about your father and his letter from WW II. You certainly did inherit your father’s style and lucky for us that you did. After my parents died I found a box full of letters saved by my Grandma, there are 349 of them that my Dad had written to his parents during his time in the Navy in WW II. It was a fascinating glimpse into his young life and to his relationship with his parents. He was an only child having had an older sibling who died at 18 months and he’d promised his mother he would write every day he was gone… didn’t quite accomplish that goal but he made a mighty effort.

    Your father’s letter is priceless.

    • Steve Haskin says:

      Thanks so much, Kathryn. Wow that is a lot of letters. They must be amazing to read after all this time. There are so many letters that chronicle the war from a personal standpoint and are confined to family. That is why I felt it was important that my father’s letter is read by as many people as possible.

  24. James D. Nelson says:

    Thanks for reprinting this article. Happy Father’s Day and hats-off to our dads who encouraged us and cheered us on.