Happy Father's Day, Dad

I’ll never forget the night my father walked into my bedroom and asked me a question that would change my life forever. I had left Wall Street and had been out of work for nine months. My mother no longer was speaking to me, and my father finally came in and asked me point blank what I wanted to do with my life.

“What are you interested in; what are you passionate about?” he asked. I told him I couldn’t go back to Wall Street and my only interest and passion was horse racing. “Then, try to get a job in horse racing,” he said.

It had never dawned on me that racing could actually be a profession and not just a passionate hobby. To make a long story very short, I was hired as a copy boy at the Morning Telegraph, which I bought every day, moved into the library as head librarian, and eventually began writing freelance. The rest, as they say, is history.

Two years after being hired by the Telegraph my father passed away suddenly. Considering how proud he was of me being a librarian, always bringing in the terrible horse photos I took to show his co-workers, I can only imagine how proud he would have been over all these years.

I have been waiting many years to print what follows, as I find it to be one of the most compelling pieces of writing I have ever read. It doesn’t matter that is has nothing to do with racing, and it doesn’t matter if not a single person other than family and friends reads it. To me, it is something that needs to be in print, even in a relatively obscure column such as this.

I have typed the following from the original, written in green ink. It is a letter written by my father to his boss from the South Pacific in the closing days of World War II, just days following the historic invasion of Luzon in the Philippines. I was inspired to type out and print this letter by the WWII veterans from the Normandy invasion I met who came to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby at the invitation of Rick Porter, owner of the horse Normandy Invasion. It was one of the most moving experiences I’ve had in a while, and I decided then it was time for my father’s remarkable letter to be printed. After all these years I still feel like I was there.

It is a tribute to him and what he meant to me, and as I mentioned earlier, even if it is only read by my family and friends it will always be preserved, as a piece of me and of history.

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, for everything.


Leave a Comment:



13 Jun 2013 7:23 PM

Great column, Steve, and moving letter from you father! Thanks for sharing that with us. I JUST located a letter from MY father, recently, tucked away in a box in my garage, which had been unopened since 1945. In it, he shared his experiences of the four months prior to liberation from a POW camp in Germany after 1-1/2 years imprisonment, after his B-17 was shot down. So I can relate to you having such a treasure to hand down in your family, and share with others! We can only give posthumous thanks to them, unfortunately. Thanks for writing the letter home, Dad, and to Grandma for saving it!

13 Jun 2013 7:43 PM

A wonderful piece of writing and a first-hand glimpse into an historic moment - clearly talent runs in your family, Steve - thank you for sharing your father's work with us. I'm grateful to have read your father's insightful and powerful words, and I'm especially grateful for the insightful and powerful words he used to encourage you to follow your passion, which produced a wonderful career and some great writing. Happy Father's Day to you, to your father in spirit, and to my own father, also in spirit, as well as all the others who may read your blog!

13 Jun 2013 7:46 PM
michael old friend

Steve, My father was in the South Pacific as well. This is a great tribute to your father. And I thought your writing talents were learned. Obviously, the apple didn't fall far from the tree. Thanks for sharing this deeply personal moment with your friends.

13 Jun 2013 8:05 PM

Steve - Nice tribute to your dad. I'm sure he's looking down and very proud of you. Nice pick in the Belmont! I fortunately was also a Palice Malice believer and had win tickets on Palice Malice as well as exacta tickets with Oxbow and also hit the trifecta. It was by far the best day that I have ever had in horse race betting. If it wasn't for my dad going to the track with me when I was about 10 to Thistledown, and continuing on to 1999 when I was in my 30's, the year he passed away, I wouldn't have been introduced to the sport which I love. I bet on the Breeders cup in 2011 at Thistledown with my Mom and won over $200 on the day. Sadly, my Mom passed away 2 wks. later. I have a wife and 2 beautiful girls to spend my life with, however I will always love and miss my parents. Happy Fathers Day Dad! I'm sure you are with mom looking down and proud of me. I have been a letter carrier for the USPS for over 25 years and my Dad always encouraged me to stick with the job and not quit. His advise was good, as now I am looking forward one day to retirement. My big win on the Belmont came 2 days after my mom would have turned 80 years old. My parents have always been very special to me and I hope to carry on that tradition to my 2 beautiful daughters.

13 Jun 2013 8:45 PM
El Kabong


I don't know how to thank you for sharing this. This is a treasure. I will say this Steve, your father had the talent for writing with great balance of pertinence and true emotion. It's a blend that tells not only the story, but the humanity behind the events. The apple didn't fall far from the tree.

13 Jun 2013 9:36 PM

Brought me to tears, Steve.  My dad fought in the Italian theatre during WWII.  Those men (and women) who served, and those who continue to serve now, are truly heroes in my book.  Thank you for sharing a part of your dad with us, especially right before Father's Day.

13 Jun 2013 9:44 PM
Donut Jimmy

Thank you Steve. Thank you Abe Haskin. Thank you everyone who had a part - large or small - in this mission.


13 Jun 2013 9:51 PM
El Kabong


I had to read it again, and that opening line is a barbed hook. I love a line that alludes to great adventure over which the bard has no control. My duffle bag was packed after that sentence. How old was your dad when he wrote this?

This letter reaches out on so many levels I can't tell you. My dad was on Destroyer in WWII but was too young to understand. He related stories but none like this and he hadn't met Mom.

I grew up and live in a part of Seattle that has the largest Filipino community probably in the US. Your father's pride in helping those people restore their communities is priceless. I have heard their stories too. Yet I have many Japanese American friends who have shared their experience here in the States to know that war is a time of tragedy abroad and at home for some.

Again, thanks for sharing this tribute to your Father.

13 Jun 2013 9:58 PM
Sandy in Lexington

Absolutely beautiful, Steve! What a soulful approach to honor your Father and to relay his influence on your fantastic career path, which brings such joy to not only you, but to your readers as well! AWESOME! Thank you for sharing!

13 Jun 2013 10:05 PM
Needler in Virginia

Steve, for we children of the Greatest Generation the tears are coming thick and fast. To hear your father speaking to you this way is a gift many of us don't have, so if it's OK I'd like to print this out as a reminder of how casually he describes air raids,  beach landings and the liberation of a nation. This is either incomprehensible bravery or a youth's inability to see his mortality, or maybe it's both. I'm reminded of how Michener described his unending tour in the Pacific......hope I get this right....... weeks and months of boredom interrupted sporadically by 30 seconds of sheer terror. Between your father's "newsy" letter and Michener maybe we can get a tiny feel for what our parents lived though.

Thanks so very much, Steve, for sharing this letter and HAPPY FATHER'S DAY TO YOU!

Many cheers and many safe trips.

13 Jun 2013 10:18 PM

Thank you for the memories you have shared with the rest of us. I shall keep this in my heart, again Thank You for letting us read this.

13 Jun 2013 10:20 PM
Mike Relva


13 Jun 2013 10:31 PM

The apple does not fall far from the tree.  I see where you get your incredible talent!! Lovely tribute to your Dad.  He is looking down on you and so darn proud.  Happy Fathers Day to you.

13 Jun 2013 11:13 PM

Thanks for sharing.I hope you know your dad would be very proud of you.

I know we ,your readers, are.


14 Jun 2013 12:08 AM

Thankyou for sharing this letter as your fathers day tribute. It was a great read and brought back memories of my dad who wrote many letters ,a couple of them were just given to me and it was a glimpse back in time.Hooray for our dads getting us into this crazy,wonderful business! Im so glad that our veterans are starting to receive the thanks and care they deserve.Keep up the great work!<:

14 Jun 2013 12:35 AM

What a great way to remember your father...obviously a great man who bequeathed you his gift of writing a most enjoyable passage.

I really enjoyed the fact that he referenced General Quarters, unwittingly giving his letter horse racing relevance 84 years before the thoroughbred General Quarters would win the Blue Grass Stakes.

Steve, the letter, as is your blog, is so very relevant to who and what you are...a big part of thoroughbred racing history.

Thank you for sharing.

14 Jun 2013 1:28 AM

WOW Steve you really got me on this one.

I am no where the word smith you are but the tears must of at least came up a little when you wrote this.

I am prior military, my Father was as well as his brother was who I am named after who died in the Korean War.

I am a Father now started late in life my son was born when I was 38 it opened my eyes to so many things.

I am honored and proud to say today that it helped me appreciate my Father that much more.

Sitting one night on the patio having a Scotch and a Cigar I looked at my Father and said "Dad I want you to know I am the man that I am today because of you."

God Bless us All.


Great Pick Steve on the Belmont. I hope one day our paths cross I have the first round.

14 Jun 2013 8:36 AM
Steve Haskin

Thank you everyone for your heartfelt comments. I really appreciate it. This was a cathartic experience for me and something I've wanted to do for a long time. Needler, you may certainly print it out. Thank you all again.

14 Jun 2013 10:04 AM
Lexington Bloodstock

Beautiful and touching.  What did your father do for a living?  He sure could write.

14 Jun 2013 10:14 AM
Donna M

Great letter Steve and I can see where you got your writing talent from, your Dad was a gifted writer!  My Dad also is a WW2 vet, Okinawa and has written about his war experiences and I also treasure them.  What a great man to lead you into your passion, thank God for that or the horse racing industry would be pretty boring without such a gifted writer as yourself.  Thanks Steve!  and Thanks Abe!   God bless-   Donna Melendez-  Illinois  ( PS  I live near the Great Lakes Naval station where your Dad was stationed for those 3 weeks)  

14 Jun 2013 10:17 AM
Abigail Anderson


Like others who have left comments above, my father also fought in the Pacific. He was a British Royal Marine, Intelligence division. Even though he was a Canadian, a childhood illness had made the Canadian army refuse him, so he boarded a ship and went to England and became a Royal Marine. He fought mostly in what was then Ceylon and it changed the country boy with the kind heart forever.

As children, we loved to run our hands over the huge bumps on the back of his neck, not realizing that these were scars left by bamboo poison darks that might have killed him 5 times (or more). But he came home as a soldier who had fought in guerrilla warfare, before it had a name. He also survived malaria -- or so we thought. But malaria never leaves the body and he developed heart disease in his late 40's and was dead at 65.

I, too, have one of his letters from the war and I guess I'll sit down and reread it come Father's Day. Unlike your dad, mine was a man I never really knew. But that doesn't stop me from feeling like an orphan every Father's Day. Now, you have given me a way to re-connect and I am so grateful.

Thank you, Steve, for sharing your Dad's later and your story of how he so gently set you on the road that brought you to all of us. The letter sure tells me that you're Abe's son because it is so beautifully woven.

14 Jun 2013 10:19 AM
Love 'em all

What a perfect read to celebrate today, Flag Day, and I do thank you for sharing your father's spendidly written 'war letter' with us on this special day.  You have every reason to be very proud of your father, as he would be of you, and there's no second guessing where you got your writing talent, Mr. Haskin.    

January 1945, the biggest fear I can remember having at that time, as a four-year-old, was the sudden sighting of a blimp rising above the treetops.  My coastal area had a blimp base, so the sighting of a blimp was far more frequent than I would've liked.  In those days, it was hard to convince me that blimp was for my safety ... and the safety of my country.  And, there was no 'Snoopy' in those days either!  

My father was too young for WW1 and too old for WW2, but he did his 'service' by putting his profession on hold.  Was hired to be in charge of the engineering department of a large company building Liberty Ships in our area.  He was proud of what he and the many dedicated workers accomplished during that time of need.  To this day, the key to a proud nation ... is proud people.

Happy Flag Day, folks ... and Happy Father's Day to all the fellas this Sunday.  

14 Jun 2013 10:36 AM
Age of Reason


This article is simply, wonderfully and totally sublime. I will definitely be sharing this with all the Dads and future Dads in my life and family. Thank you, thank you!

14 Jun 2013 10:37 AM
Steve Haskin

Lexington Bloodstock, my father was an engineer for Detecto Scales, and the only writing of his I've read other than this letter was what he wrote in my graduation book from grammar school.

14 Jun 2013 10:39 AM
Bill Rinker

Steve, Thank You so much for sharing this personal letter, it was a honor to read. Many thanks to your father and all the service men for their commitment to our country and the sacrifice they made. In the comfort of our daily life it is hard to comprehend the vast extremities of war. The true significance of these historical events begin to take shape through the letters and diaries of men like your father. I am sure you are very proud of your Dad, and I can tell by reading this, that the apple didn't fall far from the tree, seems like talented writing is a gentic gift.

14 Jun 2013 11:27 AM

Made me cry.  Thank you so much for sharing your father's words with us.  What a wonderful tribute to one of our National heroes - your dad.  I'm virtually speechless at the moment and can only say again - thank you.  I hardly ever post comments on this blog any more because for some reason this site fights with my computer, but I just had to let you know how beautiful this is.  Thanks!


14 Jun 2013 11:39 AM
Pedigree Ann

My dad served in the South Pacific. He joined the Navy out of high school in 1935, at 17. A couple years later, he was appointed 'from The Fleet' to the Naval Academy. He was in the class of '42, which graduated in December 1941.

A the ship he had been assigned to was resting on the bottom of Pearl Harbor, he went to MIT for several months to learn about this new-fangled detection system called radar. He joined the aircraft carrier USS Hornet in May, too late to be part of Dolittle's raid, but just in time to see action at Midway.

Dad used to say he was sunk off of 3 ships, although the Hornet was actually scuttled at Santa Cruz after it was damaged beyond repair. Between ships, he served on Admiral Ainsworth's staff in Noumea; once he was sent on an errand to work on the radar of a ship whose name I am unclear on. He was only there a day or so before it was sunk. Dad finished the war on the USS St. Paul, on which he then visited the Chinese ports of Tsingtao and Shanghai. Like the Filipinos, the Chinese was so glad to see the conquerors of their oppressors. Dad brought home many things from China, particularly Chinese fabric goods that they had hidden from the Japanese and sold to the Americans at give-away prices. Including two lengths of white silk, one plain satin, one brocade, from which my wedding gown was made in 1983. My parents had no children in '45, but Dad had foresight.

Dad never talked much about his experiences in the Pacific, never joined the VFW or American Legion. I only know what I know because of a school assignment to write a biography of one's father.

I lost Dad 2 1/2 years ago; he was 92, still pretty fit; but he had ignored some skin cancer on his back for years while he cared for my declining mom and it went septic. Very possibly he got the sun exposure that caused that cancer in the South Pacific; a war wound that finally brought him down.

14 Jun 2013 11:44 AM
Steve Haskin

I really appreciate all the comments, thank you. Anne, that is an amazing story and so was your father. Thanks so much for sharing that.

14 Jun 2013 12:08 PM

What a great piece, Steve. My uncle was in that invasion of Luzon, and my father fought in Korea. I have all the letters my Dad wrote home to my grandmother while he was over there. Father's day will be a fine occasion to pull them out and re-read them. Thanks for the idea.

14 Jun 2013 1:17 PM

Thanks for sharing.  A true slice of history from someone who actually was  "over there." We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our brave WWII fighters.  The Greatest Generation indeed!

14 Jun 2013 1:29 PM

Add my name to the list who have thanked you for this wonderful story.  The writing gene was certainly passed on to you.  You both write so vividly that it is like you are there.  I also caught the General Quarters connection.  Have a very Happy Fathers Day, Steve.

14 Jun 2013 1:29 PM
Old Old Cat

thanks steve

14 Jun 2013 4:57 PM

Wow, Steve what a moving tribute to your father.  I have chills from reading it and am speechless.  This is an amazing firsthand account of the Invasion of Luzon from a true warrior.  I certainly see where you get your writing talent from, he was equally as eloquent.  

I am sure the experience with Mr. Porter and his veteran group at the Derby was an amazing experience too.  

I know I can speak for all of us when I say that we are ever so grateful that that one fateful night Mr. Abe Haskin walked into your bedroom and practically singlehanded changed the world of thoroughbred turf writing in one sitting.  He must have been an amazing man, as you are.

Happy Father's Day to all our beloved departed dads and to those who are still with us.

Just a side note to Paynter!  Paynter wins by about 5 lengths today at Hollywood Park.  Did we ever imagine this day?  This is better than the Belmont.  I love what Mr. Zayat said about the race, "this is a celebration of life."  God Bless Paynter.  Paynter has the Power and so does Steve!!!!!!!!!!!!

14 Jun 2013 8:13 PM

No words to describe the pride that you instill in U.S., Steve. My history classes will be reading this next year. I am honored to have met you this year, not because you or Lenny are celebs - because you are my fellow American race aficianados, and you guys are real. We will have two more days in 2014 to visit! I can't wait. By the way, hope you picked up another Starlight jacket, because nobody ever turned it in. Happy Father's Day to you, my friend. Regards to Lenny and Stable Boy... BC Joel

14 Jun 2013 8:37 PM

Steve, your father's letter reminded me of the narration in "The Thin Red Line." Like yourself, your father remarks on the interconnectedness of disparate societies / groups rather than concentrating on what separates societies. Very moving.

14 Jun 2013 10:48 PM
George Rowand

Steve, It's a beautiful piece of writing -- which we've come to expect from the Haskin clan. Happy Father's Day to you.

15 Jun 2013 10:56 AM
Jennifer in Columbia

What a remarkable tribute to a remarkable man. Like you, your father is an exceptionally eloquent writer. Thank you for sharing this amazing bit of history.

15 Jun 2013 11:54 AM
Mary Zinke

Thank you for preserving and sharing this first-hand history.  I'll echo all of the other wonderfuls and remarkables, beautiful way of writing, too.

15 Jun 2013 3:18 PM

Oh wow, Steve.....

I really can't add to all the wonderful responses already made.

My dad was a career Army officer who served in North Africa briefly, then Italy... and then later in the Korean War. After my mother passed away in 2001, my brothers and I found a box of his letters to her and they were all very moving. I think men of their generation (my Pop would have been 100 this past January) had core values that have been so often forgotten or ignored in this day and age.

In honoring your dad [and on Flag Day to boot] you've honored fathers everywhere, those veterans who gave up so much so we could have all that we so take for granted now... bless you and bless your dad and all the dads here and gone...

15 Jun 2013 3:41 PM
Steve Haskin

Again, all your comments are so wonderful and moving. I am so touched by them all. Thank you all so much and for sharing all your personal stories.

15 Jun 2013 4:50 PM
Linda in Texas

longtimeracingfan - your dad was 2 months older than my dad an Army Doc in The Medical Corps, jungles, Okinawa. Came home in 1945 and opened his private practice. Never spoke about his life in the Army except that he blamed the MRE's on his smoking habit for providing Lucky Strikes in them. Emphysema then cancer took him in 77' when he was 63. He called them coffin nails.

Steve, you are a chip off the old block dear sir. No doubt about it and you know, writing is not only in his genes, they are in your's as i remember Mandy's article was excellent.

Thank you Steve for sharing the letter your dad wrote and touching us all who shared the love of our own father's like you did your's. They really were the greatest generation. I know that now more than ever and not a day goes by that i don't miss him.  

Happy Father's Day to all the dad's who gather here and to their dad's as well where ever they may be.

16 Jun 2013 12:55 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Paynter was magnificent in winning his return to racing nearly a year after his Haskell win(also known as The Haskin in some circles). Paynter and Mr. Zayat survived their own Wall St. Mr. Zayat took stock of the dire situation, weighed his options, and bought futures in Paynter, betting that Paynter's tremendous will to live would outweigh the pain and life threatening illnesses. Paynter, and all of his fans won big. Like Steve Haskin, Paynter survived Wall St to go on to racing excellence. Both beginning their comeback nearly a year after being in a place they never wanted to be again, and we all win. Both are absolutely amazing talents with a dedication to being and staying at the top. Happy Father's Day Steve and thank you for sharing with us the story of you and your father. Your father was magnificent himself. Like father, like son. Happy Father's Day to all of the fathers, including single moms, and especially to war veterans who are working hard to be great fathers despite having to overcome the traumas of war, and Happy Fathers Day to the fathers who have lost a child to war, they also are heroes for the way they have carried on despite their tremendous, seemingly impossible to overcome loss. Paynter and Syeve Haskin have showed us the rewards of perservering through the greatest of obstacles and that the pain can lead to greatness.

16 Jun 2013 7:40 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Mr. Zayat

   Happy Father's Day to you also, and I would again like to thank you and your son Justin for your dedication to Paynter and for the updates both of you gave us during Paynter's life and death struggle.

16 Jun 2013 7:45 AM
Lise from Maine



That letter by your father is absolutely marvelous. He is a great writer.

So happy that you shared it with your audience.

Happy Father's Day to you and your father!

God love him.

Lise from Maine

16 Jun 2013 8:33 AM

First, Steve.....HAPPY FATHERS DAY TO YOU!   And yes I'm sure your Dad is smiling down on you and is busting his buttons with pride over how you "turned out".

When I read this, I thought what a small world it really is.   My Dad who has been gone a long time, was also in New Guinea at that time.  He was in Port Moresby, New Britain and Milne Bay.   He NEVER talked about his experience there, and all I know of his experiences there is that he was at one point lost in the jungles of New Guinea for 24 days and ultimately earned 3 Bronze Stars.   So for you to have this letter of your Dad's is like a window into that time and what it was like for your Dad and so many other soldiers of that era.   It also shows that you perhaps got some of your writing talent from him.

Wherever he is.....I'd like to thank your Dad for HIS service and for giving us his legacy to enjoy everyday......YOU!

16 Jun 2013 10:06 AM
Ida Lee

I lost my dad 10 years ago so I don't have one to take to brunch today or give a silly card to.  Thank you so much for sharing your dad with us.

16 Jun 2013 10:34 AM

Thank you, Steve, for sharing that wonderful letter. My Dad served with the US Army in Bougainville, New Guinea, and the Phillippines during WWII, and the occupation of Japan immediately afterward. He passed away in 1987, still suffering from bouts of malaria that he contracted in the South Pacific jungles. I've always been incredibly proud of him. I love your writing, and always read your blogs, but on this Father's Day it's especially meaningful. Thanks again.

16 Jun 2013 3:24 PM

Thanks Steve, and thanks to your Dad.  That was a wonderful letter.  One thing I'm 100% sure of, he's very proud of you because you have done a wonderful job doing what you love.  Not only for yourself, but for us, your followers on your every blog.  Thank you for sharing this wonderful letter.

Dad passed away a yr ago on Father's Day, we're celebrating with him today.

16 Jun 2013 11:36 PM
Steve Haskin

Karen, that is so kind of you, thank you so much.

And thank you, Dr. D. Silverfoot, Ida, Lise, and Linda.

17 Jun 2013 12:59 AM
The Deacon

Very moving Steve, thank you for sharing this with us. Family stories are always so heart felt.

Like many of you my dad also served in the war. He was in Europe during WW II.

My wife's father served in the South Pacific, on Okinawa I believe.

My dad passed away at age 93 in 2008, and my wife's father in 2005 at age 87.

Dr: D.  Loved your post, I have  been anxiously awaiting Paynter's return and he didn't disappoint.

Kudos to Mr. Zayat and the connections for not giving up on this beautiful animal. We are all the better for it.

Paynter has become a fan favorite, hopefully soon, the major networks will do a video or story on him. The entire sports public needs to know what this fabulous horse  endured. Perhaps this will even bring out some more fans..........

Thank you Steve for all you write and your continued insights.

Question:  What's next on the agenda for ?

17 Jun 2013 4:20 AM
Susan W.

What a story! Thank you!!!--- My father was also a veteran of WWII;  he passed away 15 years ago and I miss him every day.

Those men and woman who fought for the world's freedom in WWII are to be revered and remembered with all respect, honor and love.

17 Jun 2013 7:26 AM
Steve Haskin

Thank you JayJay, Deacon, and Susan. This has been a wonderful experience for me.

17 Jun 2013 12:13 PM
marilyn braudrick

Dear Steve,

What a treasure the letter from your Dad is!! Thank you for sharing this with us. I don't have such a treasure from my Dad, just memories.  You are very lucky!!

P.S. How about Paynter!!! The horse I dreamed about in Feb. 2012 when his name was not yet Paynter.  Perhaps he'll win that "Derby" yet???!! "Power up Paynter"

17 Jun 2013 1:18 PM
Soldier Course


Thank you so much for sharing your father's very words about his wartime experiences in the South Pacific. He would be so proud of you for doing this, especially over the Fathers' Day and Flag Day Weekend. Your faithful readers appreciate this continuum, from your meeting with the Normandy Invasion veterans last month to your inspiration to share your father's letter with us.

My father Lewis S. Powell also served in the South Pacific during WWII, under General George C. Kenney of the Allied Air Forces, Fifth Air Force. My father was in Australia, New Guinea, and the Philippines. He was a first sergeant and radar specialist. He passed away four years ago at the age of 92.  He would love this column.

17 Jun 2013 2:24 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

The Deacon

    Thank you very much. Paynter has the heart of a champion that's for sure. I am also becoming a bigger fan of his sire Awesome Again- the only BC winner (Classic 1998) to sire four Breeder's Cup winners. Awesome Again is also the sire of the amazing Ghostzapper, and I see Paynter's potential of being close to Ghostzapper's talent possibly. Game On Dude, Oxbow, Round Pond, Ginger Punch and Wilko are other champions that Awesome Again has sired. Speed with stamina. Ghostzapper ran a 1:46.38 9f,(Woodward BP) a 1:59.02 10f BC Classic(2004), and a 1:33.29 Met Mile, all wins. Paynter nearly won the Belmont Stakes, won the 9f Haskell, and his time at 7f of 1:21.86 and performance in his comeback race really impressed me. Speed and stamina. He is good enough to be a BC Classic winner. His speed and pace figures are impressive. I already think it's the greatest story ever but it could end up being a magical triumph beyond belief. Paynter is an example for everyone of what can happen if you never give up. The same can be said for his owner Ahmed Zayat. If this phenominal story of trauma and near death fight and back to life, health and a successful return to the track isn't a movie then no true story is. I hope the success continues and culminates in a BC win. Their was a ton of courage both human and equine exhibited during the long ordeal. I would have had the courage to fight for Paynter's life if I was the owner but I don't know if I would have had the courage to return him to the track. I applaud everyone involved including all of the vets and Bob Baffert who has done a great job of training. How many people said that it was impossible for Paynter to survive? The Impossible Dream.

17 Jun 2013 2:31 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Steve Haskin

   Great Derby Dozen and Triple Crown season. You contiually talked about the talents of Oxbow and Palace Malice, the winners of the Preakness and Belmont while nobody else gave them the time of day. I hope we are all back here next year at the same time and same station for the Derby Dozen and another run at the Triple Crown, this time for a Triple Crown winner. We've come so close so many times. It's about damn time that we get it done. In hindsight I think that Palace Malice was the one closest to the potential this year for the TC but like Curlin wasn't quite ready at Derby time. For Palace to run those fractions in the Derby and still end up as good as he did was really good. Most would have ended up last. Great pick of Palace for the Belmont win at 13-1, and thanks for your Derby Dozen lists and comments which were all on the money. You're getting better with age so take advantage of it.

17 Jun 2013 2:47 PM

Happy belated Father's Day Steve.  Thanks for sharing this letter with the rest of us.  Wow.  Wonderful historical piece from your Dad.  All the best to you, your family, and all the people commenting on your blog.

17 Jun 2013 3:11 PM
The Deacon

Dr. D:  I totally agree with your assessment of Paynter, Ghostzapper and Awesome Again. Ghostzapper was argueably the best horse in the last 20 years. Many would disagree but "numbers never lie".

As I have always said, the ability for a horse to carry weight, race at many different tracks and perform well and run fast times is the mark of greatness.

Most horses today aren't even close to any of those assessments. Case in point our 3 year olds this season.

Nevertheless, being an old school fan and seeing most of the great ones run in the past 58 years I think Paynter has a good chance to become part of that group. Hopefully he can stay healthy. Ghostzapper got injured during his prime 4 year old campaign. Point Given was injured after winning the Haskell.

Yes Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra were great fillies but I doubt either one would have beaten Ghostzapper, or Point Given.

This is just my opinion and I am sure many bloggers would disagree.

Both fillies are in my top 10 all time great female horses......  

17 Jun 2013 6:31 PM

Dr. D.,

Bravo on your brilliant analogy of Wall St. and Steve and Paynter!  I am just loving your post!  Paynter sure won "The Haskin" and Mr. Zayat invested in his future alright and gave him back the life Paynter evidently loves so much.  Paynter is a gift, Steve is a gift.  It is so clear to see Paynter loves what he is doing, what a fighter.  I too am starting to love Awesome Again as a sire more and more.  They must make a docudrama or movie of Paynter and Steve needs to be in it or narrate it or write the script.  All I know is if Paynter makes it into this year's BCC starting gate, I don't care if the ghost of Secretariat is in the gate too, I am all for Paynter.  Wouldn't it be amazing if Paynter gets HOY this year for his "on track" accomplishments?  I agree it's a story that mainstream needs to hear.  My local news missed the boat, I gave it to them on a platter.  

And I echo you on it's about damn time we get a TC winner next year.  As exciting as this TC was, I am still scratching my head with the 3 different winners of the 3 legs of the TC.  We cannot assess the talent yet.  Maybe after the Travers we'll have a better idea of who excels in this crop.  Hope ItsMyLuckyDay is ok and nothing is wrong.  Xrays were ok so far I think.  I was hoping he would ace "the Haskin" this year, we shall see.

17 Jun 2013 6:41 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


   Thank you very much. Bravo to Mike Smith for pulling Itsmyluckyday up and possibly saving his life. Mike's winning big races and saving lives. That's as good as it gets for a jockey. He is so much in tune with every movement the horse is making and his awareness, and calm under pressure is just outstanding. Yes, HOY for on track accomplishments for Paynter the year after getting the NTRA award because of his bravery and fight for life (along with a some strong on track performances) would just be amazing but they need to proceed with what Paynter can handle and not throw him into something he's not ready for. What that will be I have no idea. Maybe he will be ready for the Whitney, and the BC. If not there is next year.

The Deacon

     If Ghostzapper isn't the best of the last 30 years then he is in the top three. As far as Zenyatta is concerned, she is actually underrated because of her conservative campaign. She was better on dirt than synthetic but didn't get enough chances on dirt to really show her greatness, and I don't think she was fully prepared for her second BC Classic race. Her stride and the amount of ground she could make up was the most amazing I have ever seen. She is in the top ten of alltime in my book, male or female. And she had a big heart, in every way. Her BC Classic win was the most exciting and emotional win I'v ever seen. If you look at speed figures you can't rank her that high but synthetic speed figures have always been way off of the mark. Very few could have beaten Ghostzapper at his best. Maybe Secretariat, or Spectacular Bid, but Ghostzapper might have beaten them also. Anyone that runs 10f under 2 could beat anyone else on a given day.

17 Jun 2013 7:20 PM
Rob Whiteley

Steve ... another extraordinary column and more important than any before. When we had lunch together and you told me what your father had said to you, I was so grateful for his uncommon wisdom that became a gift to all of us.

My own father served as a Lt. Commander at the same time and in the same South Pacific waters as your Dad. In 1969, he sent me a poem written on a postcard. The poem came without attribution, so I am pretty sure he wrote it; but I am not 100% sure. An English major and brilliant man who was career Navy for over 30 years in the Neuro-Psychiatric Department at Camp Pendleton Naval Hospital, this poem would be within his scope, and he was in action on Guam.

Tribute to The Third Marines

Red Beach 1 and 2

Guam, 21 July 1944

Vibrant beaches, Stradivarii

of isolation mounting from the waves

like an air pursued by kettle drums.

A callous sky rings back in silence

suspense that craves something abrupt;

then suddenly overhead

another hard release of brass

quivering across waters instantly

to where palms mingle with infinity,

and the horizon dangles from a pole.

The earth shudders

and sends a crash of cymbals

skyward with enormous speed,

past trembling beaches where

fallen dead and wounded bleed,

past amphibians wallowing in place,

past the high arc of ships to outer space.

Only that chilling chord shattering a million airs.

Then still cemeteries in the grass,

in rows

like musicians empty chairs.

Lt. Commander Robert Whiteley, USN

1914 - 1995

17 Jun 2013 11:01 PM
The Deacon

Dr. D:  Ghostzapper was indeed a monster, there are a few others who in my book would have beaten him though. Dr. Fager, Damascus, Buckpasser, Ruffian, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Forego to name a few.

Candy Ride was awesome as well, ran a 159.2 10 furlongs in the Pacific Classic. He beat some good horses that day including Megdalio D'Oro. Funny thing about horses is we all have our favorites and passions and ideas of greatness.

I loved Ghostzapper, wish he hadn't gotten hurt. He really would have showed us greatness.

I admire your passion for the horse that's for sure.

Obviously The Bid and Big Red are in most folks top 5 of all time....

Zenyatta is everybody's favorite pretty much. Like you I adored her.

I wouldn't rate her over Ruffian though,  who in my book is the top filly of all time.

Excellent blog on your part, I really enjoy reading your posts.

Whatever happened to your buddy Zookeeper?

Cigar was pretty as was Sunday Silence and John Henry as well.

17 Jun 2013 11:32 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

The Deacon

   I have no argument with any of your statements. You mentioned some really great ones. Ruffian may very well be the best. With many of them it really comes down to that particular day as to who wins. Thank you, I really enjoy all of your posts also. I don't know what Zookeeper is doing but I am expecting to be at Santa Anita in the fall of 2014 so hopefully I can meet some of you then.

18 Jun 2013 10:07 AM

Rob Whiteley,

Superbly written poem.  The comparison of the crescendo of sounds from the ocean and bombings to the orchestral sounds is extraordinary.  Both pieces by your father and Steve's father I think are award winning material and great pieces of literary work.

Both pieces paint vivid accounts of the naval mission being carried out and should be in a book about the war during that time period in the south seas.

Two brilliant men, Mr. Abe Haskin and Mr. Robert Whiteley created two brilliant sons, Rob and Steve, two men who are captains of the thoroughbred industry and proud to carry the love of the great breed of thoroughbred in their hearts. I know I speak for all when I say we thank both fathers and both sons.

18 Jun 2013 8:58 PM

Zookeeper!  Dr. D and The Deacon are asking about you.  

19 Jun 2013 12:31 AM

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