Hugh Nibley’s World War II Diary

Pages from a small appointment book with notes scrawled in shorthand with an occasional word in cursive.

Pages from Hugh Nibley’s diary from June 4-10, 1944 including an entry for the D-Day landing.

[Post by Alex Nibley]

When we were working on his World War II memoirs, Sergeant Nibley PhD: Memories of an Unlikely Screaming Eagle, I sat down with Dad for several hours and read through his diaries of 1944 and 1945. I had made high-resolution scans of the diaries, so we could look at them up close without a magnifying glass. I put a video camera on us to pick up what he said, and he read each of the diary entries day by day.

His common way of writing in the diaries is Gregg Shorthand with occasional words in his distinctive style of cursive. He had told me that he had used code to write at times, since he was not supposed to be keeping a diary. I’m not sure whether this was a formal regulation for intelligence operatives like him or just something he worried about. One of the things he had been trained to do as an Order of Battle team member was to go through the diaries of captured German soldiers looking for intelligence, and I know he worried about the reverse happening to him if he were captured since at times he was privy to extremely sensitive information about the Allies’ plans.

As we read through his diaries together, we discovered several entries that were written in his secret writing, which turned out to be a combination of German words written in Arabic script.

The video of the sessions where we deciphered his diaries is currently packed away in archives and we don’t currently have a digital version of the video, so I’m not sure what all these entries say. Here are the entries from these pages as we deciphered them for Sergeant Nibley PhD:

June 4: Sail past Lundy Island. We are the leading ship. [The invasion army had been waiting on their ships for days at this point, hundreds of thousands of men in thousands of ships just waiting for favorable weather for the landing.]

June 6: D-Day. Pass the Bill of Portland and land across vast masses of flak in the morning. A ship next to us goes down in about 8 minutes. [Nibley’s landing was on Utah Beach. The ship next to him that went down so fast was most likely the USS Corry.]

June 8: Still

June 9: Plane drops 2 great mines and ruins my jeep.

Can anyone out there figure out the other entries?

Update: Okay, let’s make it a contest! The person who submits the most convincing interpretation of the diary entries here for June 5, 7 and 10 will win a free CD set of the audio book version of Approaching Zion. You have until noon Saturday, June 1 MDT to submit your entries. Since we don’t have access to Hugh’s interpretations (and he wasn’t sure himself about what he’d written in a lot of cases), we have no way of determining the accuracy of the submissions, so we will judge based on how convincing they are. Subjective? Yes, somewhat. So convince us that this is the first time subjectivity has influenced interpretations of Hugh Nibley’s writing.


About Hugh Nibley

Hugh Nibley, 1910-2005, was simultaneously the LDS Church's greatest intellectual defender from attack from the outside and Mormon culture's strongest critic from the inside. This blog is composed mainly from Nibley's unpublished writings, letters, interviews and conversations, with occasional posts from associates who had personal interactions with him.
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One Response to Hugh Nibley’s World War II Diary

  1. says:

    Dear Alex – Wonderful having a new bit to read and pass on to the family. I drove to the cemetery this morning and took an American flag and flowers for Jim’s grave. There were huge flags on the roadway and flags on many of the graves. A beautiful, peaceful moment of remembering. Hope all is well with the family. Much love to all. Jo Ann

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