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APAAM Member and WWII Veteran – NADIM MAKDISI dies at age 86

Photo by Senior Airman Neo Martin, USAF

“Nadim Makdisi was proud of his service to his country and his service in WWII.  We will miss you Nadim” – Jamal Baadani

 Nadim Makdisi, 86, renowned journalist and co-founder of the the Anis Makdisi program at the  American University of Beirut, died in his home in Washington on September 1. Born in 1921 in New York, Makdisi was the son of late AUB Professor Anis Makdisi and Selma Khoury. Makdisi, who was an AUB student, completed his education at Columbia University and American University, obtaining a PhD in mass communications. During his long and prolific career, he worked for the Christian Science Monitor, BBC and TeleLiban in Lebanon. He also created the magazine, Alam Attijara, one of the first business and economy magazines covering the Arab region. Both the Lebanese Press Federation and the Anis Makdisi program at AUB mourned the death of Makdisi, who co-founded the program with his brother, AUB Economics Professor and former Minister Samir Makdisi. Memorial services will be held at Saint Alban's Church in Washington at 1 p.m. on September 8, 2007.  Courtesy Daily Star Lebanon - Saturday, September 08,  2007.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

(L to R)  Sgt Hariton Marachilian, Cpl Abdulbasset Montaser, Sgt Mediya Abakar,  WWII Vet Nadim Makdisi, GySgt Jamal S. Baadani, Cpl Souhaib Elkoun, LCpl Ismile Althaibani, LCpl Abraham Althaibani

 World War II Veteran, Journalist Tours GTMO

By Senior Airman Jon Ortiz-Torres

When Nadim Makdisi left the Army in 1946, it would be nearly 60 years before he set foot on an American military base again.

That day came last week when Makdisi and five other Arab journalists visited Guan­tanamo Bay during a media tour here.

“It was exciting to be back in a base and being around [Troopers],” said Makdisi in his soft-spoken, foreign accent. “I wondered if I could be drafted again.” 

During the tour, the 83-year-old veteran visited the Joint Task Force Public Affairs Office, and he didn’t hesitate to sit down with fellow military journalists and talk about how he became an Army journalist during World War II.

The war involved more than 40 million troops from more than 30 countries. Memo­ries of World War II are fading as time claims the lives of more veterans.

During that time, the war effort drafted young American men across the globe and the then 21-year-old Makdisi, a journalism student and United States citizen living in Beirut, Lebanon, was no exception.

Makdisi was born in the United States but only lived there five months before his family moved back to Lebanon, where he grew up. His father taught at the American University of Beirut.

In 1944, the war was at full swing, and Makdisi, a junior in college, received the call to join.

“I went to basic training in a camp in North Africa,” he said. “After another week in casual status, the Army assigned me to a unit close by where I worked as a cook and server in the officer’s kitchen mess.” 

Makdisi worked with the 3135th Signal Service Platoon in Camp Russell B. Huck­step outside Cairo, Egypt.

One day while serving food to a female officer (at the time called Women’s Army Corps), he spilled soup on her by accident.

“At first, she shouted at me, but then we had a fairly good conversation,” he said. “The captain said to me, ‘You have an accent’ and I said, ‘I’ve lived in Lebanon most of my life.’ Then she asked me, ‘Do you speak Egyp­tian?’

‘Yes ma’am, of course I do,’” he said chuckling to himself, since he speaks Arabic, the language of Egypt and dozens of other countries in that region.

When the captain learned he was a jour­nalist, she quickly offered him a job with the camp’s weekly publication, the Sand Script. She was in charge of special services, which included the publication.

“She said to me, ‘The Sand Script needs a reporter,’” said Makdisi, who transferred soon after.

Military publications in peacetime and in war have served as a communication tool for Troopers and civilians connected to an instal­lation. Troopers assigned to Camp Russell B. Huckstep at the time were treated to an exclu­sive inside look into Cairo.

Makdisi’s job as a reporter and an Army sergeant was to go to Cairo and write about the city and all the interesting places Soldiers might want to visit.

“I loved my job,” he said. “I had my own jeep with a sign that read Sand Script and, un­like many Soldiers then, I could go to town as I pleased without having to get a permit.”

Although he enjoyed serving in the Army, he did have some discontent with some as­pects of the military in those times. He thought the Army was not as sophisticated as it is today. Makdisi recalled one of those days where he felt that frustration.

While heading to town one night, an Army major jumped in his jeep to catch a ride. Half­way through the trip, a horde of sheep and their shepherd obstructed their path.

“The major stood up in the jeep and shout­ed in broken Arabic, ‘Hurry up … hurry up!’” said Makdisi. “I asked the major if he spoke Egyptian.”

The major told me that when he enlisted, he wrote that he could speak seven different languages,” he said. “He spoke Syrian, Leba­nese, Egyptian, etc … all one language, Ara­bic; so they sent him to officer training school for that. That goes to show you how ignorant some things can get; he couldn’t even speak Arabic,” Makdisi said. 

For Makdisi and other members of the press, touring the detainee facilities here gives them a better understanding of the work being done.

“Some leaders in the Arab world have a big criticism on the treatment of detainees here,” said Makdisi, who is also editor in chief of an Arabic monthly magazine. “I’m glad we got to see and tour the facilities. I was very much impressed.” 

Makdisi has also worked as a correspon­dent for the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Washington Evening Star. Several years after his honorable discharge, he moved back to the United States, where he used the Montgomery G.I. Bill to finish school and later received his doctorate.

He now works out of Washington D.C.







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