W. C. Heinz dies at 93

The former war correspondent, sports columnist, magazine writer and novelist W.C. Heinz died on Wednesday at the age of 93. The New York Times obituary retells the story behind the story of his 1949 feature article “The Morning They Shot the Spies” In it he describes a firing squad execution of three Germans who had infiltrated American lines during World War II. The war correspondents present were given the chance to leave. Heinz stayed,

“I thought about backing out, and I wished no one had mentioned it,” Mr. Heinz wrote. “I was starting to feel a fear.” But he stayed, and he remembered the scene as it would have been viewed by the three Germans who were about to be shot.
He wrote: “I looked at the ground, frost-white, the grass tufts frozen, the soil hard and uneven. I wondered if it is better to die on a warm, bright day among friends, or on a day when even the weather is your enemy. I turned around and looked down into the valley. The mist still hung in the valley, but it was starting to take on a brassy tint from the sun beginning to work through it. I could make out three white farm buildings on the valley floor, a little yellowed now from the weak sunlight, and I could envision this, in the spring a pleasant valley. This view I see now, I said to myself, will be the last thing their eyes will ever see.” link

Heinz collected together a number of his war stories from the New York Sun, mostly from 1944-1945 but also including “The morning they shot spies”, in the book When we were one. Meanwhile, Heinz’s local newspaper The Bennington Banner has more on the writer from his daughter Gayl Bailey Heinz.