Del Mar author releases book based on WWI-era letters

James Larrimore

More than 100 years ago, Don Martin was a war correspondent for the New York Herald when the United States entered World War I.

About a month ago, his grandson, James Larrimore, published a book centered around letters Martin exchanged with his daughter (the author’s mother), who was 11 years old at the time.

“This book gives you a day-by-day description of what he was doing as a primary war correspondent in France in 1918,” said Larrimore, who lives in Del Mar. “He covered all things, all the battles and that stuff.”

Titled “In Their Own Words,” Larrimore described the book as a “very touching story about separation of a father and daughter” based on century-old letters. It provides insight into the life of Martin, whose wife had already died years before he left New York City to cover the war for the New York Herald.

The book also includes diary entries and other writings by Martin that shed light on the trials and tribulations of life as a war correspondent.

Martin died in Paris in 1918 from pneumonia and Spanish influenza, according to a New York Times obituary that called him “one of America’s foremost newspaper men.”

“For one who braved so many dangers at the front to get news, it seemed a cruel fate to die as he did,” the obituary said.

Larrimore said the book was years in the making.

“I had to retype all of these letters, I had to put them together, I had to get them into shape so the editor could work with them,” he said.

One of the biggest lessons that readers can expect from the book? “War is hell,” Larrimore said.

“Inevitably with war, you have losses,” he added.

“In Their Own Words, Writings of war correspondent Don Martin and his 11-year-old daughter Dorothy. An intimate view of WWI” is available on Amazon and at the Del Mar Library.

Larrimore moved his family to Del Mar in 1969 when he began to work for General Atomic on Torrey Pines Mesa. After completing his PhD in nuclear engineering at M.I.T. in 1963, he spent six years at a nuclear research center in Italy, where he met his wife, Irene. He had two appointments at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria, in 1976-78 and from 1985 to 1999, when he returned to Del Mar and became a consultant in international nuclear safeguards.

Larrimore and Irene are lifetime docents at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. He recently served for three years as president of the North County Chapter of the San Diego World Affairs Council. This book is his first published work.