A short story by The Twilight Zone's Rod Serling is published for the first time Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling was a paratrooper during WWII. After the war, he wrote a short story inspired by the experience. It's now being published for the first time in The Strand.

A WWII story by The Twilight Zone's Rod Serling is published for the first time

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This year marks the 100th birthday of "Twilight Zone" creator Rod Serling.


ROD SERLING: (As Narrator) You're traveling to another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind.

SHAPIRO: Serling was born December 25, Christmas Day, 1924, but The Strand is getting a head start on the celebration. Today, the magazine is running a never-before-published short story by Serling, written when he was in his early 20s. NPR's Elizabeth Blair has more.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: The story is called "First Squad, First Platoon," and it's inspired by Rod Serling's experiences as a paratrooper in the Philippines during World War II.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Reading) The Pacific rain thundered down from the skies, smashing in sheets against the heavy jungle foliage, driving into the muddy ground like millions of bullets.

BLAIR: Serling enlisted in the war the day after he graduated from high school in Binghamton, N.Y. He wanted to fight the Nazis. Instead, he was sent to the Pacific. Nicholas Parisi is the author of a biography of Serling.

NICHOLAS PARISI: He saw a major combat in the Philippines in the islands of Leyte and Luzon, and, you know, it scarred him. It scarred him for the rest of his life, and he saw plenty of friends die. It was - really became the defining chapter in his life.

BLAIR: Serling wrote the story while he was a student at Antioch College. He enrolled there on the GI bill in the fall of 1946, not long after he returned from the war. He thought he would become a phys ed teacher, but found that writing helped him get the trauma of war out of his gut, as he once put it. The story is divided into five chapters, each one about a different soldier and how he died. One of his close friends in the war was a fellow New Yorker named Melvin Levy. As he often did, Serling used real names.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Reading) Corporal Levy had been the humorist of the squad, the wag, the wit, the guy who lived for laughs.

BLAIR: In the story, the squad has gone for several days crouching in muddy foxholes without food and low on ammunition. Finally, U.S. Army planes flying low drop crates of rations. The soldiers start cheering. But some of the crates drop without parachutes and land near the men. They scramble down the holes to avoid getting hit, except for Levy. He was still out there cheering.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Reading) "It's raining chow, boys. It's raining chow." His shrill voice pierced the air. Then there was a sudden dull thud as a crate hit the ground near the first squad's positions, throwing mud into the air and all but covering up the holes with it.

BLAIR: Melvin Levy, in the story and in real life, was killed when one of the crates fell on top of him. Serling and the rest of the squad saw it happen.

ANNE SERLING: I knew that my father had trauma because I vividly remember hearing him wake up in the middle of the night screaming.

BLAIR: Rod Serling's daughter, Anne Serling.

A SERLING: And in the morning, when I would ask him what happened, he told me he was dreaming that the enemy was coming at him.

BLAIR: Rod Serling dedicated his story, to my children, even though he didn't have any at the time. He wrote that he wanted them to try to imagine the details of war, the, quote, "feeling of a torn limb, a burnt patch of flesh, the crippling, numbing sensation of fear, the hopeless emptiness of fatigue."

A SERLING: My father said when he came home that he would never, ever, again injure another living thing.

BLAIR: Rod Serling received a Purple Heart for his injuries and a Bronze Star for bravery. He wrote about the anguish and dread of war in plays for TV and episodes of "The Twilight Zone."


R SERLING: It's August 1945, the last grimy pages of a dirty, torn book of war.

BLAIR: Anne Serling says he wore his paratrooper bracelet throughout his life. Serling died following heart surgery in 1975 at the age of 50. "First Squad, First Platoon" is published today in The Strand. Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.


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