When i first heard there was a nationally-known author and historian living here in town, i made it my business to meet him. His name is Lance Zedric, and he is a likeable, inspiring man with a great passion to bring the story of our combat soldiers to the American reader.
I met him at his home where he took me to his “War Room,” which is filled with a lot of pictures and memorabilia concerning his books and research. He has lived here in Peoria, Illinois, for 15 years, quietly going about his writing and public speaking career, which takes him all over the United States. I thought that I was a bit old to be inspired, but a few hours with Lance changed all that. I want you to get to know Lance because his message is unselfishly about our combat soldiers, many of whom are leaving us at an alarming rate every day. Their sacrifices and devotion to their country should never be forgotten, and Lance means to devote his career to that message.
Tiny Lance Zedric spent the first month of his life in an incubator at Saint Francis Hospital, weighing in at a whopping three pounds. You should see him now, a fit, robust man of 50. He was raised in Canton, where he was a star athlete in high school, earning him a scholarship to Monmouth College. He was a busy, athletic student, but found time to write a sports column for the college paper. Smitten by the writing bug, he accepted a job as the director of public information.
After leaving Monmouth, he travelled to Europe, searching for the pathway that would decide what he wanted to do with his life. When he was a very young lad, his mother had taken him to Europe, visiting Dachau concentration camp as part of the trip. “I developed a fascination with famous battles and historical sites, and my second trip to Europe changed my life,” he explained. “I realized that living in Europe like a gypsy was not doing me any good, so I came home and got busy.”
Lance had one more detour on his road to writing, and that was in Hannibal, Missouri, where he and a friend opened up a bed-and-breakfast inn. “We invited guests to stay with us over the weekend, and entertained them with murder mysteries. I wrote the scripts for them, and they would stay in character during their entire visit. I can tell you we had a lot of fun—and it also helped me hone my writing skills in the process.”
Another abrupt pathway change came when Lance joined the Army. “I had a lucrative insurance business at the time, but finally, I followed my heart, and it was the best decision I ever made. I ended up as an intelligence analyst in Korea and managed to make the United States All-Army Track and Field Team.”
Rather than re-enlisting, Lance enrolled at Western Illinois University, earning a master’s degree in history. While researching wartime history, he discovered the Alamo Scouts, an obscure raider and reconnaissance unit which led to his writing his first book, Silent Warriors. Finally, Lance Zedric’s long search for his life’s work was over. The book earned him the prestigious Bernard S. Dial Award for excellence in military history, and it was a featured selection in the Doubleday Book Club.
When Lance came to Peoria 15 years ago, he accepted a teaching position with Kiefer School, which is connected to the Children’s Home here in town. He was awarded two Children’s Home Educator of the Year awards, and continues his daily struggle to help his troubled students get back on the right path of life.
He is still active with the Alamo Scouts, serving as their official historian and national spokesman. There are but a dozen of these brave soldiers left, and Mr. Zedric intends to stick with them, writing their heroic stories and making sure that their memory stays with Americans long after they are gone.
The U.S. Sixth Army Special Reconnaissance Unit of World War II
A top-secret, ad hoc unit of the U.S. Army, the Alamo Scouts were formed by LTG Walter Krueger in November 1943. Named for his beloved association with San Antonio, Texas, and the Alamo, Krueger envisioned that the unit, consisting of small teams of highly-trained volunteers, would operate deep behind enemy lines to provide intelligence gathering and tactical reconnaissance in advance of landing operations in the Southwest Pacific. The Alamo Scouts performed a known 110 missions without a single man being killed or captured.
Of more than 700 candidates selected for training, just 138 were retained as Alamo Scouts. In less than 17 months in the field, they earned 118 combat decorations and numerous other awards. The unit disbanded in late November 1945 with a war record unmatched in U.S. military history. In 1988, the Alamo Scouts were awarded the Special Forces Tab, recognizing the unit as a forerunner of the modern Special Forces. Visit alamoscouts.org for more information on this elite Army unit.
Lance has authored eight books and hundreds of articles. His most recent release, Pink Heals, is the story of a retired fireman driving across the United States in a pink fire truck, teaching communities how to raise money for women with cancer. He is currently working on a new book, Silent No More, which is an oral history of the Alamo Scouts and the capstone of 20 years of research on this forgotten Army unit.
In between his research and writing, Lance has found time to be a consultant on several TV shows, including History’s Mysteries and The History Channel’s Warriors series, and for PBS and Hollywood production companies. He and his wife, Ching, co-own ChingPhoto, and both are sensitive, crafty photographers. He also uses his camera skills as a field producer for War Room Films, located in Arizona.
I am proud to claim Lance as a friend of mine, and happy that he and his family chose Peoria, Illinois, as their permanent home. You can catch up with him at LanceZedric.com or by emailing [email protected]. Just tell him Norm sent you. a&s
Norm is a local author and Peoria historian. He can be reached at [email protected]
This spring, Zedric will publish Silent No More: The Alamo Scouts in Their Own Words, the culmination of his 20 years of work with the unit. It will be an oral history featuring new material based on interviews and correspondence with the men, along with contributions from other Army and Navy men who supported them; former POWs who rescued them; and Filipino guerrillas with whom they worked—more than 250 men, all told. It will be a significant contribution to the body of knowledge on the unit, and a personal glimpse inside one of the most fascinating clandestine units ever to wear an American uniform.