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Combat Correspondents

Paperback
, 256 pages

24 b&w illus.

ISBN:
9780938420149
October 2009
$34.00

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Combat Correspondents

The Baltimore Sun in World War II

The Baltimore Sun covered World War II with an outstanding team of combat correspondents, among them three future Pulitzer Prize winners. The correspondents witnessed momentous events: Anzio and Cassino, D-Day, Black Christmas in the Bulge, the crossing of the Rhine, the link up with the Russians on the Elbe, the German surrender at Rheims, the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and the Japanese surrender on the U.S.S. Missouri.

They took enormous risks. Price Day was in action at Anzio and Cassino; Holbrook Bradley landed with the 29th Division on the Normandy beaches. Lee McCardell narrowly escaped death when a bomb exploded near his jeep. Howard Norton was on a sub chaser when a Japanese shell killed most of its crew. Philip Heisler’s escort carrier nearly capsized in a typhoon.

They filed stories from the front lines of history. Norton scooped the world on the execution of Mussolini. Day and McCardell were among the first to file stories on Nazi atrocities and death camps. The doyen of these correspondents, Mark Watson, wrote prescient articles on military strategy. All of them sent back gritty stories of the endurance and humor of ordinary GIs.

This was a time when correspondents wore uniforms, censors could block their stories, and journalists wrote on portable typewriters and traveled dozens of miles to file their copy. Enjoying a personal freedom of movement and decision-making unknown in today’s electronic era, these newspaper men were working at a time when print journalism was the prime medium for news. Their dispatches, which reported the war with the immediacy of real time, make up the core of this book.

Joseph R. L. Sterne is himself a veteran reporter, not unfamiliar with war zones. His career at the Baltimore Sun spanned over four decades, as reporter, bureau chief in London and Bonn, a roving correspondent in sub-Saharan Africa, assistant bureau chief in Washington, D.C., and editorial page editor for a record twenty-five years. Sterne is also a Senior Fellow at the Johns Hopkins Policy Studies Institute. He has known personally all the wartime correspondents featured in the book.

"Sterne celebrates them, but without nostalgia... The correspondents' total immersion in their world imbues their reports with emotional dimensions."

"This is good, old-fashioned, newspaper journalism at its very best: war reporting as it should be, written on the front lines by a half dozen literate, brave, and elegant correspondents of The Baltimore Sun. Readers who missed World War II will sense the thrill of being alive when the whole world was on fire; those who were there may look back in wonder."

"More than the quality of the reporting itself, the reader will be struck by the changes in technology-driven communication over the span of nearly 70 years."

"The quality of the narratives included here, and Sterne's historical comments on them, will cause readers to wonder why no other historian has taken up the subject in the last sixty-five years."

"A very readable narrative... highly recommended for those interested in what the public reads about battles and citizen-soldiers. The book is especially important for journalism students."

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