In a radio interview on September 12, 1943, United Press war correspondent Robert Bellair, recently returned from his station in Japan, paints a picture of the conditions in the country shortly before and after the Pearl Harbor attack.
Death photo of war reporter Ernie Pyle found
The figure in the photograph is clad in Army fatigues, boots and helmet, lying on his back in peaceful repose, folded hands holding a military cap. Except for a thin trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth, he could be asleep.
But he is not asleep he is dead. And this is not just another fallen GI it is Ernie Pyle, the most celebrated war correspondent of World War II.
As far as can be determined, the photograph has never been published. Sixty-three years after Pyle was killed by the Japanese, it has surfaced — surprising historians, reminding a forgetful world of a humble correspondent who artfully and ardently told the story of a war from the foxholes.
"It's a striking and painful image, but Ernie Pyle wanted people to see and understand the sacrifices that soldiers had to make, so it's fitting, in a way, that this photo of his own death . drives home the reality and the finality of that sacrifice," said James E. Tobin, a professor at Miami University of Ohio.
Tobin, author of a 1997 biography, "Ernie Pyle's War," and Owen V. Johnson, an Indiana University professor who collects Pyle-related correspondence, said they had never seen the photo. The negative is long lost, and only a few prints are known to exist.
"When I think about the real treasures of American history that we have," says Mark Foynes, director of the Wright Museum of World War II in Wolfeboro, N.H., "this picture is definitely in the ballpark."
Killed near Okinawa
"COMMAND POST, IE SHIMA, April 18 (AP) _ Ernie Pyle, war correspondent beloved by his co-workers, GIs and generals alike, was killed by a Japanese machine-gun bullet through his left temple this morning . "
The news stunned a nation still mourning the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt six days earlier. Callers besieged newspaper switchboards. "Ernie is mourned by the Army," said soldier-artist Bill Mauldin, whose droll, irreverent GI cartoons had made him nearly as famous as Pyle.
He was right even amid heavy fighting, Pyle's death was a prime topic among the troops.
"If I had not been there to see it, I would have taken with a grain of salt any report that the GI was taking Ernie Pyle's death 'hard,' but that is the only word that best describes the universal reaction out here," Army photographer Alexander Roberts wrote to Lee Miller, a friend of Ernie and his first biographer.
But Ernie Pyle was not just any reporter. He was a household name during World War II and for years afterward. From 1941 until his death, Pyle riveted the nation with personal, straight-from-the-heart tales about hometown soldiers in history's greatest conflict.
In 1944, his columns for Scripps-Howard Newspapers earned a Pulitzer Prize and Hollywood made a movie, "Ernie Pyle's Story of G.I. Joe," starring Burgess Meredith as the slender, balding 44-year-old reporter.
Typically self-effacing, Pyle insisted the film include fellow war correspondents playing themselves. But he was killed before it was released.
In April 1945, the one-time Indiana farm boy had just arrived in the Pacific after four years of covering combat in North Africa, Italy and France. With Germany on the verge of surrender, he wanted to see the war to its end, but confided to colleagues that he didn't expect to survive.
At Okinawa he found U.S. forces battling entrenched Japanese defenders while "kamikaze" suicide pilots wreaked carnage on the Allied fleet offshore.
On April 16, the Army's 77th Infantry Division landed on Ie Shima, a small island off Okinawa, to capture an airfield. Although a sideshow to the main battle, it was "warfare in its worst form," photographer Roberts wrote later. "Not one Japanese soldier surrendered, he killed until he was killed."
'It was so peaceful a death'
On the third morning, a jeep carrying Pyle and three officers came under fire from a hidden machine gun. All scrambled for cover in roadside ditches, but when Pyle raised his head, a .30 caliber bullet caught him in the left temple, killing him instantly.
Roberts and two other photographers, including AP's Grant MacDonald, were at a command post 300 yards away when Col. Joseph Coolidge, who had been with Pyle in the jeep, reported what happened.
Roberts went to the scene, and despite continuing enemy fire, crept forward — a "laborious, dirt-eating crawl," he later called it — to record the scene with his Speed Graphic camera. His risky act earned Roberts a Bronze Star medal for valor.
Pyle was first buried among soldiers on Ie Shima. In 1949 his body was moved to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl Crater, near Honolulu.
Roberts' photograph, however, was never seen by the public. He told Miller the War Department had withheld it "out of deference" to Ernie's ailing widow, Jerry.
"It was so peaceful a death . that I felt its reproduction would not be in bad taste," he said, "but there probably would be another school of thought on this."
Eight military museums and history centers queried by AP said the negative and photo were unknown to them. This included the National Archives & Records Administration, the most likely repository.
"Considering all the photo research done on World War II, and thousands of letters requesting information about our holdings, my guess is it would have been 'discovered' by a researcher or staff member by now," said Edward McCarter, NARA's top still-photos archivist.
Prints taken from Roberts' negative at the time of Pyle's death "would appear to be the only record that the photo was actually made," McCarter said.
At least two such prints were kept as souvenirs by veterans who served aboard USS Panamint, a Navy communications ship in the Okinawa campaign. Although the two men never met, they came by the photo in similar ways, and both later recognized its importance to posterity.
Retired naval officer Richard Strasser, 88, of Goshen, Ind., who recalls Pyle visiting the ship just before he was killed, said a friend named George, who ran the ship's darkroom, gave him a packet of pictures after Japan surrendered in August 1945.
Months later, back in civilian life, Strasser finally opened the envelope. "I was surprised to find a picture of Ernie Pyle," he said. "At the time, Ernie's widow was still alive and I considered sending the photo to her, but had mixed feelings about it. In the end I did nothing."
Strasser recently provided his photo — a still-pristine contact print from the 4-by-5-inch negative — to the AP. He since has made it available to the Newseum, a $435 million news museum scheduled to open in Washington this year.
Margaret Engel, the Newseum's managing editor, says the photo is "of strong historic interest," and because Pyle died at the height of his fame, "the circumstances of his death . remain a compelling story for students of journalism and the war."
Ex-Petty Officer Joseph T. Bannan, who joined USS Panamint's crew in May 1945 after his own ship was damaged by a kamikaze, said his Pyle photo came from a ship's photographer he remembers only as "Joe from Philadelphia."
Bannan, 82, of Boynton Beach, Fla., said "Joe" told him he had been ordered to destroy the negative "because of the effect it would have on the morale of the American public."
In 2004, Bannan donated copies of the photo to the Wright Museum, the Ernie Pyle State Historic Site at Dana, Ind., and the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla.
Yet another copy was acquired by the Indiana Historical Society at a 1999 auction. Historian Susan Sutton said she had no information on its origin or the seller.
Both Strasser and Bannan assumed a Navy photographer had made the picture. Only Roberts, however, is known to have visited the death scene, and with no Army Signal Corps photo lab nearby, his film went to the nearest ship offshore — USS Panamint.
This was "standard procedure" in the Pacific, says retired AP photographer Max Desfor, 96, who covered Okinawa and later won a Pulitzer Prize in Korea. "No question that's what happened."
In tracing the picture's history, AP learned of a second photo, showing Pyle's body on a stretcher. The fatal wound, unseen in Roberts' photo, appears as a dark spot above his left eyebrow.
That photo, of unknown origin, appears to be an amateur snapshot, said Katherine Gould, assistant curator of cultural history at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis, which acquired it and Bannan's photo last year from the Dana historic site.
As war photographs go, neither could be considered grisly, but they were never displayed at Dana. "We get a lot of kids here," spokeswoman Janice Duncan said.
One who did see the Roberts photo there is Bruce L. Johnson, 84, of Afton, Minn., a nephew and one of the few surviving relatives who knew Pyle.
In April 1945, Johnson was a sailor aboard the seaplane tender USS Norton Sound, which by a quirk of fate was a few miles away when Pyle was killed. In fact, the two had been writing letters home, trying to figure out a way they could rendezvous.
"We were in the mess hall and the news came over the ship's loudspeaker," he recalled. "It was just a shock."
In harm's way: Why war correspondents take risks and how they cope
This article was published more than 6 years ago. Some information in it may no longer be current.
"Stay strong, because I am going to need your help to reclaim my life."
These were the closing words of a letter James Foley dictated to his family while hoping for release from a prison cell in Syria. The 40-year-old journalist had been kidnapped by Islamic State militants while covering the civil war there in 2012.
But James, or Jim, as his family called him, was not released. As we now know too well, he was beheaded, a video showing his gruesome death posted on YouTube on Aug. 19. And his captors say they will kill another reporter they are holding if their demands are not met.
These shocking events reveal the terrible personal toll of covering conflict zones – and raises questions about what motivates journalists to take such extraordinary risks, and how they cope with what they witness.
T he persona of the war reporter is well established. These men and women occupy a unique niche in the media – a small, intrepid group whose high public profile is given a vast stage by a world perpetually in conflict. Some like Ernie Pyle, Robert Capa and Martha Gellhorn have attained a legendary status, their names inextricably linked to cataclysms that have shaped how we live today. No doubt future generations will view Marie Colvin and her contemporaries – James Nachtwey, Ian Stewart, Tim Hetherington – in a similar light.
In the field
The Globe and Mail maintains foreign bureaus in six countries, and covers conflict zones around the world. Journalists in the field are vital witnesses to historic events. But getting these stories can sometimes involve great hardship and risk. It also demands a capacity to file clear, thoughtful copy in the midst of great turmoil. As you scroll through the story you'll find a few examples of Globe and Mail files from conflict zones we've pulled from our archives.
What unites all these men and women is a body of work that shows us countries in chaos, burning, disintegrating, engulfed in something so terrible we can only pity them and give thanks that what we are witnessing is taking place on the other side of the world. Except now, in the age of globalization, linked as we are by technology, what unfolds in remarkable clarity on our iPhones or high-definition TVs is not really that far away at all. Keeping us informed of world events that have the power to shake us loose, even momentarily, from our comfort and complacency, correspondents’ work is more essential than ever before. They open our eyes to a contemporary history we can no longer ignore.
To the viewer or reader whose attention has been captured by the content of breaking news, what is not so readily apparent, for it is frequently obscured by the courage of journalists, is that this work can often come at a terrible personal cost. Consider just a few of the journalists mentioned so far: Ernie Pyle was killed by a Japanese sniper in the Pacific, Robert Capa was killed by an anti-personnel mine in Vietnam (and adding to the attrition, Capa’s great love, the photojournalist Gerda Taro, was killed by a tank in the Spanish Civil War), Marie Colvin was killed by a mortar in Syria.
There is a wall in the Newseum in Washington, D.C., that displays small portraits of journalists who have been killed or murdered because of their work. The wall is large, images run from floor to ceiling, and soon there will be no more space available. Each year, organizations such as the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International News Safety Institute count the number of journalists killed, kidnapped, gone missing. The annual tally is in the hundreds.
According to a 2013 report by the non-profit organization Reporters Without Borders, there has been a significant increase in the abductions of journalists – as well a slight bump in threats and physical attacks.
- 71 Number of journalists killed last year.
- 39% Percentage of journalists killed in conflict zones, including Syria and Somalia. Other deaths were by bombings, groups tied to organized crime, corrupt officials and Islamist militias.
- 87 Number of journalists kidnapped last year.
- 49 Number of journalists kidnapped in Syria. (About 18 foreign journalists and 22 Syrian news providers are currently being held captive or are missing.)
- 129% Jump in abductions of journalists compared to 2012.
- 2,160 Number of journalists threatened or physically attacked last year.
If it is difficult to grasp the magnitude of an individual tragedy in the presence of such collective loss, focusing on a single journalist rams the message home. In the run-up to South Africa’s first multiracial election in 1994, Joao Silva, the South African photojournalist, was one of four photographers dubbed the Bang-Bang Club who braved the dangers of the volatile black ghettos as the country lurched towards democracy. By the time the elections were held, two members of the “club,” Ken Oosterbroek and Kevin Carter, were dead and the fourth member, Greg Marinovich, had been seriously wounded. Emerging relatively unscathed from this carnage, Mr. Silva continued photographing conflict, until, like Mr. Capa, he stepped on a mine, this time in Afghanistan. Unlike Mr. Capa, he survived thanks to advances in military medicine over the intervening six decades. But he did so without his legs.
On the job
War journalism is only becoming more dangerous.
The first “modern” war journalist to appear on the battlefield was William Howard Russell, the Times correspondent who covered the Crimean War of 1854 and witnessed, well away from the slaughter, the Charge of the Light Brigade. Sixty years later, the First World War claimed two journalists. Sixty-nine journalists died in the Second World War. By the 2003 invasion of Iraq, 16 Western journalists were dead in the first two weeks, and the war would ultimately take the lives of more than 200, most of them Iraqi.
But the numbers, troubling as they are, contain another ominous truth. The journalists who died in earlier conflicts were not for the most part targeted by combatants. They died because they had chosen to work in the most dangerous of places and war, that voracious harvester of men, had claimed them too. The current situation for members of the fourth estate is very different. It took the kidnapping of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and his subsequent beheading to put journalists on notice that they, too, were now firmly in the cross-hairs of insurgents, militants, terrorists, thugs, call them what you will according to your level of political sensitivity.
Paul Koring has covered conflicts for The Globe and Mail for decades, from the Cold War to the Balkans and Afghanistan. In 1988, Koring was one of the few journalists in the world to witness firsthand the horror of Iraq’s poison gas attack on Kurds in the town of Halabja.
Gone is that code of conduct that once allowed journalists to work in zones of conflict, if not exactly unhindered, then certainly without the fear of finding themselves held to ransom or worse, executed on camera like James Foley to instill terror in the age of the Internet.
This ratcheting up of personal threat has brought into focus the challenges of keeping journalists safe. Here the media finds itself in a unique position, for unlike other professions in harm’s way – such as the military, police or firefighters – journalists are not schooled in violence. There is no lengthy training program to prepare them for the hazards of the front lines. Transplanted overnight from the safety of a desk job back home to a bureau under threat in a country where security is tenuous or absent, the language incomprehensible, the heat sapping and the local government, if still functioning, hostile to a free press, journalists must learn on the go, in haste and with little room for error, because in war zones, survival is often measured in milliseconds or millimetres.
Adding to the challenge, there is another factor that must be considered when appraising the magnitude of risk: time. The celebrated war journalists, the Capas and the Colvins, spent decades in zones of conflict. Here again it is appropriate to draw comparisons with soldiers, for the two professions invariably rub shoulders on the front lines: A tour of duty in the military is for one year, and while this is repeated on occasion, few are the soldiers who can match war journalists for time spent in fields of combat even with journalists flying in and out of war zones, taking a break when the situation on the ground or personal circumstances dictate, the cumulative duration of their exposure to grave danger, often in the vanguard of armies, is unparalleled.
Christina Lamb, a war correspondent with The Sunday Times caught in a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan while embedded with a company of Marines, noted coolly that she had seen a lot more combat than her younger, panicked protectors.
This time away from home, the weeks running into months and then years, can play havoc with a journalist’s relationships. For Ingrid Bergman, an affair with Robert Capa, confined as it was to brief, intense trysts when Capa returned from some far-flung locale, was the antidote to A stodgy marriage to a dentist. But swap marriage for an affair and the emotional landscape quickly changes: Being married to a war journalist, or committed to a relationship with one, means having a partner fly off at short notice, not knowing when they he or she will return, not having them around for anniversaries, birthdays, the absences magnified when there are children to raise, the drudgery of paying the bills or attending to broken appliances to deal with. And it means doing all of this in a state of perpetual anxiety because the person you love has chosen to work in the world’s most dangerous places where survival is uncertain.
Jeff Sallot's career at The Globe and Mail included reporting from 30 different countries, one of which was Rwanda. Sallot filed this story in May, 1994 during the early stages of the Rwandan Genocide.
Relationships can and often do wither in circumstances like these, and while this is a source of personal sorrow to the journalist and their family, the breakdown also removes an important buffer in a war correspondent’s life. For good, solid relationships are protective in terms of emotional health, and in a profession in which injury and death, kidnapping, mock executions and sexual assaults are all part of the job, the question of psychological well-being cannot be ignored.
Back to ‘normal’
And yet ignored it was until recently. The first study exploring how journalists cope psychologically with the hazards and rigours of war reporting appeared only in 2002, decades after researchers had begun investigating the emotional health of other professions linked to risk and danger.
This belated attention was likely due to a confluence of factors: The aura of an intrepid war journalist does not sit comfortably with the possibility of psychological breakdown, and war journalists have been reluctant to spotlight their distress rather than the suffering of their subjects, whose losses are of a magnitude alongside which all else pales. Then there has been the attitude of news managers who, not being short of young men and women volunteering for war reporting, have found it easier to look the other way instead of confronting the toll war can take on the emotional lives of those they send into harm’s way.
And so, while every front-line journalist knew a colleague who had “lost their bottle,” as combat fatigue or what is now called post-traumatic stress disorder, was euphemistically referred to, they only mentioned these broken colleagues in passing, under their breadth, as an embarrassed aside.
War, however, leaves an indelible imprint. The scars can be subtle, out of sight for an admiring public, hidden behind a debonair facade or a beguiling insouciance. But away from the camera or laptop, alone in yet another distant hotel room, when sleep just will not come because intrusive images and thoughts of death and disfigurement will not abate, a very different set of emotions holds sway.
Graeme Smith is a former Globe and Mail correspondent and author of The Dogs Are Eating Them Now: Our War in Afghanistan. Reporting from Afghanistan in 2007, Smith was part of a convoy ambushed by Taliban fighters.
Much has been written about PTSD, a syndrome that can arise after an individual is exposed to a life-threatening stressor. In response to the magnitude of the threat, four particular constellations of symptoms can develop: re-experiencing the traumatic event through flashbacks, dreams or involuntary thoughts and images attempts to avoid these phenomena by staying away from situations that trigger reminders of what has taken place the development of negative moods and thoughts, including a sense of estrangement from family, friends and colleagues and finally a loose grouping of behavioural difficulties that signify hyper-arousal of the autonomic nervous system, for example insomnia, irritability, difficulty concentrating, a prominent startle response and a hyper-vigilance, the latter present even in an environment where threat is absent.
A quick read of these symptoms reveals the bind traumatized war journalists can find themselves in. To work effectively, they cannot hang back from the fray. There is no place in war reporting for what is contemptuously regarded as “hotel room” journalism. So for the journalist with PTSD, work ethic now collides with the cardinal avoidance features of the syndrome, those behavioural features that are working both consciously and unconsciously to minimize not only exposure to the traumatic environmental stimuli but also the internal thoughts and images that follow in trauma’s wake.
To a traumatized journalist far from home, reluctant to acknowledge personal distress because of the stigma, or what it will mean for a career, the exhortations of the newsroom many times zones away to get the scoop, be first to the story, to keep the war alive for an insatiable 24-hour news cycle, this can become unbearable.
But PTSD is not just a collection of abstractions. Behaviour can change, too. Judgment is altered. Risk may be appraised differently. Safeguards are loosened. And with these changes, all maladaptive, the dangers confronted magnify even further, not only for the journalist but for their colleagues as well, because in tightly-knit bureaus under siege lives are interwoven and how one journalist behaves can have ramifications for all.
What is now known, belatedly, but not surprisingly given the magnitude of the dangers confronted, is that the prevalence rate for PTSD is significantly elevated in war journalists relative both to their colleagues who have never gone to war and to the general public.
In a finding that replicates the general trauma literature, two other disorders known to commonly occur with PTSD are present in war journalists as well – depression and substance abuse. Depression in this context is not merely a temporary case of the blues, but rather a pervasive sense of sadness for weeks on end, or longer, accompanied by a plethora of other symptoms that can include guilt, hopelessness, low energy, impaired sleep, appetite and libido, pessimism over the future, poor self-esteem and thoughts that life is not worth living. For some, alcohol becomes a means to self-medicate feelings of distress, an anodyne to blunt the pain of recollection that accompanies PTSD.
Data can, however, be parsed different ways. While evidence reveals that war journalists have a fourfold risk relative to their domestic colleagues of developing PTSD because of the nature of their work, the findings also show that the majority, more than 80 per cent, have no such problems. War journalists, a self-selected group to begin with, epitomize resilience in the face of great adversity.
Hard-wired for conflict
But resilience should not be equated with immunity. And given the increasing mortality associated with war journalism, deleterious effects on relationships from prolonged separation, and the heightened risk of major psychological illness as a direct consequence of exposure to grave dangers, what motivates individuals to pursue this work for a living?
Many reasons have been cited: a love of history, where covering war affords a ringside seat giving a voice to those dispossessed by war the inducement offered by a high-profile career the allure of working abroad, perhaps in an exotic locale or a combination of some or all of these factors. But these explanations, either individually or collectively, fall short. To keep going in this profession, to sustain a career over decades in war zones or places where disaster strikes, requires a necessary biological predisposition. The profession is littered with “one war” journalists: those who seek out novelty but lack the temperament to thrive in the presence of risk and uncertainty.
If there is a determinist ring to such an explanation, this does not imply the absence of free choice. There is nothing preordained in the career choice of war journalist. But to maintain the momentum to return to war year after year, notwithstanding the enormous risks to be negotiated, requires a particular kind of biological template that eschews the nine-to-five, the humdrum suburban existence, the bland and mundane social discourse that comes with a well-oiled and predictable routine. Most importantly, it also entails the ability to function well in situations of extreme peril, to keep one’s head in the midst of everything falling apart.
In May, 2010, The Globe and Mail's Mark MacKinnon, then our Beijing-based correspondent, was caught in the middle of a gun battle on the streets of Bangkok, Thailand. MacKinnon found himself trapped in the Wat Pathum Buddhist temple with an injured colleague and perhaps 1,500 other civilians while the fighting raged all around.
The term “adrenaline junkie” has frequently been applied to account for these behavioural traits. This is incorrect. Adrenaline is the neurotransmitter that surges in times of danger, sets the pulse racing and fuels the flight or fight response, but it is not a motivating factor in journalists voluntarily going off to war zones. That role falls to dopamine, a neurotransmitter twice removed from adrenaline in the same metabolic pathway. Dopamine is the primary “reward” neurotransmitter, one that determines an individual’s desire to seek new experiences, novelty, something different, all of which can come with varying degrees of risk. Individuals with high dopamine levels are also susceptible to boredom, hence the pursuit of the unconventional.
And this is where any discussion on what motivates war journalists to pursue their profession turns reductionist – because dopamine levels are tightly controlled genetically, albeit indirectly through the enzyme mono-amine oxidase, which is responsible for breaking down or metabolizing dopamine. Approximately two-thirds of an individual’s mono-amine oxidase is heritable, that is, determined by genes. High levels of mono-amine oxidase equate with lower dopamine concentrations and a temperament that is likely to be more cautious, risk aversive, and at home with routine. Conversely, low mono-amine oxidase levels are linked to higher dopamine concentrations and by extension, a career that is more likely to take one to countries at war, or in revolution or struggling in the aftermath of an earthquake or tsunami. There is nothing in this explanation unique to journalists. The same biological rationale also holds true for other risky professions: the alpinists, big wave surfers, Formula 1 drivers, astronauts, and so on. You either have high levels of dopamine or you don’t. You cannot acquire it. Having the “right stuff,” to borrow from Tom Wolfe, is really all about having enough dopamine.
Of course, not every individual with high dopamine ends up pursuing a career associated with elements of risk, novelty, excitement and uncertainty. But what is certain is that, should an individual’s temperament be at odds with the nature of their work or lifestyle, tensions arise and unhappiness is not far behind. This marriage of biological disposition to career choice is captured perceptively in the title of a collection of essays by Bruce Chatwin, The Anatomy of Restlessness. Travel, be it to remote Patagonia or the Australian outback, fuelled Mr. Chatwin’s creativity, and his allusion to anatomy speaks instinctively to this biological drive.
Here it is germane to note that biology is age-dependent. Levels of neurotransmitters decline with advancing years. When Oscar Levant put music to Edward Heyman’s lyrics for Blame it on my youth, he took as his leitmotiv the excuse of middle-age individuals looking back in dismay, and with a tinge of wistfulness perhaps, at earlier behaviours. This reappraisal that comes with time reflects a physiology in flux. War journalists are not spared these changes. By the time they are in their mid-forties, most (and there are always exceptions) have moved away from the front lines. Different, less dangerous work beckons and, in step with their biology, most will follow.
Neuroscience offers cogent explanations for human behaviour, and where there are gaps, psychologists, sociologists and anthropologists advance complimentary theories. Taken collectively, they provide an understanding of what motivates war journalists to pursue such a dangerous profession. Helpful as these insights are, they nevertheless fail to capture something more elusive, that seductive element embedded in conflict that acts as a magnet to those with the sensitivity to detect it. An unknown source gives voice to this siren call: “You may call war damnable – there is nothing too bad that can be said about it – and yet, it has a knack, which peace never learned, of uncovering the splendour in commonplace persons.”
With this sentiment in mind, it is fitting to give the final word on what drives war journalists back to zones of conflict time and again to one of them – Marguerite Higgins. She opened the door for women journalists but in the process succumbed at an early age to yet another hazard that awaits in far off lands – the bite of an insect carrying a fatal disease.
“There is very little that is not wasteful and dismal about war,” she wrote from the Korean battlefield. “The only clear, deep good is the special kind of bond welded between people who, having mutually shared a crisis, whether it be shelling or a machine-gun attack, emerge knowing that those involved behaved well. It is as close to being absolutely good as anything I know.”
Anthony Feinstein is a neuropsychiatrist, University of Toronto professor and the author of two books on journalists in war zones, most recently Journalists Under Fire: the Psychological Hazards of Covering War. He works at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto.
Belden spoke Chinese well and famously traveled to the front lines to cover events from the point of view of soldiers and villagers. He traveled with General Joseph Stilwell, who also spoke Chinese, on the latter's retreat from Burma. Other travels were with colleagues Agnes Smedley and Edgar Snow. He was one of the noted foreign correspondents in China in the 1930s and 1940s.
After graduating with honors from Colgate University at the beginning of the Depression, Belden found work as a merchant seaman. In 1933, he jumped ship in Shanghai.  He learned Chinese and eventually got a job covering local courts for Shanghai's English-language newspapers. After Japan invaded China in 1937, Belden was hired by United Press. Life magazine soon picked him up and he spent most of the Second World War as a correspondent for Time and Life in China, North Africa and Europe.
Belden was noted in China for getting closer to the action than most of the international press corps who, hampered by their inability to speak the language, usually stayed close to official sources of information. The New York Times' correspondent Tillman Durdin recalled, "Occasionally we were able to get into the field with the Chinese troops and see what was going on. Generally, we relied on Jack Belden and Joseph Stilwell, who collaborated in keeping track of where the Chinese armies were and what they were doing. Jack and Stilwell would plunge off into the hinterland and come back with information about the situation at the front, all of which was made available to us." 
In 1942, Belden earned some fame for being the only reporter who remained with Stilwell in Burma when the American General and his headquarters staff were cut off by the invading Japanese. Belden's book Retreat With Stilwell (1943) chronicled the journey that "Vinegar Joe", his staff and others made, mostly on foot, to India.
Belden went on to cover the war for Life in North Africa and Europe. In North Africa, he covered the British 8th Army's grueling march from Egypt to Tunisia. Again, Belden distinguished himself by getting as close to the combat and the people fighting it as possible. Correspondent Don Whitehead, who would go on to win two Pulitzer Prizes declared that Belden had inspired him. In his book, Beachhead Don, Whitehead recalls noticing the Belden would disappear from time to time from the company of the other reporters. When Whitehead asked where he had been, Belden replied that he had been at the front with the troops. Chastened, Whitehead says, "I decided I would use the Belden approach to reporting and get as close as I possibly could to the fighting." 
After the Africa campaign, Belden landed with the invading troops in Sicily and Salerno.
In 1943, Belden's leg was shattered by machine-gun fire during the Salerno invasion. After recovering in the U.S., he returned to Europe and covered the invasion of France and the end of the War in Europe. Eric Sevareid, in his autobiography Not So Wild a Dream, recounts crossing paths with Belden in the final weeks before the Nazi surrender.
A collection of short essays, Still Time to Die, (1944) includes his reportage from battlefields in Asia, North Africa and Europe.
Belden's best remembered work was his last, which joins Edgar Snow's Red Star Over China, Graham Peck's Two Kinds of Time, and Theodore White and Annalee Jacoby's Thunder Out of China as classics which shaped Western understanding of the Chinese Revolution. 
When Belden returned to the United States in 1947, a magazine editor shouted that he wasn't going to print "any of this goddam lefty stuff."  But Belden returned to China to report on the Civil War between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party.
Belden avoided Mao's Yan'an: "that cave village had become a tourist center with every foreign correspondent in China hopping over to have a quick look. I had no desire to get mixed up in that circus, fearing that it might be very hard for me to get in close contact with the people, the war or their revolution." Belden felt Mao Zedong represented the party apparatchik or the intellectual, and saw in the villages that the Communists were not trying to establish a "utopian democracy." 
The first part of the book is based on eye-witness, participant reporting which leads the reader to the conclusion that the Communist dominated Border Region Government had the allegiance of local leaders. Belden devoted sections to village personalities: Gold Flower, the story of an abused woman Field Mouse, a guerilla commander The Beggar Writer and the Guerilla Girl.
Belden goes on to make a strong second point: while the local village revolution had the potential for democratic progress, Mao's national revolution had the potential for despotism. "The Communists", he reasoned, "took power by making love to the people of China," and "won the people to their cause" by meeting their needs better. But in order to do so, Mao and the Party built a "wholly new power apparatus." They may have sincerely intended to represent the interests of the common people but their new power apparatus would also "elude their intentions and tend to exist for its own sake." He warned that "there may arise a new elite, a set of managers standing above the Chinese masses", bringing a danger that "rulers not subject to democratic checks" may "confusing themselves with God", "expand their private viewpoints into an arbitrary vision of what society should be. force their dreams on others, blunder into grave political mistakes and finally plunge into outright tyranny." 
Belden published China Shakes the World in 1949, when the American public had lost interest in reports from China. The book's reputation came only in the 1960s, when the Monthly Review Press reprinted it in paperback with a sympathetic introduction by Owen Lattimore.
After writing China Shakes the World, Belden married twice leaving two sons, David from his first marriage and Jack from his second. Having left journalism and his families, he moved to Summit, New Jersey to live with his mother where he worked at a series of jobs including school bus driver. He eventually returned to Paris, where he died in 1989.
WAR CULTURE – War Correspondents
Since the advent of the modern press, newspapers and journals have dispatched their reporters to the seat of war in pursuit of the gripping action narrative or the photo that defines a conflict. Here, MHM profiles some of the first and best of the war correspondents.
WILLIAM HOWARD RUSSELL (1820-1907)
‘They advanced in two lines, quickening the pace as they closed towards the enemy… At the distance of 1200 yards the whole line of the enemy belched forth, from thirty iron mouths, a flood of smoke and flame through which hissed the deadly balls.’
Perhaps the father of the modern war correspondent, William Howard Russell shook Victorian England with his no-holds-barred reportage of British military incompetence during the Crimean War. His exposure of these blunders was directly responsible for radical changes in the way soldiers were treated and to their conditions of service. Much of the military’s existing administrative and logistical system was revamped.
Russell’s influence was vast. His depictions of a clumsily-organised British army at Balaclava, Inkerman, and Sebastopol were blunt and honest worlds away from the quixotic, jumped-up tales of valour being produced by his contemporaries.
Undermining army leaders and military top brass was, however, a risky business. He was nearly fired on various occasions for airing the British military’s dirty laundry, and was also subjected to unrelenting hostility from the authorities, including instances where his tent was vandalised and his property damaged. The reward for enduring these physical and mental sacrifices? To be branded an unpatriotic liar by his countrymen back home.
Of the Army’s meagre provisions and under-stocked medical supplies, he wrote: ‘The commonest accessories of a hospital are wanting there is not the least attention paid to decency or cleanliness… and, for all I can observe, these men die without the least effort being made to save them… The sick appear to be tended by the sick, and the dying by the dying.’
In India, he witnessed violent racist attacks on Indian soldiers. Writing of the treatment of a captured mutineer in 1858, he reported: ‘… he was pulled by the legs to a convenient place, where he was held down, pricked in the face and body by the bayonets of some of the soldiery whilst others collected fuel for a small pyre, and when all was ready – the man was roasted alive! There were Englishmen looking on, more than one officer saw it. No one offered to interfere…’
FLOYD GIBBONS (1887-1939)
‘My appearance must have been sufficient to have shocked them. I was hatless and my hair was matted with blood. The red-stained bandage around my forehead and extending down over my left cheek did not hide the rest of my face, which was unwashed, and consequently red with fresh blood.’
During the First World War, Floyd Phillips Gibbons was the official war correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. His fast-paced radio broadcasts made him a household name throughout America, and he is credited with being one of the first radio news reporters.
His journalistic career began at the Tribune in 1907 when he became well-known for covering the Pancho Villa Expedition in 1916, and for reporting on the 1917 torpedoing of the British ship Laconia. He was also a passenger on board the Laconia, just one of many dangerous situations he found himself in throughout his life as a war correspondent.
Another was at the Battle of Belleau Wood in France in 1918. In the process of trying to rescue an American soldier, Gibbons was hit by German gunfire and subsequently lost his left eye. Later than year, he was awarded France’s greatest honour, the Croix de Guerre with Palm, for this selfless act of bravery on the battlefield.
As his career progressed, Gibbons became known more and more as a radio commentator and narrator of newsreels, for which he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1929, he had his own half-hour radio programme on Wednesday nights, and in 1930, he narrated the documentary film With Byrd at the South Pole.
Thanks to Gibbons’ suggestion that Frank Buck write a book about his animal-collecting adventures, Buck collaborated with Edward Anthony on Bring ‘Em Back Alive, which became a bestseller in 1930. Gibbons himself wrote a book on the Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen, and another on the prospect of a Soviet conquest of Europe and invasion of America.
Gibbons died of a heart attack in September 1939 at his farm in Pennsylvania. Two years later, Marine Corps League State Commandant Roland L Young posthumously awarded Gibbons a gold medal, making him an honorary member of the Marine Corps. It was the first time such an honour had ever been bestowed upon a civilian in the history of the Marine Corps League.
Margaret Bourke-White, 1904-1971
‘The very secret of life for me… was to maintain in the midst of rushing events an inner tranquillity. I had picked a life that dealt with excitement, tragedy, mass calamities, human triumphs, and suffering. To throw my whole self into recording and attempting to understand these things, I needed an inner serenity as a kind of balance.’
She was the first female war correspondent and the first woman to work in combat zones during WWII. She travelled to the eye of the storm as Germany broke its peace-pact with the Soviet Union in 1941, capturing the blazing trail of destruction as the German forces invaded.
As the war progressed, Margaret Bourke-White was increasingly exposed to some of the fiercest fighting, most notably in North Africa with USAAF and in Italy with the US Army, where she repeatedly came under fire.
To the staff at Life magazine, she was known as ‘Maggie the Indestructible’ after her numerous dices with death, including one when the England-to-Africa British troopship she was on board, the SS Strathallan, was torpedoed in the Mediterranean. She recorded her experience in an article for Life titled ‘Women in Lifeboats’ on 22 February 1943.
Her work is well-known in India and Pakistan, notably her photographs of Gandhi at his spinning wheel and of Pakistan’s founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah. According to journalist Somini Sengupta, Bourke-White was ‘one of the most effective chroniclers’ of the partition of India and Pakistan, and of the violent scenes which accompanied it. She goes on to say that, in looking at her photography, ‘you glimpse the photographer’s undaunted desire to stare down horror’.
Bourke-White was obsessed with photography. She was always able to place herself in the right place at the right time, a talent which her interview with Mohandas K Gandhi hours before his assassination in 1948 proves.
Of her arrival at the notorious concentration camp Buchenwald, she said, ‘Using a camera was almost a relief. It interposed a slight barrier between myself and the horror in front of me.’
After the war, she produced the book Dear Fatherland, Rest Quietly, a cathartic side-project which helped her obtain a little closure following the brutality she had witnessed throughout her professional career.
WINSTON CHURCHILL, 1874-1965
‘Everybody is in favour of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.’
The manner in which Winston Churchill used the power of the media to influence and persuade others was unprecedented. As a young, ambitious man he had always made sure to keep on good terms with newspaper proprietors, becoming close friends with Oliver Borthwick, editor of the Morning Post, and Alfred Harmsworth, proprietor of the Daily Mail, in the late 1890s.
As a war correspondent during the Boer War, his antics and feats of derring-do – including tales of capture and escape – would secure for him a celebrity status he would capitalise on during his early political campaigns.
In 1899, Churchill headed to South Africa as a newspaper correspondent for the Morning Post. While there, he found himself on board an armoured train which was ambushed and captured by Boer soldiers. He arrived in Pretoria at the State Model Schools prison on 18 November 1899 along with all the other prisoners.
On the night of 12 December, a chance to escape presented itself and Churchill climbed over the prison wall while the guards’ backs were turned.
Wearing a brown flannel suit with £75 and four slabs of chocolate in his pocket, Churchill walked through the night in hopes of finding the Delagoa Bay Railway. After one or two train journeys hidden by coal-stained sacks, he found himself at the house of the manager of the Transvaal Collieries, John Howard. Mr Howard hid him in a coal mine before managing to transport him to safety.
It is easy to forget, with the breadth of Churchill’s long-spanning political career, that Churchill was first a successful war correspondent. In his 1900 book London to Ladysmith via Pretoria, he gives his impressions of the first five months of the Second Boer War. His style was well-suited to readers of the Boy’s Own Paper, which had been launched 20 years previously
Of the Boer army, he writes, ‘What men they were, these Boers! I thought of them as I had seen them in the morning riding forward through the rain – thousands of independent riflemen, thinking for themselves, possessed of beautiful weapons, led with skill, living as they rode without commissariat or transport or ammunition column, moving like the wind, and supported by iron constitutions and a stern, hard Old Testament God.’
Herbert Bayard Swope (1882-1958)
‘The secret of a successful newspaper is to take one story each day and bang the hell out of it. Give the public what it wants to have and part of what it ought to have whether it wants it or not.’
Inside the German Empire was a series of articles which won Herbert Bayard Swope the first ever Pulitzer Prize for Reporting in 1917. The articles were based on Swope’s time as a reporter during the First World War. Along with James W Gerard, he later turned the articles into a book, Inside the German Empire: in the third year of the war.
He is probably best known for coining the phrase ‘Cold War’, and for being the first editor to use the ‘op-ed’ concept, where opinion pieces are published opposite the editorial. Although standard editorial pages had been printed by newspapers for many centuries, Swope established the first modern op-ed spread in 1921.
When he took over as editor in 1920, he realized that the page opposite the editorials was ‘a catchall for book reviews, society boilerplate, and obituaries.’ He wrote: ‘It occurred to me that nothing is more interesting than opinion when opinion is interesting, so I devised a method of cleaning off the page opposite the editorial, which became the most important in America… and thereon I decided to print opinions, ignoring facts.’
Swope served as the editor for New York World’s 21-day crusade against the Ku Klux Klan in October 1921 a campaign which won the newspaper the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1922. As an example of investigative journalism, it was ranked 81 out the top 100 journalism stories of the 20th century by New York University’s journalism department.
A legendary poker player, Swope is supposed to have once won over $470,000 in a game with an oil baron, a steel magnate, and an entertainer.
Richard Harding Davis (1864–1916)
‘The secret of good writing is to say an old thing in a new way or to say a new thing in an old way.’
In his youth, you may have been forgiven for describing Richard Harding Davis as a layabout. Dismissed from Lehigh University for choosing to dedicate his time to his social life rather than his studies, his father managed to secure him a job as a journalist for the Philadelphia Record. For similar reasons, he was quickly sacked from this position. Hope for the young socialite seemed lost.
He managed a brief stint at the Philadelphia Press, before accepting a better-paid job at the New York Evening Sun. It was here that Davis began to shine as a writer, his flamboyantly written pieces on the sensitive subjects of abortion, suicide, and execution soon started turning heads.
Working his way up the journalistic ladder, he became a managing editor of Harper’s Weekly and was soon to be recognised as one of the world’s leading war correspondents with his coverage of the Second Boer War. America’s neutrality meant he was able to report from both British and Boer perspectives.
From a United States Navy warship during the Spanish Civil War, Davis witnessed the shelling of Matanzas in Cuba. The story he subsequently wrote made national headlines, but resulted in reporters being banned from American naval vessels for the rest of the war.
He covered the Russo-Japanese War from the perspective of the Japanese forces, and later went on to report on the Salonika Front during WWI, an experience which led to his being arrested as a spy by the Germans. He was soon released.
Although some of his contemporaries accused him of yellow journalism – which uses sensationalist headlines, fabricated interviews, and unfounded articles to sell publications – his stories of life and travel in Central America, the Caribbean, Rhodesia, and South Africa were widely published and well-received.
He was a good friend of Theodore Roosevelt’s, and used his popular writing and wide influence to assist the politician’s career. That influence stretched as far as the fashion world, where he popularised the clean-shaven look among men at the turn of the 20th century.
Helen Johns Kirtland (1890-1979)
‘Camouflage is, of course, either the art of making something ‘look as though it ain’t’, or look like something else entirely.’
Active towards the end of the First World War, Kirtland was the first and only female correspondent to be allowed at the front after the Battle of Caporetto. She worked as a photojournalist for the highly visual European publication Leslie’s Weekly. In this capacity, she faced real danger on a regular basis.
She was made a guest of the US Navy and Army during the First World War, and worked with the support of the YMCA, with whom she was also closely linked. Her ability to communicate in a number of languages and her natural talent for photography ensured success on her European assignments.
Like many of her female contemporaries, Kirstland chose to focus mainly on the activity of women during the war. ‘A Tribute to Women War Workers’ was a picture story published in Leslie’s Weekly on 30 November 1918, which celebrated those women who had aided the Allied armies and alleviated the suffering of civilians.
A letter to her mother written on a tour sponsored by the Belgian Relief Committee after the war offers a taste of the style in which she wrote:
I am first beginning to get over the queer sensation of crossing the lines and wandering in no-man’s-land. Even yet one hears tremendous explosions now and then – and these only add local colour – appropriate sounds to describe the sights! For they are of course cleaning up the country of duds – My! What a job! I’d hate to be a farmer in these parts!… Every now and again someone gets ‘Bumped off’. The shells and their little brothers, the hand grenades, are not a race of savages to get too chummy with and stub your toe on one as you tramp through the pits and hummocks among the lines.
Kirtland and her husband Lucian Swift Kirtland spent the post-war period travelling extensively through Europe and Asia. Lucian wrote for various publications, while Helen often made the photographs that accompanied her husband’s articles, but was rarely credited.
The Extraordinary Life of Martha Gellhorn, the Woman Ernest Hemingway Tried to Erase
A maverick war correspondent, Hemingway's third wife was the only woman at D-Day and saw the liberation of Dachau. Her husband wanted her home in his bed.
One sultry morning last June, I hired a car to take me from beautifully ruinous Old Havana, through ravaged parts of the city most tourists never see, to the nearby village of San Francisco de Paula, a dusty speck of a place that was once home to Cuba&rsquos most famous American expat, Ernest Hemingway.
Having painted him into two historical novels and become an accidental aficionado of his life, I have made it a point to visit all of Hemingway&rsquos residences&mdashfrom Oak Park to Paris, from Key West to Ketchum&mdashbut this time I actually came looking for someone else: his third wife, Martha Gellhorn. It was she who found the 19th-century estate Finca Vigía (Watchtower Farm) in the want ads of a local paper in 1939, and she who undertook extensive renovations, at her own expense.
The couple had just come from Spain, where they had lived side by side as international correspondents and clandestine lovers in Madrid's Hotel Florida, a mile's walk from one of the fronts in the Spanish Civil War and the target of frequent shell attacks by Franco's artillery. This, her first war, took every ounce of Gellhorn's courage, and it changed her in innumerable ways. And yet somehow house hunting in Cuba took even more bravery.
Franco had gutted Spain, Hitler was on the loose in Europe, and nations were tumbling ever faster toward world war. Nearer by, her lover was legally bound to another: wife number two, Pauline Pfeiffer, mother of two of his sons. Cuba, for him, was the perfect bolt-hole. But for Gellhorn, seeking happiness under these circumstances was a dangerous, even radical, act.
I think of her driving out of town, just as I did. How she must have climbed the hill, squinting against the sun, breathing in crepe myrtle and bougainvillea, trying to guess at the future. The house had been abandoned for years, with peeling stucco, a half-buried swimming pool, the jungle encroaching on every side. But rooted to the front steps was an enormous ceiba tree, with orchids growing out of the gnarled, hide like trunk. It seemed to be the soul of the farm, she would later write, and it spoke to her in the deepest way, promising safety and love and belonging, if she could possibly bear to ask for them.
It&rsquos this inner tension, this struggle for equilibrium, that I have come so far to explore. I&rsquom determined to see the Finca for myself, to search out Gellhorn precisely where she met her match&mdashnot at any of the dozens of conflicts she covered in her long and matchless career as a war correspondent, but the first place she pitted hope against anxiety, love against ruin&mdashtaking a fragile shot at happiness and that even more elusive thing: home.
Not that it was going to be easy. The Finca has been a museum (Museo Hemingway Finca Vigía) since just after the writer committed suicide, in 1961. Each year between 80,000 and 120,000 visitors come up the lane to pay about $5 to look in the open windows, for while the grounds are accessible and all the entrances are flung wide, the house itself is permanently cordoned off to preserve its contents.
I&rsquom determined to get in and have pleaded my case for months to the Cuban government and the museum&rsquos director, stating my seriousness as a researcher and Hemingway scholar. After letters faxed and e-mailed, and a good bit of nail-biting, I finally got my golden ticket.
Ada Rosa Alfonso, the current director, is an unassuming middle-aged woman with flyaway red-tinted hair and an abiding passion for all things Hemingway. Luckily, she has read my novel The Paris Wife, about Hemingway&rsquos literary apprenticeship and his first spouse, Hadley Richardson, and she sees me as an ally. When we meet at the staff offices, she offers to give me a personal tour and asks where I&rsquod like to begin.
Cuba was the first place Gellhorn pitted hope against anxiety, love against ruin&mdashtaking a fragile shot at happiness and that even more elusive thing: home.
Hemingway lived here for more than 20 years, from 1939 until the early days of Fidel Castro&rsquos violent takeover. When he was forced to abandon the property, in July 1960, not knowing whether he would ever return, he left everything behind: clothing, furniture, whiskey, paintings by Braque and Juan Gris and Masson, and thousands upon thousands of books. It&rsquos all still here, a virtual time capsule&mdashand his boat too, the Pilar, which he loved with more devotion, arguably, than he did any of his four wives. Yet what I want to see first, and more than anything else, is Gellhorn&rsquos beloved ceiba tree.
As we approach the house, a low, creamy, open structure, I notice that a ceiba does indeed sprout from the steps. But just as I get excited, Alfonso informs me that it&rsquos an impostor. The original tree was removed in the 1950s because it threatened the foundations of the house. I am sadder than I would have imagined possible to learn that it&rsquos gone. I try to explain my disappointment and the personal symbolism of the tree to Alfonso, but I find I can&rsquot. Still, the house itself beckons.
What&rsquos more alluring than rarely granted permission? Past the rope barricades at the broad front entrance, there&rsquos an expanse of marigold-yellow Spanish tiles, and an invitation to time travel. The 50-foot-long living room, flooded with sunlight, still holds the stuffed chintz chairs Gellhorn selected nearly 80 years ago and the sofa Clark Gable slept on (he complained that the guest beds were too short).
The animal heads on the walls (which Gellhorn loathed and chided Hemingway about) are from a 1934 Africa safari he had gone on with Pfeiffer. Books are everywhere, covered with dust and fingerprints. I half expect the phonograph to flare to life with Fats Waller, or Chopin&rsquos Mazurka in C Major. They both learned to love that piece in Madrid, playing it on Hemingway&rsquos gramophone as the shells rained down and the ceiling shook.
I want to find more evidence of Gellhorn, but that&rsquos an impossible task in the south-facing bedroom, where one closet is full, floor to ceiling, of Hemingway&rsquos shoes, and tourists press in from the bathroom windows, hoping to touch his blue-patterned shower curtain and read the pencil marks covering one wall that record the rise and fall of his weight (along with small parenthetical annotations by him, such as &ldquoafter trip drinking lots of beer&rdquo).
This is the bedroom where Hemingway worked. He wrote the bulk of For Whom the Bell Tolls here, beginning in April 1939. His desk is covered with talismans: a bowl of smooth stones, another of hotel keys, a careful line of wooden and stuffed toy animals he was sent for various birthdays. He didn&rsquot write at the desk but over by the bookcase along the west-facing wall, standing on a kudu hide placed on the yellow tile, either drumming away at his solidly built Royal typewriter or writing longhand against a wooden board, with one leg propped up, tree-style, the foot braced against his inner thigh.
&ldquoShe was here,&rdquo I want to shout. &ldquoAnd she was extraordinary.&rdquo
Gellhorn wrote here too, completing two novels, A Stricken Field and Liana, and a collection of stories, The Heart of Another, during the same period when Hemingway was laboring over his Spanish Civil War masterpiece. I ask Alfonso where Gellhorn might have worked, and she says possibly in the library, next door to Hemingway&rsquos workspace, which once was two connected bedrooms. But no one knows for sure. And though it makes perfect sense that the house is a shrine to Hemingway, it&rsquos maddening to me that few if any of these visitors know or care about what this place meant to Gellhorn, or what her life meant, beyond her connection to him.
I feel a powerful urge to shout her name to the tourists who peer in at the window, the ones ogling me ogling them. She was here, I want to shout. And she was extraordinary.
In a journalism career that spanned 60 years, Gellhorn&rsquos particular brand of nerve was rare as radium. Fear seemed to activate rather than suppress her, and it taught her courage in the face of injustice instead of despair. Sharpened by rage and wielded in the service of others, her voice became a sword. I&rsquom not sure I have encountered its equal, even today. We could use an army of such voices, in fact. And precisely now.
Just 28 when she took on her first war and in her early 80s when she took on her last (the U.S. invasion of Panama), Gellhorn covered virtually every major conflict of the 20th century. After the Spanish Civil War she reported on the Japanese invasion of China, the Czech Crisis, the Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland, and all significant theaters of World War II (including the liberation of Dachau).
Later she covered the Six-Day War in the Middle East and the conflicts in Vietnam and Nicaragua. And always she told the stories of others, those &ldquosufferers of history&rdquo whose lives, she deeply believed, were our direct responsibility. Eschewing both sentimentality and &ldquoall that objectivity shit,&rdquo she wrote vividly, with fire and indignation, trying to shake the larger world awake to the truth of mutuality: that what affects one affects us all. For beneath the battle statistics lay people. There was no &ldquoother&rdquo in Martha Gellhorn&rsquos world, and there was no &ldquolater.&rdquo Only us. Only now.
She was born into a &ldquotalking family&rdquo in St. Louis, in 1908, to parents as well informed and intentioned as they were well heeled. Martha&rsquos father George Gellhorn was a publicly progressive figure (as well as being St. Louis&rsquos most reputable gynecologist). Her mother Edna Fischel Gellhorn was a tireless advocate for the disenfranchised, championing women&rsquos suffrage, child welfare laws, and free health clinics.
Their humanism and activism became part of Martha&rsquos DNA, knit through her work from the beginning, or nearly so. There was an early novel she came to regard as embarrassing, What Mad Pursuit, which horrified her parents and helped no one. But shortly thereafter she had a chance introduction to social worker Harry Hopkins, at a 1931 party in Washington, DC, and she began to write for him, along with a small team of reporters, when Hopkins started the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. The team would travel to parts of the country hit hardest by the Depression and report back to Hopkins, who would pass on a narrative portrait of what Americans were enduring to President Roosevelt&mdashnot facts and statistics but the human story, the view from the ground.
At 25 the youngest reporter on Hopkins&rsquos team, Gellhorn received travel vouchers and $5 a day to go from town to dejected town, beginning in Gaston County, North Carolina, where she interviewed the families of mill workers and sharecroppers. She saw more poverty, syphilis, slow starvation, and utter despair than anything her life up to then could have prepared her for.
Her reports are sharply drawn and moving portraits of people who were buckling, swinging free of all hope and yet too proud to go on relief. She admired their grit, and wept for them, and shook with rage. All of this comes through in the writing, which was being sent by Hopkins, without Gellhorn&rsquos knowledge, to Eleanor Roosevelt as well as FDR. She was invited to dinner at the White House to share stories of what she had seen.
&ldquoFranklin, talk to that girl,&rdquo Eleanor urged, starting a conversation that became an open invitation to visit anytime and tell them both more.
Nearly a year into her post Gellhorn was fired for inciting a riot among unemployed workers in rural Idaho, and Eleanor wrote to say that she was welcome to live at the White House until she could find her feet again. For two months Gellhorn stayed in what would later be named the Lincoln Bedroom, helping Eleanor answer sheaves of mail from people in dire straits.
Gellhorn claimed Eleanor as a private hero and became galvanized during her time at the White House to use her voice and considerable energy to expose the suffering she had seen and give it a broad, loud platform. She would write fiction, using real life models. The resulting book, thrown off in a few short, burning months, became The Trouble I&rsquove Seen, a collection of four novellas that was praised far and wide. According to the Saturday Review of Literature, it seemed to be &ldquowoven not out of words but out of the tissues of human beings.&rdquo It made Gellhorn the literary discovery of 1936.
It was only by chance that she met Hemingway the very same year. She was on vacation in Florida with her mother and brother, and she all but walked into the author in a Key West bar, where he was reading his mail. He was 37 and she 28, and he was arguably the most famous writer anywhere, having published The Sun Also Rises (which was both bible and lifestyle manual for an entire generation) in 1926 and A Farewell to Arms (which further raised the standard for American literature) in 1929.
&ldquoBe advised, love passes,&rdquo Gellhorn once wrote. &ldquoWork alone remains.&rdquo
And then there was his blazing, conspicuous life. I try to imagine her turning down his invitation to follow him to Madrid, where he was going to report on the Spanish Civil War for the North American Newspaper Alliance. She would have had a very different life, to be sure. But while history likes to remember the way Hemingway nurtured her as a correspondent, almost nowhere is it written that he also tried very hard to ruin her.
Hemingway was a complicated man to love&mdashand one who demanded absolute loyalty. After they had been together for six years (they married in 1940, a year after moving to Cuba), the war in Europe escalated and Collier&rsquos sent Gellhorn to London, which was nearly unrecognizable after the Blitz. But Hemingway complained of being abandoned, sending her a cable that said, &ldquoAre you a war correspondent or wife in my bed?&rdquo There wasn&rsquot, and couldn&rsquot be, any way those roles could coexist.
He had watched his own father be cowed by his mother, a tank of a woman named Grace Hemingway, and felt ashamed for them both. His first wife, Hadley Richardson, had no career, and Pauline Pfeiffer had very quickly stopped being a journalist for Paris Vogue to be Mrs. Hemingway instead. But Gellhorn was an utterly different sort of woman.
They quarreled, he like &ldquoa housebroken cobra&rdquo and she just as explosively, so that they sometimes frightened each other. But to Gellhorn, capitulation felt like an &ldquoodd performance.&rdquo She began to wonder if she were happiest at war, because it was nothing like life, though you had to risk yours to be there. War made more of her and marriage made less, she hypothesized, because there was no fear in it. In marriage the fear came from within. &ldquoBecause when you agreed to 'polish all the edges and keep [your] voices low&rsquo you sometimes lost yourself as you knew yourself, on the inside.&rsquo&rdquo
The breaking point came in the summer of 1944. Livid with Gellhorn for choosing her work yet again, Hemingway offered his byline to Collier&rsquos. At the time, each magazine or newspaper could send only one correspondent to the front, and Collier&rsquos chose Hemingway. Gellhorn now had no credentials, and no marriage to speak of. Love had turned to hate. Paradise felt airless, deadly.
When Gellhorn found a way back to Europe, it was on a munitions barge loaded with amphibious transport craft and dynamite headed for England. For the D-Day invasion Hemingway had a place on an attack transport, the Dorothea L. Dix, while she was supposed to watch from the shore, letting him steal her thunder. Instead, she slunk along a dock, on a cold, wet night, thinking on her feet.
Operation Neptune was in full swing. Some 160,000 Allied troops on nearly 5,000 vessels were being launched across the Channel toward Normandy, in the largest amphibious assault the world had ever seen. She had no real plan on that dock, but when military personnel approached her, she flashed an expired press badge, pointed at the largest thing in view&mdasha hulking white hospital barge with a red cross on its side&mdashand said she was there to interview nurses. To her shock, she was waved through.
Shaking, she boarded, knowing that if anyone happened upon her she would be arrested immediately. She found a restroom with a locking door and set up camp on the floor in one corner, reaching for liquid courage from the flask in her satchel and thanking god she had it. When the barge began to move, after midnight, she drank faster, thinking about all the things that could happen: her capture and expulsion, the barge being blown up, or reaching her goal, which might have been the most terrifying scenario of all.
At dawn, hungover and green with seasickness, she let herself out of her self-made prison to see the cliffs of Normandy and the mind-boggling spectacle that was D-Day. Thousands of destroyers, battleships, attack vessels, and transport ships comprised the armada the sky was a violent mirror, with airborne divisions raining down thousands of bombs simultaneously.
Amid this otherworldly chaos, no longer caring about personal or professional consequences, Gellhorn learned that her hands&mdashany hands&mdashwere needed. The vessel she had stowed away on by chance was the first hospital ship to arrive at the battle. When landing craft pulled alongside, she fetched food and bandages, water and coffee, and helped interpret where she could. When night fell, she went ashore at Omaha Beach with a handful of doctors and medics&mdashnot as a journalist but as a stretcher bearer&mdash flinging herself into icy surf that brimmed with corpses, following just behind the minesweepers to recover the wounded.
All night she labored, with blisters on her hands, her mind and heart seared with images of pain and death she would never forget. Later she would learn that everyone of the hundreds of credentialed journalists, including her husband, sat poised behind her in the Channel with binoculars, never making it to shore. Hemingway&rsquos story soon appeared in Collier&rsquos alongside hers, with top billing and more dazzle, but the truth had already been written on the sand. There were 160,000 men on that beach and one woman. Gellhorn.
There were 160,000 men on that beach and one woman. Gellhorn.
When I read this story a few years ago in a biography of Gellhorn, I got chills. Here was incontrovertible proof of the human spirit, and yet how many of us know of it, or of her? Even at the Finca, the house she reclaimed from the jungle, convincing the reluctant Hemingway that they would be happy there, Gellhorn is all but invisible. The closets in the back bedroom are stuffed with the clothes of Mary Welsh, Hemingway wife number four. At the vanity in the master bathroom sit Welsh&rsquos hairbrush and perfume and powder puff.
The Finca has developed a vast digital archive of Hemingway&rsquos effects, and when I&rsquom allowed to look through it with the help of a staff member named Kenya, she shrugs when I mention Gellhorn&rsquos name and explains through my translator that there&rsquos &ldquonot much.&rdquo
We sit at a temporary workstation set up in what used to be the kitchen, out of sight from tourists, and she prints copies of the few photographs of Gellhorn she can find. She eyes me oddly when I ask for copies of Gellhorn&rsquos housekeeping instructions and notes to staff, including an order she typed up for the gardener specifying how many bulbs and shrubs she wanted in her paradise (dahlias and snapdragons, petunias and phlox and morning glory) and her recipes for chop suey, abalone soup, and something called &ldquocorn spoon.&rdquo
I can&rsquot explain why I want these scraps of her nest building, but they feel important&mdasheven in their fleetingness&mdashand real.
Certainly it could be argued that Gellhorn erased herself from the Finca when she left Hemingway (the only one of his four wives to do so). After D-Day she stayed in Europe and became one of the first journalists on hand when the Dachau concentration camp was liberated in April 1945. Hemingway stayed too, taking up with Mary Welsh, a pretty young journalist with bylines for Time and the Daily Express. When the war was over he took Welsh home to Cuba, telegraphing the staff at the Finca to get the house ready but not saying why.
Legend has it that after Welsh arrived, the house manager, René Villarreal, came upon some graffiti, perhaps painted by one of the less loyal servants or by someone from the village. It read, &ldquoLet&rsquos see how long it will last.&rdquo It lasted until the terrible end, in fact. Welsh was still with Hemingway in July 1960, when he was forced to leave Cuba. He was by then a broken person, struggling with deteriorating health, depression, alcoholism, and memory loss. Pictures from that time show a man closer to 80 than 60. Within a year he would take his own life.
Gellhorn returned to Cuba only once, in 1986, on her way to Nicaragua for &ldquoserious&rdquo work. On the island, she meant to indulge in nostalgia (a rarity for her) before more typical holiday stuff: swimming, sunning, and rum drinks chased with thrillers. She picked up Gregorio Fuentes, the skipper of Hemingway&rsquos beloved cabin cruiser, Pilar, and went to the Finca.
&ldquoWhat did they do to the ceiba?&rdquo Gellhorn asked Fuentes.
&ldquoThe roots were pulling up the floor of the house,&rdquo he answered. &ldquoThe museo had to cut it down.&rdquo
&ldquoThey should have pulled down the house instead,&rdquo she replied. (In fact, it was Welsh who ordered the ceiba destroyed. It was pushing up the tiles in her dining room.)
&ldquoCuba makes me understand that I am old,&rdquo Gellhorn told Fuentes before she left Havana for the last time, over slugs of rum at his brightly painted house in Cojimar. She understood that in the movie of Hemingway&rsquos life she was &ldquothe villain, the bad girl.&rdquo I would argue that she chose the role of villain over dissembling, forced to choose by the cruel dilemma she found herself in. &ldquoAre you a war correspondent or wife in my bed?&rdquo he had cabled. And here she had been thinking she could have it all.
&ldquoBe advised, love passes,&rdquo she once wrote. &ldquoWork alone remains.&rdquo After Hemingway, she would swing from relationship to relationship, mostly with married men, tiring of love again and again, or tiring of herself in it. She strode, mostly alone, through 53 countries and described herself as feeling &ldquopermanently dislocated&mdashun voyageur sur la terre.&rdquo
She worked until she couldn&rsquot, went to war until her body couldn&rsquot take the strain, wrote until blindness encroached. Like Hemingway, she chose suicide when things grew too dire. She was 89 and had been given a terminal cancer diagnosis. Only recently had she stopped swimming and snorkeling. Right up to the end she was thinking about traveling&mdasha trip to Egypt, perhaps, to get a long look at the pyramids.
&ldquoI want a life with people that is almost explosive in its excitement,&rdquo she wrote,&ldquofierce and hard and laughing and loud and gay as all hell let loose.&rdquo It seems to me she had that life&mdashand that it&rsquos one worth looking at. Even searching for.
&ldquoWhy should I be a footnote to someone else&rsquos life?&rdquo she once asked. Perhaps it&rsquos up to us now to make sure that can&rsquot&mdashwon&rsquot&mdashhappen.
Paula McClain's novel Love and Ruin is about Martha Gellhorn's marriage to Ernest Hemingway.
This story appeared in the August 2018 issue of Town & Country. Subscribe Now
FDR and the Need for Truth
STEPHEN DANDO-COLLINS is the author of 44 books, mostly involving military history. The next, Conquering Jerusalem: The Roman Campaign to Crush the AD 66-73 Jewish Revolt, will be published by Turner in July. Stephen is grateful to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, Hyde Park, for assistance in his research for this article.
Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, November 1943.
Photo U.S. Navy - U.S. Defense Visual Information Center photo HD-SN-99-03001
In the mid afternoon of Tuesday, December 28, 1943, Life magazine correspondent Robert &lsquoBob&rsquo Sherrod arrived at the White House&rsquos West Wing in preparation for a scheduled 4.00 p.m. presidential radio and press conference.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt had been conducting several media briefings a month since America entered the war with Japan two years earlier. Sometimes, those conferences were filled with juicy material for the media, but Sherrod wasn&rsquot expecting much to come out of this particular press conference. Just days after the Christmas break, which the president had spent at his private residence, Hyde Park, on the Hudson River, this was traditionally a quiet time of year for news.
As invited press and radio men were gathering in the West Wing&rsquos lobby and four o&rsquoclock approached, Sherrod was surprised when Steve Early, the president&rsquos long-time press secretary, came to him and took him aside.
&ldquoFDR would like a private word,&rdquo Early confided.
Sherrod had met the president one-on-one just once before, and briefly at that. Today, since he had only recently gained White House correspondent accreditation, he&rsquod expected to be merely one of many reporters in the room throwing questions at Roosevelt. After serving as a war correspondent for Life in Australia and New Guinea, Sherrod had returned to the States that August, before a stint reporting the US Marines&rsquo Pacific campaign. He had not long been back from covering the American landing at Tarawa Atoll in November.
Steve Early led Sherrod across the West Wing to its southeast corner, and, after knocking, opened the door to the Oval Office, then ushered the reporter inside. A tired-looking Roosevelt, reading papers behind the maple and walnut Hoover desk, looked up, and smiled.
&ldquoAh, Bob,&rdquo said the president. He always called pressmen by their first name. Gesturing Sherrod forward, he said, &ldquoYou were on Tarawa, so I hear.&rdquo
&ldquoYes, Mr. President,&rdquo the pressman replied.
Roosevelt went on to tell a surprised Sherrod that he wanted his opinion on something. He revealed that, not long before, he had sat through several reels of harrowing 35m.m. film shot by Marine Corps cameramen attached to the Second Marine Division during the bloody taking of Tarawa.
&ldquoThey&rsquore pretty gory,&rdquo FDR remarked. &ldquoThey show a lot of dead.&rdquo He meant American dead as well as Japanese dead.
&ldquoYes, sir.&rdquo Sherrod had been there, had seen it firsthand. The battle, which American commanders had originally expected to bring easy victory, had in reality been like a visit to Hell, and Sherrod would never forget scenes he witnessed on Tarawa over several harrowing days.
Two recollections in particular lodged permanently in the reporter&rsquos mind. Sitting on the beach with his back to the seawall, and with a US marine at his side, Sherrod had looked up as another young American walked briskly across the sands toward them, grinning at the man beside Sherrod, apparently a pal. And then the walking man had done a pirouette, to fall at Sherrod&rsquos feet, looking up at him with a frozen look of surprise in his eyes and a sniper&rsquos bullet in his brain.
An exasperated major had subsequently detailed men to find and eliminate that sniper, who turned out to be hiding in a Japanese coconut-log pillbox that had previously been cleared. Sherrod went with them, and watched as one marine nonchalantly tossed blocks of fused TNT into the pillbox. The detonating high explosive sent the sniper running out the side entrance. Another American marine, armed with a twin-cylindered flame thrower, was waiting for him.
The Japanese, caught in a withering stream of flame, flared up like celluloid. He was dead in an instant, but the bullets in his cartridge belt continued to pop for a good minute after the man had been charred beyond recognition. An eye for an eye? A life for a life? It all seemed so senseless to Sherrod.
Short clips from the Tarawa film footage had been released to American newsreel companies, none of it showing American dead. Now, as Roosevelt told Sherrod, he was contemplating releasing all the footage, uncensored, to allow it to be shown in movie theatres the length and breadth of the United States. But, he wondered aloud, were the American people ready for the graphic scenes of young Americans floating lifelessly in the surf, of American troops taking ID tags from dead comrades lying on the island sands?
&ldquoThat&rsquos the way the war is out there, Mr. President,&rdquo Sherrod unhesitatingly replied, &ldquoand I think the people are going to have to get used to the idea.&rdquo
The President nodded thoughtfully. &ldquoGood, good.&rdquo
Before consulting Sherrod, Roosevelt had been uncertain whether he should release the footage. He had taken a step in that direction in September, when he authorized the publication of a still photograph by Life magazine combat cameraman George Strock that showed three dead GI&rsquos lying on Buna Beach in New Guinea, their bodies covered with maggots. Prior to that time, the War Department had banned the publication of pictures of seriously wounded or dead American service personnel.
Ironically, Strock had taken the picture on captured Japanese film, after his own had been destroyed. Run full-page by Life, the graphic Buna Beach photo had shocked the nation, as Roosevelt had hoped. It had also brought criticism and censure down on the president.
A lesser man would have shied away from giving his critics more ammunition, but Strock&rsquos Buna Beach photo had opened the door to exposing America to the grim realities of this war, and FDR knew that he had to capitalise on Buna Beach&rsquos effect and wed the nation to an uncompromising win-the-war mindset.
Apart from fighting the Axis powers overseas, at home the president was fighting trenchant labor unions, an obstructive Republican-dominated Congress, and alarmingly high absenteeism at factories producing America&rsquos arms and ammunition. Many Americans just didn&rsquot seem to be taking the war seriously enough, thinking a US victory was going to be a walk in the park.
As Roosevelt instructed Steve Early to usher the remainder of the press corps into the Oval Office, Bob Sherrod suspected that his support had helped the president make the decision to release the Tarawa footage.
At that time, there was a Press Room in the West Wing&rsquos northwest corner &ndash the modern-day Press Briefing Room in the White House sits over what in 1943 was FDR&rsquos private swimming pool. However, for these personal briefings with a select few print and radio journalists, some parts of which were off the record, Roosevelt remained in the Oval Office and had the pressmen brought into him. That way, he was neither seen nor photographed in the wheelchair to which his declining health had confined him.
At 4.07 p.m., following the delay caused by the private Tarawa conversation between Sherrod and the president, the press conference got underway. Questions from the White House correspondents that afternoon covered a range of areas, but the subject of a looming national railroad union strike loomed above all others.
Before Christmas, acting decisively, Roosevelt had appointed nine railroad presidents to the rank of colonel in the US Army, and then made them and their employees answerable to the War Department. At a stroke, FDR had nationalized the railroads, making all railroad workers government employees. This had driven all but three railroad related unions to arbitration, and as Roosevelt now told the press conference, he was confident the three holdouts would also soon come around to his way of thinking and the strike would be averted.
The president was next asked whether he was planning to continue with his New Deal program in the light of the war&rsquos austerity measures. Roosevelt had introduced the New Deal in 1933 in response to the Wall Street Crash and resultant Great Depression. That program had saved the banking system, revolutionized pensions and social services, and slowly righted the economy.
This New Deal question offered the opening that FDR was looking for. Having now decided to release all the Tarawa footage, he knew that he had to further prepare the nation for the new mindset he expected of it. So, Roosevelt now gave the reporters a folksy analogy.
&ldquoThe United States of America is like a sick man. Two years ago, he had a very bad accident. Not an internal trouble. Two years ago, on the 7 th of December, he was in a pretty bad smash-up.&rdquo
Everyone in the room knew that he was referring to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.
&ldquoOld Dr. New Deal didn&rsquot know nothing about legs and arms,&rdquo FDR went on. &ldquoHe knew a great deal about internal medicine, but nothing about surgery. So he got his partner, who was an orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Win-the-War, to take care of this fellow who had been in this bad accident. And the result is that the patient is back on his feet. He has given up his crutches. He isn&rsquot wholly well yet, and won&rsquot be until he wins the war.&rdquo In case his audience hadn&rsquot got the message, he concluded with: &ldquoThe overwhelming first emphasis should be on winning the war.&rdquo
The reporters left the press conference itching to share FDR&rsquos sick man analogy with their readers and listeners. None, apart from Bob Sherrod, realized its significance, or appreciated that it represented the core of the president&rsquos changing propaganda strategy, in which truth was to replace triumphalism.
Roosevelt had said nothing to the pressmen about the Tarawa footage, but that had dictated his thinking at the press conference. Once his office was cleared, he called Office of War Information director Elmer Davis and instructed him to have the footage put together in a form that would make the greatest impact on the American public.
Davis had all the rolls of film from Tarawa edited over January and February, 1944 at Warner Brothers Studios in Hollywood, creating a twenty-minute documentary. The film&rsquos writer and director was Richard Brooks. Then a young member of the Marine Corps, Brooks would go on in post-war years to become a successful screenwriter and feature film director whose credits would include Blackboard Jungle, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Looking for Mr Goodbar.
Taking the compile of rough color and black and white footage shot by fifteen different Marine Corps cameramen&mdashtwo of whom had been killed on Tarawa&mdashunder the command of Captain Louis Hayward, a South African-born former movie actor, Brooks added a soundtrack with sound effects, dramatic music and a gritty narration. Brooks personally wrote the narration, as if from the point of view of a marine on Tarawa. As specified by Davis, that narration included a pithy explanation for the sight of American dead: &ldquoThis is the price we had to pay for a war we didn&rsquot want.&rdquo
The resulting documentary, With the Marines at Tarawa, was released to movie houses across the country by Universal Studios on behalf of the OWI on March 2, 1944, and shocked and electrified the nation. It went on to win the 1944 National Board of Review Award for best documentary and the 1945 Academy Award for best documentary, short subject.
And so it was that, with the help of two Life magazine men, George Strock and Robert Sherrod, employees of Roosevelt&rsquos ardent Republican critic, publisher Henry Luce, the president was able to loosen censorship in the United States and cement the public behind him in his bid to harden attitudes and strengthen the war effort.
Following the Buna Beach and Tarawa breakthroughs, the US Government permitted the publication of images of dead American service personnel, as long as they were not gratuitous and individual personnel or their units could not be identified.
Scholars today credit George Strock&rsquos Buna Beach photograph with turning the tide in wartime public opinion in the US and stiffening the American resolve to win. In 2014, Time magazine went so far as to describe it as &ldquothe photograph that won the war.&rdquo
To the frustration of Roosevelt&rsquos Republican opponents, the Buna Beach and Tarawa images probably also contributed to Roosevelt being returned to office in the November 1944 presidential election. Even so, his defeat of the Republican governor of New York, Thomas E. Dewey, was the closest of all his presidential victories. It was a victory that earned FDR an historic fourth term in the White House. Five months later, he would be dead.
Sadly, Roosevelt&rsquos unvarnished truth approach to war news would not be adopted by future US administrations. By the time of the Vietnam War, inflated enemy body counts, glossy US military situation reports and unrealistic predictions had become the norm, and played a role in the shock experienced by the American nation when the US actually lost that war.
The Trump era has shown that there has never been a greater need for truth in American affairs. As Andrei Sakharov, father of the hydrogen bomb, dissident Soviet scientist, and Nobel Peace Prize winner, was to say: &ldquoThe most powerful weapon in the world is not the bomb. it is truth.&rdquo
Records of Japan’s Short-Lived Empire
Muminov, Sherzod. 2020. “Records of Japan’s Short-Lived Empire.” Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review (e-journal) 34: 88–94. https://crosscurrents.berkeley.edu/e-journal/issue-34/muminov.
Uchiyama, Benjamin. Japan's Carnival War: Mass Culture on the Home Front, 1937–1945. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2019. 290 pp.
Our vision of modern empires is still predominantly European-centered. For many English speakers, especially in Great Britain, the word “empire” evokes the realm that ruled the seven seas from London and on which “the sun never set.” Tellingly, a volume titled The Age of Empires lists thirteen of them, in order to analyze their fundamental role in the creation of today’s global civilization (Aldrich 2020). Despite this bold claim, the table of contents reveals that the book’s grasp is far from global. It includes Scandinavia as “an outsider in European imperialism,” calls Italy “the last empire,” and even lists the Soviet Union among global empires. However, one of the most expansive, if short-lived, modern empires—Japan—is never mentioned. It seems that the Japanese Empire is an outsider among outsiders.
In English-language media, mentions of the Japanese Empire often come packaged in familiar tropes of Pearl Harbor, kamikaze pilots, and the mistreatment of Allied captives. Scholarly works paint a more nuanced picture, but even these works often view Japan’s quest for empire as an anomaly, defined by what it was not, different from and foil to the “traditional” European imperial projects. Part of the reason why Japan’s empire barely features in the Western imagination might also be because of the shortness of its existence. Like a meteor tearing through the night sky before fizzling out in a matter of seconds, Japan’s quest for empire lasted but a moment in historic terms. Importantly, although it continued to live on in the memories of its former victims or enemies, in Japan itself memories of empire were excised from the public imagination through selective commemoration and emphasis on the victimhood of ordinary people. Yet despite its brief existence, the empire left lasting legacies. Over the past decade, a growing number of works have scrutinized the empire and its traces from within and without, illuminating unknown and understudied parts of its history, but shadowy areas still abound.
Three new books shed light on some of the understudied dimensions of Japan’s imperial project, thus expanding our knowledge of the Japanese Empire and World War II in East Asia. They challenge facile assumptions and help us reconsider Japan’s imperial adventures as complex transnational interactions. Read together or separately, these volumes enrich the Anglophone understanding of Japan’s war and empire with new evidence gleaned from archives and introduce compelling terms and concepts that refresh the by-now dated insights of their scholarly predecessors. Jeremy A. Yellen's The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere delves into the making (and unmaking) of Japan’s eponymous new order for Asia, Benjamin Uchiyama’s Japan’s Carnival War uncovers carnivalesque dimensions of culture and life on the domestic front during the Asia-Pacific War, and Bill Sewell’s Constructing Empire seeks the civilian traces of imperial construction by zooming in on the history of Japanese in Changchun. Although different in approach and focus, these three books, echo one another in significant ways in their analyses of the total war, the mass media’s role in reporting and recreating the conflict in the public realm, and the varying facets of the new order that Japan sought to impose on Asia and the world. Let us consider some of their contributions.
In The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere: When Total Empire Met Total War, Jeremy Yellen offers a lucid, dynamic, and highly readable history of Japan’s attempt to usher in a new order in Asia during World War II. Yellen organizes the rich material at hand around two broad themes that reveal his approach to the study of the Co-Prosperity Sphere first as an “imagined sphere,” and then as a “contested sphere.” These themes form the book’s two fundamental parts, each containing three well-crafted chapters that present the Co-Prosperity Sphere not as an order imposed by the Japanese from above, but as a transnational process shaped in collaboration and conflict, negotiation and resistance. Initially forged in attempts to achieve quick victory in the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945)—a conflict that was proving unwinnable—the Sphere soon acquired a greater utility for the empire’s survival. One of the book’s great merits is in demonstrating how the Sphere, borne of the need to achieve a breakthrough from a Chinese quagmire, gradually unfolded into a grand dream of an Asian community. As the Sphere evolved into a utopian vision of mutually beneficial prosperity, its trajectory reflected the goals and prejudices, as well as follies, of its Japanese masterminds. The Sphere, they believed, would secure Japan’s “self-existence and self-defense” (71) by providing it with access to resources vital for victory in the war against the status-quo powers. But it would also serve the grander aim of establishing Japan’s supremacy in Asia beyond the war’s end—an aim greeted with both support and reluctance in Asian countries. This lofty-sounding goal of Asian unity, Yellen argues, was a bad disguise for Japan’s imperialist ambitions, which were not very different from those of the European colonial empires. Asian nations that supported the Sphere were all too aware of this, but they tried to make the most of “Japan’s moment” in Asia to achieve their own goals. The Sphere was thus a complex, constantly contested space that took shape in other Asian capitals as much as in Tokyo.
The book’s two complementary parts work well together in conveying this complexity. Part One (chapters 1–3) traces the Co-Prosperity Sphere’s emergence in the minds of the Japanese civilian and military leaders, and in the realm of bureaucratic deliberations where various agencies championed their versions of the project. Yellen skillfully disentangles the web of causes and outcomes that made the Sphere the most favored path out of the corner into which Japan had painted itself in all-out war with China. Although focused mainly on Japan, Yellen’s account of Japan’s thrust south reflects the Japanese leaders’ acute awareness—and wariness—of the changeable realities of global alliances and rivalries. This wariness was not always directed toward the Allies, as Yellen compellingly demonstrates in his analysis of the uneasy relations between Japan and its most important ally, Nazi Germany. Japan’s thrust south toward building the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was borne of “fears of German designs on Asia” (26) as much as it was borne of the Japanese leaders’ apprehension of American power in the region. This proposition recasts the Tripartite Pact that formalized the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis in 1940, especially the German-Japanese alliance, as a difficult marriage of convenience characterized by rivalry as well as cooperation. Although tensions between the allies have been studied before, Yellen suggests that in joining the Axis, Japan was trying to check the expansionist aims of not only the United States, United Kingdom, and other Allies, but also of Germany. This analysis demonstrates how wartime realities dictated the rhetoric and methods of Japanese diplomats in dealing with partners in Asia and beyond, seen in the change of course from foreign minister Matsuoka Yōsuke’s “spheres of influence” diplomacy (1940–1941) to the more conciliatory stance of Shigemitsu Mamoru (1943–1945).
Part Two (chapters 4–6) shifts the reader’s gaze across the seas toward the vast territories that Japan strove to incorporate into its new order. Yellen focuses on how two nations—Burma and the Philippines—perceived and dealt with the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. This choice of two “‘independent’ dependencies” to analyze the impact of the Sphere in Asia is what distinguishes Yellen’s book from existing literature. Here the author qualifies the more accepted views of Burmese and Filipino leaders as traitors or “puppets” by introducing the term “patriotic collaborators”—those who helped expand Japan’s interests in their countries and the broader region “to safeguard or advance their country’s interests” (106). It was a mutually beneficial arrangement: Japan was happy to control and empower its greatest rivals, Great Britain and the United States, whereas the Burmese and Filipino leaders used Japan’s presence to lay the foundations of their independence from former and current masters at the war’s end.
Burmese and Filipino figureheads were not alone in their attempts to use Japan’s increasingly unfavorable position in the war to achieve their own interests. Elements of resistance also existed in Japan’s own society. Clumsy and disjointed attempts at selling the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere to foreigners with divergent interests and aspirations make more sense when considered in the context of the domestic front. In Japan’s Carnival War: Mass Culture on the Home Front, 1937–1945, Benjamin Uchiyama challenges the widely accepted notions and images of the war as a national project driven by “total war mobilization ideology” and sustained, on the one hand, by relentless propaganda that demanded unwavering loyalty to the emperor and, on the other, a repressive system of political control. The book’s premise is that for Japanese society during the war, represented here by “The Five Kings of Carnival War”—the reporter, the munitions worker, the soldier, the movie star, and the youth aviator—it was not all gloom, suffering, and sacrifice. Focused on the intersection of the total war and the less studied aspects of the wartime society—consumerism, entertainment, and mass culture— Uchiyama’s analysis reveals a carnival amid the sacrifice and suffering. As the author explains, “The idea of carnival war challenges the view that wartime Japan was an inert, oppressive period in which the state unquestioningly ruled over most facets of daily life and in which smooth harmonious collaboration between public and private actors defined the experience of total war” (4). In five chapters that correspond to the five protagonists of the “carnival,” Uchiyama uncovers alternative realities and experiences created by the “intersection of war mobilization and mass culture” (15). The carnival kings—some quite skillfully, others less so—negotiate these two realms and what lies between.
Studying domestic attitudes toward the war through the idea of “carnival” is a refreshing approach. Yet “carnival war” is not a fiction that Uchiyama animates to counterpose the horrors of the war in an optimistic attempt to reconsider the ordeals of the home front. Rather than an antithesis of the war, carnival is one of war’s components: “Without total war, there could be no carnival war” (19). Indeed, some of the most memorable images of the carnival were only possible in wartime conditions. Take, for example, the 1938 ban the Home Ministry imposed on movie fans (mostly young female students) seeking autographs from movie stars. The deeper the military and the empire became mired in the hopeless war effort, the more riotous and raucous the carnival became. The two worlds of war and carnival coexisted as surreal parallel universes, overlapping at times, and coming together in Uchiyama’s analysis. Such an analysis does not shy away from the war’s atrocities, nor does it need to rather, it describes a different, parallel reality of Japanese society in which war had transformed into a carnival. The mass media played a central, subversive, and mediating role linking these realities with a “spirit of irreverence… [that] destabilized state propaganda by forcing consumer-subjects to constantly switch between an official and a ‘carnivalized’ understanding of the war” (26).
The book’s five chapters each have a protagonist—a compound character combining the behavioral traits and aspirations of real people in wartime Japan. Uchiyama elevates these personae to the status of “kings,” providing each with the agency and influence of someone who had control over surrounding events, rather than being caught up in the workings of the total war system. In chapter 1, the war correspondent takes charge of inscribing the war into the public realm as a succession of thrill-inducing, speedy victories for the Japanese army. In chapter 2, the munitions worker—a ubiquitous fixture of the home front—manipulates the emotions of the domestic populace, inspiring fascination and envy with his flamboyance and profligacy in conditions of wartime need. Chapter 3 traces the changing fortunes of the soldier, the carnival king revered and derided in equal measures by a domestic populace both exhilarated and exhausted by the war effort. Chapter 4 diversifies the book’s hitherto exclusively masculine cast by introducing the persona of the movie star, who links the glamorous world of cinema with the state-imposed notions of loyalty and order. Finally, chapter 5 is devoted to the “final and most powerful king of carnival war,” the “youth aviator who dazzles the home front with visions of consumerist desire before transforming into the kamikaze pilot” (202). The youth aviator is not the only character converted into a new role every one of the kings is a “shape-shifter” within his or her role, conveying the fluid, ever-changing nature of the carnival war.
Although the carnival kings take center stage, the book also explains the dilemmas the Japanese government faced between mobilizing more people for military conscription and other military-related service (e.g., work in munitions factories), and encouraging women to be devoted mothers who look after their families and prop up the home front as well as industrial workers helping the front lines. The book successfully carries out the important task of elucidating how these dilemmas entailed conflicts and resentments, divisions and inequalities.
Japanese society’s experiences of war and empire is also the focus of Bill Sewell’s Constructing Empire: The Japanese in Changchun, 1905–45, which “explores the aspects of Japanese experience in Changchun/Xinjing to examine civilian contributions to empire” (10). The society in question is a colonial one, a seedling of Mother Japan planted with hopes in a new land. In this well-researched study, Sewell shows how Japanese civilians from various walks of life—South Manchuria Railway Company employees, merchants, teachers, post office workers, engineers, and others—constructed their new existences in Changchun, which became the capital of the model colony of Manchukuo under the name Xinjing, “new capital.” Importantly, Sewell’s study shifts the limelight from the chief drivers of imperial expansion—the Japanese military and civilians in military employment—to the civilian empire-builders whose role in constructing, maintaining, and expanding the empire on the Asian mainland was significant: the Japanese in Changchun “through their presence and daily affairs were complicit in the imperialist project” (28). In planning, building, and developing the new capital, the Japanese aimed to promote not only their urban visions and architectural achievements but also Japan’s development model for Asia. Importantly, Sewell explains, this ideal colony of Manchukuo later served as a model for new wartime governments in the Philippines and Burma, pillars of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
Constructing Empire is divided into four core chapters plus an introduction and conclusion. In chapter 1, Sewell shows how in planning their new capital the Japanese imagined “a new social vision, one ostensibly designed to be superior to anything offered by the West” (43). Chapter 2 demonstrates this vision in practice by analyzing the construction of several modern buildings in Changchun, “imperial, Pan-Asianist structures and their modernist foundations” (64). The third chapter analyzes how Changchun’s urban economy was integrated, along with the city itself, into the broader economic structures of the Japanese Empire. In the fourth chapter, Sewell turns to how the Japanese imagined and built a modern, literate, and diverse society in Changchun. The narrative in these chapters is grounded in vibrant historic detail, which results in a readable, empirically rich account.
Sewell writes that “empire proved popular in Japan, engendering nationalism and imbuing Japanese with a sense of greatness” (22). This was perhaps understandable in 1930s Japan, which was distancing itself from the international community, as the empire’s expansion into Manchuria provided not only an outlet for the built-up fumes of nationalist frustration but also real opportunities for migration, employment, and profit-making. Yet what engendered nationalism and inspired pride was not so easily forgotten, even as the empire had to make a backdoor exit out of history following Japan’s defeat in the war. Sewell squarely points out perhaps the most important reason why the empire still evokes positive views among some Japanese citizens with or without personal memories of Manchukuo. He writes, “Because Japanese society did not undergo the kind of self-examination witnessed in postwar Germany … postwar perceptions of pre-war efforts reshaping the colonial world often remained positive” (ix).
The book is acutely aware of the chimera-like qualities of Japanese propaganda regarding Manchukuo. Grounding his analysis in a broad range of sources, Sewell shows that the railway town of Changchun was not a city without a past, awaiting the Japanese to arrive and inscribe its future, nor were the Manchurian expanses around it empty land awaiting hardworking Japanese to come and till it. For decades, this had been an area where the interests of major powers clashed for primacy and privileges, none more important than the rivalry between Imperial Russia and Japan. In fact, it was the collapse of the Russian Empire and the weak position of the Soviet Union in its early years that enabled Japan to gain a foothold in Changchun, and greater Manchuria. Like the urge to build the Great East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere in haste, Japan’s Manchurian dream was a product of its leaders’ anxiety about missing the chance to gain a stronghold, a lifeline that would ensure the empire’s existence. Perhaps sadness for this lost dream lies behind the nostalgia of some children of settlers and repatriates who even today look back with fondness on the distant fantasy of Manchukuo.
In his conclusion, Sewell calls for the incorporation of “the entire range” of stories of Japanese presence in Manchuria, “from the triumphant to the sorrowful” (197). This is sound advice for anyone interested in the conflicting histories of the Japanese Empire, which for too many decades have served to maintain grudges in Japan’s former victims while feeding feelings of glorification and nostalgia among some Japanese groups.
The three books analyzed in this essay paint a picture of Japan's short-lived empire by not only providing memorable snapshots of its existence but also conveying the dynamics of imperial expansion and consolidation. They offer nuanced images of an imperial project harried by the changing battlefield fortunes and simply too short to gain and preserve a foothold in the lands it reached, or a place in the hearts and minds of the millions it tried to win over. This brief realm was not solely a product of pragmatic calculations, though the pompous rhetoric of liberation was often too thin a veneer to hide the imperialist aspirations of the Japanese. In adding new colors to the image of Japan’s quest for a new order at home and abroad, the books authored by Yellen, Uchiyama, and Sewell become welcome additions to an expanding shelf of works on Japan’s failed empire—to be used by specialists and students alike.
Aldrich, Robert, ed. 2020. The Age of Empires. London: Thames and Hudson.
About the Reviewer
Sherzod Muminov is a Lecturer in Japanese History at the University of East Anglia.
War Correspondent Describes Life in Japan - HISTORY
A winter in the Yukon seasoned Jack London for the hardships and rigors of reporting the Russo-Japanese War.
By John Mancini
"Japan mobilizing for war with Russia!"
This electrifying message flashed to the major world capitals from foreign observers in St. Petersburg and Tokyo during the first days of 1904. For several years, czarist Russia had been penetrating southward into Manchuria with the steel bands of the Trans-Siberian Railroad--putting itself on a collision course with the newly expanding empire of Japan. The ultimate Russian objective was the occupation of Korea. Japan also sought to extend her hegemony to Korea and to get revenge for Russia's interference during the 1894-95 Sino-Japanese War, which had resulted in Russian troops seizing Port Arthur and limiting the Japanese occupation of the Liaotung Peninsula. Between 1900 and 1903, Russian soldiers secretly infiltrated across the Yalu River into northern Korea, fully prepared to fight the Japanese for control of the country's rich mines. Japan countered those moves with a movement of 25,000 troops to the independent "Hermit Kingdom."
Recognizing that conflict was inevitable, the Japanese offered the Russians a compromise: Japan would accept the Russian occupation of Manchuria in return for Russian acceptance of the Japanese claims to Korea. The proposal was rejected by the Russians, who were confident that an Asian country would not challenge a major European military power. The Japanese response to the rebuff was swift and aggressive. Army units moved to staging areas for deployment to Korea, while the Imperial Japanese Navy prepared to steam out to sea and engage the Russian Pacific Fleet. The threat of war between a European power and an Asian nation that, in spite of the military modernization it displayed during the Sino-Japanese War, was still regarded in the West as an exotic, mysterious land sent journalists from the major world newspapers rushing to the Far East during the first weeks of 1904.
On January 7, under a cold gray sky, SS Siberia sailed from San Francisco for Yokohama, carrying a contingent of war correspondents hungry for action on the Korean Peninsula. Among the group of experienced reporters was Jack London, who was representing the Hearst newspapers. London was on his first news assignment and had no experience as a reporter, but the 28-year-old writer had already received world acclaim for his novel The Call of the Wild and other stories about the 1897 Klondike gold rush.
London's writings were based not solely on imagination but on his own adventures in the wild. In order to reach the Yukon gold fields, London and several companions had climbed the hazardous, snow-packed trail over Chilikoot Pass.
On the other side, they sailed a hastily constructed boat across the white-capped waters of Lake Bennett and then down the treacherous, swirling waters of the Whitehorse Rapids.
The ominous signs of the approaching Arctic winter forced London's party to stop their trek and hastily build a cabin for shelter. After months of survival in the brutal Yukon, spring finally came and they were able to continue their journey to St. Michael on the Bering Sea. London was also an experienced sailor and a crafty oyster pirate. He had traveled across the United States as a hobo and spent time in jail for vagrancy. Those harsh adventures gave him an edge over his fellow correspondents and would get him into the midst of the action to report the first skirmishes of the Russo-Japanese War.
On board Siberia was a fraternity of hard-bitten journalists who called themselves the "Vultures." These newsmen had covered conflicts in every remote geographic region of the world: Egyptian uprisings, French Foreign Legionnaires fighting in Madagascar, Ashanti warriors clashing with British infantrymen in Africa, bloody battles under the burning Sudan sun, Greeks and Turks fighting ancient feuds, and Boer commandos slashing into British columns in the Transvaal. Among the most distinguished of the correspondents was Richard Harding Davis. The polished, aristocratic Davis was the walking image of the 19th-century gentleman, lending an air of class and style to the grim business of war reporting. In contrast to London, who reflected the rugged experiences of seaman, laborer and vagabond, Davis was comfortable socializing with admirals, generals and statesmen. Despite their very different backgrounds, however, a strong friendship developed between the two Americans that would prove to be very helpful to London in the coming weeks.
When Siberia docked in Yokohama, London made the rounds of the bars he had visited 10 years earlier when he was a seaman on a sealing vessel. After fulfilling his vow of imbibing a drink at each of his old watering holes, he joined his fellow correspondents in Tokyo. The journalists were housed in the comfortable Imperial Hotel but were not permitted by the Japanese military authorities to leave the city. So while troop trains roared daily to embarkation ports on the Sea of Japan, the exasperated correspondents sipped good liquor in the Imperial Hotel Bar and were treated to nightly luxurious banquets. After spending several days in Tokyo, London was satiated with good food and liquor but was frustrated at not being able to report on the action.
On January 27, he secretly boarded an express train for Kobe, hoping to find a steamer that would take him to Korea. After a disappointing day on the Kobe docks, he was back on a train for a 22-hour ride to Nagasaki. But he was no more successful there than in Kobe in finding passage to Korea. Undaunted, London traveled along the coastline of the Inland Sea to the city of Mojo, where he finally obtained a ticket on a steamer to Chemulpo, Korea, which was a major staging area for Japanese ground forces moving north toward the Yalu and Manchuria. With some time to kill before boarding, London wandered through the heavily fortified city, taking photographs to send back to the United States.
His openness in photographing everything from people to buildings was quickly observed by the Japanese secret police, leading to the first of several major confrontations with the Japanese army. London was arrested and subjected to hours of rigorous interrogation. The Japanese police were eventually convinced that he was not a Russian spy, but in order to save face, they took him to court, where he was convicted and fined five yen. And worst of all for a correspondent, his camera was confiscated. London immediately wired Richard Harding Davis, who was still in Tokyo, requesting his assistance in retrieving his camera from the Japanese. Davis quickly contacted his old friend Lloyd Griscom, U.S. minister to Japan. Griscom met directly with the foreign minister, Baron Komura, and requested the return of London's camera. Komura listened sympathetically but reported that legal counsel had advised that any "weapon" used in a crime became state property. London had in fact been convicted of spying and his weapon (i.e., his camera) was therefore rightfully subject to forfeiture.
The seasoned American Foreign Service officer sat thoughtfully for a few moments and then asked, "Does that apply to every crime?" "Yes," replied Komura's legal counsel, "to every crime of every description." Turning his attention to the foreign minister, Griscom asked, "If I can name a crime to which this does not apply, will you release the camera?" "Yes I will," Komura replied confidently. "What about rape?" Griscom asked with a straight face. Baron Komura responded with a roar of laughter. London's camera was returned, and he continued his efforts to find passage to Korea.
He was intrigued by reports of reserves being called from their homes in the middle of the night for deployment and of warships moving through the Korea Straits toward the Yellow Sea and staging areas on Korea's west coast. London was finally able to get passage on a small steamer to Pusan. The ship had no sleeping accommodations, so Jack spent a cold night huddled on an open snow- and sleet-covered deck. At Pusan he found room on another coastal steamer hoping that it would eventually get him to Chemulpo, but the boat was seized by Japanese military authorities at the port of Mokpo on the southwestern tip of the Korean Peninsula. The passengers were simply put ashore and told to make other travel arrangements. The action reflected the intensified Japanese preparation for war.
Being an experienced sailor, London decided that he would sail the remainder of the way to Chemulpo on his own. He purchased a native junk and hired several fishermen to help him sail the small craft into the Yellow Sea and up the rugged Korean coastline. London's journal vividly describes the ordeal: "Thursday, February 11, 1904: Wind howling over the Yellow Sea. Driving rain. Wind cutting like knife. One man at the tiller, a man at each sheet and another man too seasick to be scared. "Saturday, February 13, 1904: Driving snow squalls. Gale pounding the whole Yellow Sea upon us. So cold that it freezes salt water. O, this is a wild and bitter coast." When London finally arrived at Chemulpo, his appearance stunned a British photographer who knew London and had arrived in Korea before the restrictions had been imposed. "I did not recognize him," wrote the Britisher. "He was a physical wreck. His fingers were frozen. His feet were frozen. He said he didn't mind so long as he got to the front. He is one of the grittiest men it has been my good fortune to meet. He is just as heroic as any of the characters in his novels." London was soon on the march with the Japanese First Army, which was moving north over treacherous, icy mountain passes toward Manchuria.
Near the city of Pyongyang, he observed the first land clash of the Russo-Japanese War. Scribbling on rice paper, London reported the bold penetration of a Cossack cavalry unit 200 miles into enemy-occupied territory, probing Japanese troop strength. Meanwhile, jealous correspondents back in Tokyo were registering vigorous complaints with the Japanese Foreign Ministry. The journalists were finally shipped off to Korea, and drastic steps were taken to limit London's reporting freedom. He was arrested again and sent south to a military prison near Seoul. London was released as other war correspondents began arriving on the Korean Peninsula, and once again he was soon marching north with Japanese field forces.
The Japanese columns were moving on a broad front for a major advance across the Yalu River and an assault on Russian fortifications in Manchuria. The Hearst papers were soon printing dispatches from London's reports of skillfully executed division-level crossings of the Yalu River by the Japanese. His photographs were the first such pictures of the war to arrive in the United States.
London began to press Hearst to arrange for a transfer to the Russian army in order to report the war from their side. Before that could be negotiated, however, London's pugnacious personality got him into the middle of an international incident. London punched a Japanese he caught stealing fodder from his horse, and for the third time in four months he was arrested by Japanese military authorities. This time, though, he would be facing a court-martial in which the death penalty could be imposed.
Again Richard Harding Davis came to the rescue. He quickly flashed off a cable to his personal friend, Theodore Roosevelt, who was also an avid reader of London's Yukon adventure stories [reader yes, but he was not a fan of JL: in opposite! -JLO]. Intervention by the president of the United States brought about a swift release, but there was one condition: Jack London was to depart Korea immediately, if not sooner. Several weeks later, London said goodbye to Davis on the Yokohama docks and boarded a ship for San Francisco. London was credited with sending out more dispatches on the Russo-Japanese War than any of his fellow correspondents, and he was greeted in San Francisco with news of the success of his novel The Sea Wolf. Jack London died 12 years later, at the age of 40, from multiple medical problems that were directly related to living life on the edge, as he had during his 1904 Korean adventure. After his return from the Orient, London had written a short essay on his impressions of the Japanese military in which an ominous prediction was made: "The Japanese might one day collaborate on an 'adventure' which could shatter the long domination of the Western World."
Narratives of World War II in the Pacific
Throughout World War II citizens, military men and victims of Japan were subject to secrecy in their daily life through strong censorship by the Japanese government. With post WWII studies and oral histories, historians in the modern day can study personal interpretations on events that were hidden by the Japanese government and military at the time. In many instances the government limited the civilians to minimal resources including rations. Koshino Ayako, a dressmaker discussed each person living in a city being limited to 100 points per year in equivalent to currency, eventually forcing bankruptcy on her company. The powerless small business owners and commoners had no say in the policies by the government that largely disabled the people of Japan.
Radio networks in Japan were greatly censored in Japan under the Newspaper Law which forbid the Freedom of the Press even before the start of the Second World War in 1909. This law restricted the publishing of all governmental documents and legislations, leaving much of the Japanese population ignorant to economic and military happenings.
As a war correspondent Hata Shoryus job was to examine articles before they reached the military to make sure they didn&rsquot break the rules. Many people were distrusting of the Japanese government leading up to the war, Shoryu was a student at the Osaka Foreign Language Institute in the midst of the Manchurian Incident of 1931 and in his writing, he said he &ldquofelt he must oppose the growth of fascism in Japan&rdquo.  He recalled that leading up to the war, news publishing had taken off and sparked competition in reporting quick news of the war that would never be seen again, because of strong censorship being applied at the commencement of the Pacific War.
For wartime journalist and photographer Asai Tatsuzo sharing pictures and videos with the people of Japan was particularly difficult due to restrictions by the head of the moving picture division. Tatsuzo recalled people forming long lines to get into newsrooms often asking, &ldquoAre we winning this war?&rdquo.  Many pictures that were presented to the public were staged derived through emotional settings, veering away from factual evidence of the war, and was mostly available to upper class citizens who could afford the viewings. Tatsuzo also stated that the footage he compiled was taken by the Japanese government and that he himself couldn&rsquot gain access to it even today. He also recalled not being able to shoot footage at the Nanking Massacre, but was there and saw the corpses of the Chinese victims.
With the implementation of the Kamikaze pilots towards the end of the war, young men who sacrificed their lives to die with dignity for their country were also strongly censored before their missions to swear into secrecy even to their family members prior to their deaths. Journalist Kawachi Uichiro remembers reporting the take off the Kamikaze and seeing mothers and fathers in attendance holding rosaries implying that they knew the fate of their sons without even being told so. 
These guidelines set by the Japanese government didn&rsquot only pertain to commoners, but sectors of the military as well during critical milestones of the war. Yoshida Toshino, a member of the Maritime Self-Defense Force reflected on her experience of hearing about the attack on Pearl Harbor over radio broadcasting on December 8, 1941 quoting &ldquoThe people in my section didn&rsquot know anything, I was supposed to be an insider&rdquo. 
Many citizens of Japan fell victim to the mass confusion between them and the Japanese government and forced them to depend on one another for their sanity and daily duties to suffice. One survivor Tanaka Tetsuko recalls the noncompliance from the Japanese government without warning, and how women were subjected to arranged marriages often with military men to remain stable in society.
One way the Japanese government enforced censorship was &ldquothe imprisonment of authors, journalists and publishing figures accused of secretly plotting to revive the communist movement in Japan&rdquo.  With the Peace Preservation Law of 1925, &ldquothoughts crimes&rdquo were prohibited outlining that communists, labor organizers or alleged radical groups would be arrested and jailed before the war even began. Freedom of the press was substantially diminished by removing opposing opinions and making them a war crime, secluding the Japanese public from differentiating interpretations.
Censorship in japan also took place in classrooms in regard to art and entertainment being filtered at the time of war. Hirosawa Ei wrote about loving American movies that they sometimes showed in his sixth-grade classroom and asking to watch more but it was forbade &ldquobecause of December 8&rdquo.  In 1941 news reached young students that American production companies such as Universal, Paramount and MGM were all going to be closing their offices in Japan. He recalled that government officials or senior Kempeitai officers were in charge of altering movies and shortened the length of them substantially.
From the historiography, Japan at War I chose Kawachi Uichiro&rsquos oral history that tells the story of being a photographer journalist with the Japanese warfront throughout the war and dealing with censorship by being a mediator between the battlefield and the Japanese people. He spoke about seeing the Kamikaze pilots first hand prepare for their first and only flights for the Japanese war efforts, and being told what he was and wasn&rsquot allowed to shoot pictures of. Uichiro had to become a swift military component and be able to stay alive throughout battles, because many other journalists were vulnerable to death on the battlefields as well.
Tatsuzo, Asai. 1992. Japan at War Wielding Pen and Camera: Filming the News
Uichiro, Kawachi 1992. Japan at War Reporting from Imperial General Headquarters
Shoryus, Hata 1992, War Correspondent, Homeland: Wielding Pen and Camera
Toshio, Yoshida 1992. December 8, 1941: I heard it on the Radio, Faith in victory
Hatanaka Shigeo, Nihon Fashizumu [Suppression of Free Speech in Japanese Fascism: An Abridged History] (Tokyo: Kobunken, 1986) p. 178
Ei, Hirosawa. 1992. Art and Entertainment, Japan at War &ldquoI loved American Movies
 Tatsuzo, Asai. 1992. Japan at War Wielding Pen and Camera: Filming the News
 Uichiro, Kawachi 1992. Japan at War Reporting from Imperial General Headquarters
 Shoryus, Hata 1992, War Correspondent, Homeland: Wielding Pen and Camera
 Toshio, Yoshida 1992. December 8, 1941: I heard it on the Radio, Faith in victory
 Hatanaka Shigeo, Nihon Fashizumu [Suppression of Free Speech in Japanese Fascism: An Abridged History] (Tokyo: Kobunken, 1986) p. 178
 Ei, Hirosawa. 1992. Art and Entertainment, Japan at War &ldquoI loved American Movies&rdquoNarratives of World War II in the Pacific
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Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi