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War Stories: Reporting in the tTime of Conflict from The Crimea to Iraq

War Stories: Reporting in the tTime of Conflict from The Crimea to Iraq

by Harold EvansHarold Evans


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The war correspondent trails clouds of glory. The names of the pioneers of the trade are stardust: Ernest Hemingway, Alexander Dumas, Henry Villard, Winston Churchill, Stephen Crane, John Reed, Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, Richard Harding Davis, John Dos Passos, John Steinbeck, Jack London, George Orwell, Philip Gibbs, Luigi Barzini. The names from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, the Gulf War, and Kosovo are likewise as redolent of adventure and derring-do, with photojournalists and radio and televisioncommentators crowding the pantheon. They are the eyes of history. War Stories: Reporting in the Time of Conflict from The Crimea to Iraq tells their stories, from the very first reports from the Crimean War in 1853 to the Second Gulf War in 2003. War Stories: Reporting in the Time of Conflict From the Crimea to Iraq tells their stories, from the very first reports from the Crimean War in 1853 to the Second Gulf War. Through the notebooks, photographs, headlines, wires, telegrams, and satellite uplinks and direct interviews, Harold Evans describes the personal and professional challenges of these uniquely dedicated men and women as they attempted and succeeded, sometimes at the cost of their own lives, in retelling the most immediate stories of war. Harold Evans is an internationally acclaimed editor, author, and publisher. He was the editor of the Sunday Times and The Times of London. He was subsequently president and publisher of Random House and the editorial director for the publishers of US News & World Report, The Daily News, and The Atlantic. He is the author of The American Century. He guest curated the Newseum exhibition that inspired this book.   Harold Evans is the author of two critically acclaimed best-selling histories of America:  The American Century and They Made America: From the Steam Engine to the Search Engine: Two Centuries of Innovators. This book was the basis for a four-part documentary of the same title on PBS, which he wrote. It is also being adapted into a college curriculum. His latest book is My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times, a memoir covering his early life, his years in Britain's newspaper business and his move to America. He is editor at large of The Week magazine, and moderates The Week's panel discussions with political and economic leaders. Evans graduated M.A. from Durham University and held a Harkness Fellowship at the Universities of Chicago and Stanford. In London, he was the editor of The Sunday Times from 1967 to 1981, and editor of The Times from 1981 to 1982. His account of these years was published in his best-selling book Good Times, Bad Times. He was regular presenter on the TV series What the Papers Say. Evans moved to America in 1984. He was the founding editor of Conde Nast Traveler magazine and President and Publisher of Random House Trade Group (1990-1997) From 1997-1999 he was Editorial Director and Vice Chairman of U.S. News & World Report, the New York Daily News, The Atlantic Monthly and Fast Company, a position from which he resigned in January 2000 to write full time. (Evans remains a Contributing Editor at U.S. News & World Report.) Among many recognitions, Evans was awarded the European Gold Medal by the Institute of Journalists. This followed his successful Sunday Times investigation and campaign on behalf of children injured by the pharmaceutical thalidomide. In 1999, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the UK Press Award Committee, its highest accolade. In 2000, Evans was honored as one of 50 World Press Heroes on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the International Press Institute in defense of press freedom; for the IPI's 60th anniversary, he will deliver the keynote address at their 2010 conference in Vienna. In 2001, British journalists voted him the greatest all time British newspaper editor, and in 2004 he was honored with a knighthood in the Queen's 2004 New Year's Honors list.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593730055
Publisher: Bunker Hill Publishing Inc
Publication date: 07/16/2003
Series: World News Ser.
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 96
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 6.00(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Harold Evans is the author of two critically acclaimed best-selling histories of America: The American Century and They Made America: From the Steam Engine to the Search Engine: Two Centuries of Innovators. This book was the basis for a four-part documentary of the same title on PBS, which he wrote. It is also being adapted into a college curriculum. He is editor at large of The Week magazine, and moderates The Week's panel discussions with political and economic leaders

Read an Excerpt

War Stories

Reporting in the Time of Conflict From the Crimea to Iraq



Copyright © 2003

The Freedom Forum Newseum, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-59373-005-5

Chapter One

The War

History turned on the success of the invasion,
but the scene on the beach was desperate. The
ships could not get close enough to put the
soldiers ashore. Hands fulll and weighed down
by the heavy burden of their arms, the soldiers
had to simultaneously jump from the ships,
get a footing in chest-deep waves, and fight
the enemy, who, standing unencumbered on
dry and familiar ground, could so easily kill
and maim the invaders.

The war correspondent reporting the scene
in those terms observed: "These perils frightened
our soldiers, who were quite unaccustomed
to battles of this kind, with the result
that they did not show the same alacrity and
enthusiasm as they usually did on dry land."

The candor may strike an odd note. In
the mythology of war, our men are never
beset by elemental fear, still less paralyzed
by it. The lexicon of defeat, if it has to be
admitted, is of gallant retreats against overwhelming
odds. But the war correspondent
writing the story of the battle on that beach
was uninhibited. He faced none of the frustrations
and dilemmas of the modern war
correspondent because he was taking part in
the battle himself, as the commanding general
of the invasion of Britain in the year 55 B.C.

Julius Caesar is one of a very long line of
soldiers who reported their own campaigns
firsthand. Thucydides was a military officer,
and his "History of the Peloponnesian
War" was informed by his experience in
command of the Greek fleet at Thasos in
424 B.C. and his defeat by the Spartan general
Brasidas. The professional independent
war correspondent, the unarmed civilian
whose pen is supposed to be mightier than
the sword, does not arrive on the scene until
the Crimean War (1853-55) in the persons
of William "Billy" Howard Russell of The
of London, Edwin Lawrence Godkin
of the London Daily News and G.L. Gruneisen
of the Morning Post. So it is as well to
acknowledge that our perennial appetite for
news of war has been served by "amateurs"
from time immemorial, in oral history, in
poem and song, in legend and
myth, in drawing and painting
and tapestry.

We know how English
axmen cut down the Norman
armored knights at the Battle of
Hastings in 1066, and how King
Harold died on Senlac Hill with
an arrow in his eye, because it is
all recorded on the Bayeux
Tapestry. Mark Kellogg, a
Western freelance newspaper
reporter, set out to tell us what
happened on the morning of
June 26, 1876, on a hill at Little
Bighorn in Montana. "By the
time this reaches you we will
have met and fought the red
devils with what result remains to be seen,"
he wrote from Rosebud Creek the day
before. "I go with [Lt. Col. George] Custer
and will be at the death." And indeed he did
die with the dashing officer who had disobeyed
orders and allowed the reporter to
ride along with the 7th Cavalry. Our idea of
how every man with Custer perished comes
from individual oral accounts retold by
Sioux and Cheyenne warriors, father to son
and grandson, vividly supplemented by 41
pictographs drawn by Red Horse, a
Miniconjou Lakota chief at the battle. Only
in 1999 were all the elements of this war
story properly compiled in book form by
Herman J. Viola ("Little Bighorn

Whoever is the chronicler, there is an eternal
and compelling curiosity about war, about
wars in which our own survival is at stake, and
wars long past. So much heroism; so much
folly; so many brilliant moves; so many blunders;
so many might-have-beens. In a current
conflict, we fret about loved ones; but in all war
reports we share vicariously in the terrible
excitement of combat. We exult in victories;
but we want to know whether the cause is just,
the means proportionate to the end, and the
execution honorable. We relish the drama of
the front line, but we expect to be advised if a
decent patriotism is being exploited. Do the
Viet Cong represent a nationalist rebellion or
aggression by international communism? Are
there really vital national interests in sending
500,000 U.S. troops into battle to eject Iraq
from Kuwait? And the arguments go on long
after the battlefield has been cleared of its dead.

For the modern war correspondent, the
imponderables are more numerous and the
canvas broader than it was for battle participants
like Caesar, who practiced war journalism
before it was invented. The soldier-reporters
were more exposed to risk than the
professional correspondent, but in reporting
they had a simpler task. They had access,
by definition. They were their own censors.
They had no worry that their messages and
histories would inadvertently cost lives
because communication was so slow and
restricted. They could take their time in
reporting; they had no competition and
their eyewitness accounts were idiosyncratic.

Nobody could match Capt. Robert
Blakeney's account of the battle of Nivelle in
1813, when the French were finally driven
out of Spain. Rushing an enemy redoubt at
the head of his regiment, his sword raised,
he was struck by a shot that shattered two
bones of his left leg. The regiment went on
without him, but lying unmolested among
the dead and the dying he had a unique view
of the battlefield:

The awful events passing lay beneath my
view; nor was there aught to interrupt my
observation save a few bodily twitches, the
pangs of prostrated ambition, and the shot and
shells which burst close, or nearly cut the
ground from under me.

In my view, the birth and maturation of
the unarmed professional war correspondent
had four midwives: Democracy. Time.
Scale. Speed.

Democracy, nurtured by nearly universal
suffrage and popular education, meant
governments had more and more to justify
the blood, tears, toil and sweat of going to
war. And the advent of total war widened
the risks beyond the fighting men to every
man, woman and child in the nation.
Newspapers naturalIy played on the notion
that only independent reporting would satisfy
the popular appetite. The fact that war
stories sold more newspapers than anything
else only demonstrates that high-mindedness
and commercial gain are not always in
conflict. Governments, for their part,
became willing to provide battlefield access
for reporters because they presumed the
journalists would wave the flag.

Timeliness was the second midwife,
first recognized by The Times in London.
The newspaper abandoned the traditional
practice of relying on letters from junior
officers at the battlefront when its readers
clamored to know what was happening
day by day in the Crimean peninsula,
where England, with France and the
Ottoman Turks, was fighting the
Russians. Lt. Charles Naysmith of the
East India Company's Bombay Artillery
was covering the fighting for The Times,
but he was thought to have no sense of
urgency; perhaps his first priority was
staying alive. The frustrated Times manager
rebuked the foreign editor: "I wish you
would impress upon Naysmith with all
your eloquence the absolute necessity of
writing as often as he can and sending letters
without delay." The letters took more
than week to arrive anyway, coming by
horse and steamer. The appointment of a
stocky Irishman, William Howard
Russell, was the trailblazing result, and
the term "war correspondent" was apt, for
the editor of The Times, John Delane,
asked Russell to write him letters. Delane
decided what he would take from them,
for use in his news and opinion columns.
When Russell saw the scandals in the
Crimea, he asked, "Am I to tell these
things or hold my tongue?" Delane urged
Russell to report all he saw, then withheld
from publication any material he deemed
too sensitive. But the information he kept
from the public he made certain to circulate
among government ministers.

The third midwife was Scale. Bigger,
longer and more far-flung wars required
more trained observers, more coordination
of their efforts.

Speed. Finally, communication speeded
up and with it competition between
publishers and editors to have reporters
cunning in the means of transmission and
the evasion of bureaucracy. Curiously, in
the 21st century communication is so
transformed that we are at the dawn of a
new era where the war correspondent yields
ground to the ordinary citizen. Today, people
may speak directly to others by e-mail
and the Internet, reporting their own experiences
- unfiltered by journalist, editor or

During the 1999 Kosovo war, a Web site
organized by The Institute for War and
Peace Reporting ( attracted
contributions from ordinary citizens. One
described what it was like to be caught up in
ethnic cleansing in Pristina:

Armed men wearing black masks and blue
police helmets just came and said, "You have
to leave." I watched the people flee from their
homes through my window. They left all their
possessions behind - they weren't even
allowed to take their identification cards. All
they had was the sadness in their eyes.

Later, when Kosovo was occupied by
NATO, the same nonpartisan Web site was
open to Serbs reporting attacks on them by
returning Kosovars. Web-site and e-mail
reports like this will enrich the coverage of
war, but they have the weakness of their
openness: They can easily be manipulated. I
don't believe they will ever supplant the professional
correspondent and the authority
of a recognized news organization in the
way the reporter supplanted the literate

The real explosion of professional coverage
came with the U.S. Civil War. As in all
things, America went in for mass production.
Newspapers in the South still relied
heavily on telegrams and letters from serving
officers, but at least 500 reporters covered
the war for the North - after a fashion.
In the summary of Phillip Knightley, author
of the seminal history of war reporting,
"The First Casualty," the adjectives that
could be pinned on the reporters' chests
were ignorant, dishonest, unethical, inaccurate,
partisan and inflammatory.

The nonprofessionals had a better
record than that. In the Napoleonic Wars,
brilliant firsthand accounts of the battles of
Trafalgar and Waterloo come to us from soldiers
and sailors. Caesar had as good an eye
for a story as any tabloid reporter. This is
how he related what happened to the
Roman legionnaires skulking in their ships
rather than face the Anglo-Saxon javelins:

The man who carried the eagle of the tenth
legion, after praying to the gods that his action
might bring good luck to the legion, cried in a
loud voice, "Jump down, comrades, unless you
want to surrender our eagle to the enemy; I, at
any rate, mean to do my duty to my country
and my general." With these words he leapt
out of the ship and advanced toward the
enemy with the eagle in his hands. At this the
soldiers, exhorting each other not to submit to
such a disgrace, jumped with one accord from
the ship, and the men from the next ships,
when they saw them, followed them and
advanced against the enemy.

Caesar's report is eerily reminiscent of the
scene at Omaha Beach on D-Day when the
men of the 1st Division and 29th Division,
supported by the 2nd Ranger Battalion, tried
to get ashore. Men carrying 66 pounds of
equipment had to jump into water that not
only was deep but laced with booby traps and
mines; many drowned. Those who made it to
the beach - mostly to the wrong sectors, for
which they had not been trained - curled up
in the sand behind the seawall, pinned down
by intense machine-gun, rifle, mortar and
artillery fire from the sheer cliffs above. Gen.
Omar Bradley's beachhead, like Caesar's,
would have been lost but for inspired leadership
- in a richer idiom. "Get the hell off this
damn beach and go kill some Germans,"
screamed Col. Charles Canham at an officer
taking refuge in a pillbox. "Get your ass out
of there and show some leadership." Col.
George Taylor famously yelled, "Two kinds of
people are staying on this beach: the dead
and those who are going to die. Now let's get
the hell out of here."

We owe these scenes to postwar writers
who have made an attempt to reconstruct
Omaha Beach. At the time, the reality of the
landing, its full horror, its blunders and the
awesome nature of its heroism did not come
through. There were 558 accredited print
and radio correspondents for the five
Normandy landings, but the arena was vast
and chaotic. They were restricted by censorship
as well as by German soldiers doing
their damnedest to nail anything that
moved. Censors went on the beaches with
the reporters, checking that none of them
wrote or radioed dispatches that would help
the enemy or dismay people at home.

The correspondents filed 700,000 words
on the first day. Ernie Pyle, arriving on the
second day, sent three dispatches from
Omaha Beach, and Martha Gellhom reported
from one of the hospital ships after getting
ashore as a stretcher-bearer. Radio
transmitted into living rooms the sound of
gunfire and men's cheers and ship's whistles
and planes. The reports were all very exciting,
but readers and listeners were not
encouraged to imagine men in a funk, or
told that infantry were landing with
weapons inferior to the Germans' in every
category, except artillery, or that the U.S.
Navy launched assault craft so far out that
most of the amphibious tanks and guns
were swamped and sank in heavy seas, or
that among the 2,500 Americans dead at the
end of the first day were 40 percent of the
combat engineers. The much-loved Pyle,
who footslogged with the grunts in North
Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and the Pacific,
was laconic: "Our men were pinned down
for a while, but finally they stood up and
went through, and so we took that beach
and accomplished our landing."

The cryptic reticence is explicable, but
the consequence of the way the landing was
covered at the time was well summed up by
Max Hastings in his 1984 reconstruction of
D-Day ("Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for
Normandy"): "Few Europeans and
Americans of the postwar generation have
grasped just how intense were the early
Overlord battles." The folk memory is of an
effort of fearless superiority. Steven
Spielberg's epic film "Saving Private Ryan"
has finally done something to redress this
notion. The film is a world of singular imagination.
Spielberg was not even born when
the Americans went ashore. He does not
attempt to suggest what went wrong. His
portrayal of the landings is impressionistic,
but it is a masterpiece of cinematic art. It
evokes the ordeal of the men on the beach; it
makes their achievement all the more memorable.
"Saving Private Ryan" is very like
Stephen Crane's "The Red Badge of
Courage." Crane had not seen military action
anywhere when he published his novel in

Excerpted from War Stories
Copyright © 2003
by The Freedom Forum Newseum, Inc.
Excerpted by permission.
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