Boxing the Kangaroo: A Reporter's Memoir

Boxing the Kangaroo: A Reporter's Memoir

Boxing the Kangaroo: A Reporter's Memoir

Boxing the Kangaroo: A Reporter's Memoir


"The host had brought out a pair of boxing gloves and asked the president if any of his friends would like to indulge in the Australian sport of boxing kangaroos. Once the president of the United States had selected me, there was almost no way out, unless I ran home to tell my mother."

In Boxing the Kangaroo: A Reporter's Memoir, Robert J. Donovan shares many exciting events that highlighted his stellar journalistic career. As an investigative reporter during five presidential administrations, Donovan has had many "insider" experiences. His memoir delightfully humanizes each of the five presidents he reported on: Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon.

Donovan began his career working as a night copyboy for the Buffalo Courier-Express, earning seven dollars a week. In 1937, he got a job as a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune, where he worked for many years. By 1942 the Herald Tribune had assigned Donovan to cover City Hall and the lively activities of Fiorello La Guardia. After his service in World War II he returned to the Herald Tribune to cover the man from Missouri who followed FDR. Ultimately, Donovan served as chief of the New York Herald Tribune Washington bureau and the Los Angeles Times Washington bureau.

Donovan traveled across the country with Harry S. Truman during his "Give 'Em Hell, Harry" campaign. He covered Dwight D. Eisenhower's election, about which he says there was never a doubt--Ike, the war hero, mesmerized the country. He was a personal friend of John F. Kennedy, having written about the President's PT-109 heroics in World War II, and was on the scene the day Kennedy was assassinated: "The drama in the second press bus, in which I rode in the presidential motorcade in Dallas, is unforgettable. Why has the motorcade stopped?' a reporter asked as we drew near the Texas School Book Depository.... I heard a shot,' another said. A voice in the rear contradicted him. That was a motorcycle backfiring.'" Donovan would find out shortly before the rest of the world that, in fact, it was not a motorcycle backfiring, but the firing of an assassin's bullet that killed the nation's thirty-fifth president.

Boxing the Kangaroo is one of the best "I was there" accounts of American history. This fascinating book will appeal to journalists, American history buffs, and the general reader alike.


In a long career as a reporter in Buffalo, New York City, Paris, and Washington, and as the author of ten published books, including pt 109: John F. Kennedy in World War ii and a two-volume history of the Truman presidency, I experienced unexpected and sometimes astonishing events, and at least one that was unspeakably sorrowful.

For several years I was chief of the New York Herald Tribune Washington bureau. Later, I was for several years chief of the Los Angeles Times Washington bureau.

Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia of New York sent blood flowing from my cheek when he angrily slammed the door of his car on me. Then, in the most unlikely event of my life, he inquired whether I would like to be secretary of the New York City Fire Department.

On Plum Pudding Island in the South Pacific, in 1961, while retracing the steps of former Lieutenant Kennedy as skipper of pt 109 in 1943, I picked up a stick of coral as a souvenir for him. in 1995, after his death, it was sold at an auction in New York (not by me) for $68,500.

At an outing on a ranch in Australia, President Lyndon B. Johnson pressed me into boxing a kangaroo and then cheered on the kangaroo.

Mindlessly, in the war in Europe, I almost walked into the German lines while taking cigarettes to a friend who manned a machine gun in one of our forward positions.

Once President Truman became angry at the wrong man: me. Ironically, in view of things to come, in 1959 I incurred the unjustified suspicion of Vice President Richard M. Nixon that I had secretly taped his conversation.

Through firsthand observation I learned the potential danger of ordering bean soup in the Senate dining room in the Capitol.

In the fall of 1955, to enable me to write the story of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first three years as president, top-secret documents were brought to me daily in loaded carts in an office assigned to me in the White House. Legally, I was permitted to read the documents because the White House got me a highly rated Q-clearance, yet a congressional investigation was threatened. Eisenhower was not even aware of my presence. However, the book for which I was researching became number one on the New York Times best-sellers list for fourteen weeks.

In a single trip abroad in 1959, covering Eisenhower, I saw, among other places, the Vatican, the Appian Way, the Colosseum, the Parthenon, the . . .

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