Magazine article Humanities

Making a Difference: Learning from Heroes-William Manchester

Magazine article Humanities

Making a Difference: Learning from Heroes-William Manchester

Article excerpt

William Manchester's connections to World War II-from his fascination with its great military leaders to his experiences as a soldier-have shaped his formidable literary career.

"The friendships I made in the Marine Corps were longer lasting and more fulfilling than any I've ever made in my life," says Manchester, a veteran wounded twice on Okinawa. The Manchester family has a legacy of service. Eighteen Manchesters served under General George Washington. William Manchester's father was a decorated World War I veteran, and his brother was a fellow World War II marine.

Near the end of the war, William Manchester was shipped stateside to recover, where he met another wounded soldier named John Fitzgerald Kennedy. They formed a friendship that lasted until Kennedy's death. Manchester went on to write an account of his friend's assassination at the request of the Kennedy family. Manchester's book, The Death of a President, sold 1.3 million copies. It became a best-seller and James Michener declared it "a book that will be used by historians for the next two thousand years."

Manchester's life has been showered with awards. He was valedictorian at the University of Massachusetts. He received the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, and two Purple Hearts for his time as a marine. From four decades of teaching and writing at Wesleyan University, he produced eighteen books that reveal his gift to evoke history-plain, simple, alive, and jumping from the page. …

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