Fifty Years at the Front: The Life of War Correspondent Frederick Palmer

By Jernigan, E. Jay | Journalism History, Winter 1997 | Go to article overview

Fifty Years at the Front: The Life of War Correspondent Frederick Palmer


Jernigan, E. Jay, Journalism History


Haverstock, Nathan A. Fifty Years at the Front: The Life of War Correspondent Frederick Palmer. Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 1996. 320 pp. $27.95.

In June 1917 in Paris, veteran war correspondent Frederick Palmer reluctantly enlisted with the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). His friend, General John J. Pershing, immediately appointed him head of AEF press censorship because Palmer had served for nearly two years as the only American reporter officially accredited to the British army and was intimate with both British and French press policies. In that unpopular role as AEF censor, and later as its director of propaganda, Palmer has found a place in most journalism history texts.

While Nathan Haverstock in his biography of Palmer, Fifty Years at the Front, records his World War I experiences, he tells for the most part the more exciting story of Palmer's earlier career as he covered the Greco-Turkish War of 1897, the gold rush in Alaska, the Philippine insurrection, the Boxer Rebellion, the Russo-Japanese war, the Balkan war of 1912, and various free-lance foreign assignments along the way.

To his credit, Haverstock also reveals the banality of a war correspondent's life as Palmer struggles to find the fronts and to get his reports out past both military and civil officials, usually with no mail service available, much less cable facilities.

To add spice to his tale, Haverstock incorporates accounts of significant public figures that Palmer encountered, such as Commodore George Dewey, Herbert Hoover, General Frederick Funston, and Theodore Roosevelt. There also were the antics of more colorful or better-known correspondents who served with Palmer, such as Jack London, Richard Harding Davis, and Stephen Crane. …

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