Book Reviews -- Forward Positions Edited by Betsy Wade with a Foreword by Harrison E. Salisbury

By Holsinger, Ralph | Journalism History, Winter 1994 | Go to article overview

Book Reviews -- Forward Positions Edited by Betsy Wade with a Foreword by Harrison E. Salisbury


Holsinger, Ralph, Journalism History


Those who served as ordinary soldiers in the combat zones of World War II remember Ernie Pyle as the correspondent who best described the war we experienced. His widely syndicated stories told millions of Americans the unvarnished truth about what it was like over there--in North Africa, Italy, France, and on the small islands of the far Pacific. He was killed on one of those islands by a sniper's bullet four months before the war ended.

However, Pyle was not the only correspondent who risked his life to report the war from the soldiers' point of view. So, too, did Homer Bigart of the New York Herald Tribune, whose work is the subject of this book by Betsy Wade, an editor at the New York Times. John Hohenberg, from his vantage point as secretary of the Advisory Board on the Pulitzer Prizes, says in his classic Foreign Correspondence that by the end of World War II Bigart "had won the most respect, and even in a way taken the place of Ernie Pyle." This collection of Bigart's best stories proves the truth of that assessment.

There are many parallels in the lives of the two. Neither finished college. Both had unpromising starts, Pyle on a small Indiana newspaper, Bigart as a copy boy for five years on the Herald Tribune. Both were shy introverts who had problems with their spouses and with liquor. Further, Bigart was afflicted with a stammer that some news sources and competing journalists assumed to be a sign of stupidity. He was notorious for dragging out interviews with the stammered excuse that he did not quite understand what the source meant, leading quite often, Salisbury says in his introduction, to "catching his subject off guard and opening up angles no one else had. …

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