War correspondents confront military secrets, tests of loyalty, and constant danger.
Based on published dispatches, memoirs, and archival sources, Casey (International History/London School of Economics; When Soldiers Fall: How Americans Have Confronted Combat Losses from World War I to Afghanistan, 2014, etc.) closely examines the experiences of American journalists who reported from Germany, Italy, and North Africa from 1942 through Germany’s surrender in 1945. The author questions the argument, put forth by other historians, that journalists colluded with the military to disseminate a picture of triumph, airbrushing bloody battle scenes and self-censoring their work so as to bolster support for the war. Excessive media deference, some historians believe, “served to hide everything except the genius of generals and the success of their soldiers.” Casey convincingly argues that reporters were not tools of the military’s public relations offices, drawing on the work of star journalists such as Drew Middleton, Ernie Pyle, and photographer Robert Capa as well as reporters not as well remembered, whose dispatches appeared in daily newspapers and on radio. These men (and a few women) saw themselves as “courageous danger seekers whose rightful place was in the midst of the action,” but they responded in different ways to what they observed and how they conceived their responsibility to the public. All needed to negotiate with the military, which tried to control news stories, while recognizing reporters’ pressure to deliver daily updates. Reporters were circumscribed, also, by considerations other than military strategy: Casey notes “brazen editing” of any stories related to race, for example. White reporters either ignored black issues or “excised” them entirely, helping to obfuscate the military’s blatant segregation. Although the Air Force claimed it attacked only military targets, one intrepid reporter broke the news of the “terror bombing” of civilians, emboldening editors to pursue similar stories. Figures such as Eisenhower and Patton play roles in Casey’s illuminating narrative, but his focus is largely on reporters and their efforts, sometimes heroic, to get the best scoop.
A vivid contribution to media and military history.