William Bryan; First Newsman to Broadcast D-Day Invasion Report


William Wright Bryan, a former editor of the Atlanta Journal and the first World War II correspondent to broadcast an eyewitness account of D-Day, has died of pneumonia at 85.

Bryan died Wednesday at the Clemson Area Retirement Community.

Bryan was editor of the Atlanta Journal from 1946 to 1954. He was the newspaper’s managing editor, war correspondent and an NBC radio stringer when he became the first newsman to give a report on the D-Day invasion of France on June 6, 1944.

He covered the invasion from a transport plane dropping airborne troops. When the plane flew back to London, Bryan went on the air and made his broadcast immediately after a one-sentence announcement by the Allied command and tape-recorded statements by King George VI and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.


While covering the Allies’ further advance across Europe, Bryan was wounded and captured by the Germans and spent six months in hospitals and in a prisoner of war camp in Szubin, Poland. He was freed by Soviet troops in January, 1945.

After the war, he was named editor of the Journal. He also was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Bryan served as president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1953. In 1954, he left the Journal after 27 years to become editor of the Plain Dealer in Cleveland. He was editor of the Plain Dealer from 1954 to 1963, and vice president for development of Clemson University from 1963 to 1970.

Bryan graduated from Clemson College in 1926, then spent a year at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

He was a former board member of the Associated Press, former chairman of the Georgia Press Institute and former president of the Atlanta chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

He is survived by his wife, Helen Hillyer Newell Bryan; a son, two daughters and six grandchildren.