Homer Bigart; Journalist Won 2 Pulitzers for War Coverage
Homer Bigart, who won Pulitzer Prizes for his reporting on World War II and was one of the first correspondents to conclude--based on his experiences covering the Korean conflict--that the Vietnam War was a mistake, has died at 83.
Bigart, who died of cancer Tuesday, wrote for the New York Herald Tribune and the New York Times, retiring in 1972.
During his 43-year career, his assignments included the civil rights movement, the 1961 trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Israel, the Greek civil war, famine and the changes in urban and rural America.
A shy, bespectacled man with a pronounced stutter that made him a more effective reporter by enabling him to pose as a bumbler, Bigart was known for his taut, clear and often poetic writing, rich quotations and use of detail.
Bigart won a Pulitzer in 1945 for coverage of World War II. In 1951, he received a rare second Pulitzer for his Korean coverage.
After covering the London blitz, the bombing of Germany and battles in North Africa, France and Italy, Bigart was sent to the Philippines.
He covered the last months of the war against Japan and was one of the first reporters in Hiroshima after the dropping of the atomic bomb in 1945.
Bigart opened his account of the war’s end this way:
“Japan, paying for her desperate throw of the dice at Pearl Harbor, passed from the ranks of the major powers at 9:05 a.m. today when Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signed the document of unconditional surrender.
“If the memories of the bestialities of the Japanese prison camps were not so fresh in mind, one might have felt sorry for Shigemitsu as he hobbled on his wooden leg toward the green baize-covered table where the papers lay waiting.”
In 1955, he left the Tribune for the New York Times. In his mid-50s, he was sent to cover the Vietnam War. He concluded early on that the Pentagon was not in for an easy victory and that the war was a mistake.
“I never thought we’d be stupid enough to send ground troops over there in the first place, after the experience in Korea,” he said.