Larry LeSueur, 93; Former CBS Radio Reporter Covered WWII

Times Staff Writer

Larry LeSueur, whose vivid dispatches brought World War II into America's living rooms as a member of the fabled band of CBS radio correspondents led by Edward R. Murrow, died of Parkinson's disease Wednesday at his home in Washington, D.C. He was 93.

He was one of the last two members of the group of erudite, adventure-seeking reporters who came to be known as "Murrow's Boys." The group, which included Charles Collingwood, Eric Sevareid and Howard K. Smith, was assembled in Europe by Murrow, the trailblazing newsman credited with molding the 1940s and '50s into a golden age in broadcast journalism.

Hired by Murrow in 1939, LeSueur covered World War II throughout Europe, from the battles of Stalingrad and Moscow to the D-day invasion at Normandy, France, and the liberation of Paris.

After the war, his coverage of the birth of the United Nations earned two Peabody Awards, given for excellence in broadcast journalism, in 1949 and 1950.

"Larry LeSueur was one of a small number of reporters who gave the American people a better idea of what World War II was about than they have had about any war since," "60 Minutes" commentator Andy Rooney, who was covering the war for Stars and Stripes when he met LeSueur in Europe, said in a statement released Thursday by CBS.

LeSueur was born Laurence Edward Lesueur in 1909; the "S" in his last name later was erroneously capitalized by a publisher and the misspelling stuck.

A New York native, he graduated from New York University in 1932, then worked briefly as a floorwalker for Macy's and as a writer for Women's Wear Daily before being recruited by United Press.

A third-generation journalist, he was following the paths of his father, Wallace, who had been a foreign correspondent for the New York Tribune; and his grandfather, an Iowa newspaper publisher.

At United Press through much of the 1930s, he reported on such major stories as the Hindenburg disaster and the Lindbergh baby kidnapping.

LeSueur sought assignment in Europe when World War II began, but his bosses declined to send him abroad. Inspired by the radio broadcasts of Murrow and William L. Shirer, he took a leave of absence and sailed for England on his own in summer 1939. In London, he presented himself to Murrow, who hired him a few weeks later.

Murrow "liked LeSueur's confident, easy manner and sense of humor and was delighted to learn of his experience.... Here at last was a print reporter with a strong and steady voice," Stanley Cloud and Lynne Olson wrote in their highly praised 1996 book "The Murrow Boys."

LeSueur quickly demonstrated his affinity for Murrow's vision of a new form of journalism, one that used everyday words to paint compelling pictures of the war.

Cloud and Olson offered this example from a report LeSueur filed after interviewing a young British pilot who had just flown a reconnaissance mission over Germany:

"... [Y]our observer's camera is clicking steadily. It's beautiful up above the sunlit clouds. The smooth drone of your twin motors makes you happy. You feel like singing and then you do. Then out of the corner of your eye, you see four black dots, growing larger momentarily. It's an enemy patrol of German Messerschmitts. Your gunner has seen them too. You hear the rattle of the machine gun as you put your bomber in a fast climbing turn, but the Messerschmitt fighters climb faster. They form under your tail, two on each side. One by one, they attack. A yellow light flashes in front of you. The first fighter slips away while the next comes on at you. Again that smashing yellow flame. Your observer falls over unconscious. Before you can think, the next Messerschmitt is upon you. A terrific jolt. Your port engine belches smoke. It's been hit.... You force-land on the first Allied airfield. That night, seated next to a hospital bed where your observer nurses a scalp wound, you hear an enemy communique. A British bomber was shot down over the lines today. Well, you puff a cigarette and grin."

Later, sailing across the English Channel with the 4th Infantry Division, LeSueur was one of the first American correspondents to land at Normandy on D-day, June 6, 1944. And he was, Cloud and Olson wrote, "the only CBS reporter to witness much action."

His dispatches were hand-delivered to the Navy beach-master after he slogged back to the beach every night past trigger-nervous sentries. Because of Army snafus, however, a week would pass before his first report on the harrowing invasion was broadcast to listeners back home.

The only CBS correspondent covering the invasion who was able to broadcast on D-day was Richard Hottelet, the last surviving member of Murrow's Boys. Murrow died in 1965.

LeSueur also reported from the Russian front in 1941 and 1942. His year as Moscow correspondent led to a weekly radio broadcast, "An American in Russia," directed by Norman Corwin, and a book, "Twelve Months That Changed the World," published in 1943.

LeSueur was one of the first correspondents to broadcast news of the liberation of Paris, and reported on the concentration camps at Dachau and Manthausen.

The U.S. War Department cited him for "outstanding and conspicuous service," and he was awarded the French Medal of Liberation and the Legion of Honor.

Cloud and Olson said LeSueur was "CBS' forgotten man," who never became a network star in 24 years with CBS News despite reporting that ranked with that of Collingwood, Sevareid and Murrow himself.

"His coverage of D-day and its aftermath alone should have earned him a permanent place in the network's pantheon," Cloud and Olson wrote.

After the war, LeSueur served as CBS' White House correspondent, and covered the Paris peace talks, the Pearl Harbor investigation hearings and the development of the United Nations.

He left CBS in 1963 to join Murrow at the U.S. Information Agency, where he covered the White House for Voice of America. He retired in 1984.

LeSueur is survived by his wife of 46 years, Dorothy; two daughters, Lorna Vliet and Amy LeSueur Herrick; and three grandchildren.

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