David Halberstam (1934-2007) is a Pullitzer Prize winning journalist and author of 22 books whose early and most well known work was his coverage of the American war in South Vietnam for the New York Times in the early 1960s. In his reports he criticized the war’s progress and predicted its failure, uncovering lies United States officials were telling to the public about the status of the war. This earned Halberstam the anger and criticism of American military commanders and politicians, including President Kennedy –but it also earned him a the Pullitzer Prize in 1964, as well as a George Polk Award for his account of a Buddhist’s monk’s self immolation in 1963. He later wrote a book explaining why the war in Vietnam was a failure, called The Best and the Brightest (1972).
Halberstam’s additional works include reporting on the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, particularly an article for Harper entitled “The Second Coming of Martin Luther King,” about his journey accompanying Dr. King across the country. His 1999 book The Children focused on the Nashville Student Movement from 1959-1962. Among his other books is Firehouse, which chronicles the lives of 13 New York City firefighters who were in the World Trade Center on 9/11.
Born in 1934, Halberstam graduated from Harvard in 1955. He married Jean Sandness, a writer, in 1979. In 2007 he was tragically killed in a car accident in California, on his way to interview Y. A. Tittle, the former New York Giants quarterback, for a book he was working on about the 1958 championship game. He is survived by his wife and their daughter, Julia.
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