• U.S.

The Press: Last Appraisal

3 minute read

Among the scrub eucalyptus trees in a trim little Australian-American military cemetery outside Port Moresby, the New York Times’s Byron Darnton was buried last week with full military honors. The Army said only that he was killed in an accident. He was 44 years old and the tenth U.S. correspondent to fall in line of duty in World War II.

Prophetically, Barney Darnton’s last dispatch was a measured appraisal of his hazardous job and the mood of the fighting men with whom he served. He wrote in part:

“. . . Men who wrote the news of the last war have told me that GHQ (in France) placed a limousine at the disposal of each correspondent. . . . Here in the Port Moresby area we have two pick-up trucks and one sedan for about 20 Australian and American correspondents and photographers. . . .

“But you can’t commute to this war. . . . You have to catch your rides as you can. . . . You get your best rides from bomber pilots whom you know. They and their crews seem to like to have you along.

“Young men who are doing our fighting are, to a surprising extent, thinking about the war’s end … in terms of what kind of a world we shall have after peace comes. They are thinking realistically. . . . The politician who preaches ‘normalcy’ at the end of this war will find some hardheaded opposition. . . .

“A man can climb the high hill near the airdrome just up the road and watch the bombers and fighters go forth . . . can see his countrymen building with blood, sweat and toil the firm resolution that their sons shall not die under bombs, but shall have peace, because they will know how to preserve peace. … It is stirring to see this change in attitude. It makes the dust all right, the flies all right, the heat all right.”

Barney Darnton did not cover World War I because he fought it in France with the A.E.F.’s Red Arrow Division—at the battles of the Oise-Aisne, the Meuse-Argonne, and the attack on the Kriemhilde-Stellung Line. A native of Adrian, Mich., Barney Darnton started his press career on the Sandusky (Mich.) Herald a few years after the Armistice, progressed through the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Bulletin and Ledger, and the New York Post, to city editor of the A.P.’s New York Bureau. He was already a corking good newspaperman when he went to work for the Times in 1934, the kind of newspaperman that other newspapermen are proud of. Many an Australian, British and U.S. reporter said so last week to the Times. So did General MacArthur, who wired: “He served with gallantry and devotion at the front and fulfilled the important duties of war correspondent with distinction to himself and the New York Times and with value to his country.”

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