• U.S.

The Press: Best-Covered Story

3 minute read

U.S. war correspondents had gone through their toughest battle of the Pacific war—Tarawa. When they had written all their dispatches, TIME’S Robert Sherrod sat down and wrote one more:

“Five correspondents went in at Betio with the first waves of assault battalions. They were United Pressman Richard Johnston, Associated Pressman William Hippie, Don Senick of Fox Movietone News, A.P. Cameraman Frank Filan and I. All saw men killed beside them in landing boats or on the beach. Senick alone suffered injury; a Jap bullet hit a tree under which he was sitting and dropped on him.

“Gilbert Bundy, onetime Esquire and New Yorker cartoonist now assigned to do war sketches for King Features Syndicate, started in later. About 75 yards offshore his boat received a direct hit, probably from a Jap 90-mm. mortar. All but one man in it were either killed or blown into the water. Bundy was unharmed.

“Alone among the dead, he jumped out, was carried seaward by a swift tide. When he finally did reach another boat and hauled himself into it, he found only dead marines there. He stayed with the dead all night. Next morning he was close to being shot for a Jap: during the night the enemy had swum to disabled landing craft and were using them as machine-gun nests. Not until Tarawa’s third day did Bundy finally get ashore.”

Luck: Good & Bad. “Luck played a big part in our getting stories out. At third day’s end, when the battle was all but won, reporters returned to their ships to write. They never try to rush onto a beachhead typewriter in hand.

“Redheaded Bill Hippie had bad luck. He had boarded his transport and was taking a shower to rid himself of the putrid smell of the dead, when the ship unexpectedly pulled out. He finally got a message to Rear Admiral Howard Kingman, a battleship division commander, who sent a catapult plane. It took Hippie’s stories, a day late, back to Tarawa, whence they were planed to Pearl Harbor for radioing.

“Dick Johnston got his stories off first, and he got a clear one-day beat. Swarthy little Cameraman Filan was unlucky, for when he dropped into the water from his landing boat, his camera was ruined.

“The story was the most important one to clear through Pearl Harbor since the Battle of Midway, and it was the best-covered story of the Pacific war to date. Censors cleared 223,000 words about it in eight days—about $15,000 in cable tolls.”

Five newsmen went along on an R.A.F. raid over Berlin last week; only two came back. “Missing in action”: 1) slim, 23-year-old Lowell Bennett of the International News Service, who was to write an eyewitness account of the raid for all three U.S. press associations, and who got the assignment by flipping a coin with a colleague; 2) New Zealander Norman Stockton, representing an Australian newspaper service, 3) a British correspondent whose identity was temporarily withheld.

There are now four U.S. correspondents missing in World War II. Known dead: 14.

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