David Halberstam

As a reporter for the New York Times, Halberstam won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Vietnam, where he was a correspondent, 1962-64. He was an insightful critic of the war, but in the early stages of American military involvement he said that Vietnam was a legitimate part of America's global commitment and as "a strategic country in a key area, it is perhaps one of only five or six nations in the world that are truly vital to U.S. interests." He said, "We want stability for these people, whereas the Communists actively promote inconstancy. So, we cannot abandon our efforts to help these people." Nevertheless, he insisted that Americans should understand the arduous and complicated nature of the struggle in Vietnam, and he told the truth by American officials. These were the themes of his book, The Making of a Quagmire, published in 1965. Halberstam and some of his colleagues reported on the weakening military situation and the problems facing the South Vietnamese government. Halberstam was criticized for his reporting of these developments in Vietnam and along with other journalists was subjected to pressure from both Washington and the Vietnamese government. President Kennedy suggested to Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger in October 1963 that Halberstam should be removed from the Vietnam assignment because he was "too close to the story.'' Sulzberger refused, though Halberstam did leave Vietnam in 1964.

Born in New York in 1934, Halberstam was a Harvard graduate who joined the Times in 1960. In 1967 he left the Times. He wrote for Harper's magazine, and later authored several highly praised books including The Best and the Brightest, a critique of American policy in Vietnam and of American policymakers.


Vietnam War Writers