The Care and Feeding of Correspondents
by EDGAR L. JONES
NEARLY every Navy PRO (Public Relations Officer) doing time in the Pacific consoled himself with the promise that if he ever got out of uniform with his sanity, he would write a book about the care and feeding of war correspondents. The more harassed of these servants of the Fourth Estate, having brooded too long in a humor-sapping climate, referred to themselves as Seeing Eye dogs for “eyewitness” reporters.
PRO’s, it must be understood, had a jaundiced outlook on their military life. Many of them were professional writers before the war, and for several years had to forgo their own careers while assisting draft-exempt writers to make names for themselves. Anyone in the Armed Forces could write for publication except PRO’s, who, because they were paid an officer’s salary to be military writers, had to prepare the material which some civilian correspondent could rewrite under his own byline. The more devoted a PRO was to his duties, the more thoroughly he cut his own post-war throat, professionally speaking, because he was in the ironic position of having to elevate his competitors, often second-rate ones or novices, to positions of prominence.
A good PRO knew everything, and he placed his knowledge at the disposal of visiting war correspondents, preferably in written form. He knew that the amount of publicity which his island, unit, or command would receive was in direct proportion to his ability to make life easy for civilian writers, and that it therefore behooved him to keep on hand a number of good stories which could be rewritten in the first person without effort. Because of the willingness of PRO’s to be of service, one well-known journalist was able to write several excellent eyewitness pieces without setting foot outside the office of an accommodating PRO; he was even able to retire to the Officers’ Club while enlisted men in the office retyped his final copy.
Every island in the Pacific had its PRO, who, if he was alert, had in his files a mimeographed history of the island, complete with pre-censored pictures, which contained everything from the date of discovery to interesting anecdotes about the wildlife. After spending two hours with the PRO, or three hours if he actually wanted to tour the island, a competent correspondent was able to cable his editor an impressive story dealing with rehabilitation problems, or the influence of American missionaries on native sanitation, or the use of crushed coral as a substitute for cement. Although the PRO may have spent many months accumulating the data which enabled other writers to win fame and fortune, he received no publiccredit for his efforts; he was lucky if an occasional correspondent left him a bottle of liquor.
Although actually visiting an island facilitated writing about it, the PRO’s made it possible for correspondents to write vivid personal accounts of places which they might have seen only from the air in passing to and from the war fronts. The Public Relations Office in Pearl Harbor furnished correspondents with a 140-page booklet describing in detail the flora and fauna, native customs, pre-war economy, climate, and folklore on all the atolls and volcanic masses in the Western Pacific from the Gilbert Islands to the China coast. The material on islands still in Japanese hands was of little use to correspondents, although one reporter new to the Pacific made the mistake of “visiting” in his daily column an island which he learned later was still enemy-held.
The parts of the booklet dealing with territory already captured, however, were rewritten and resold so many times under such titles as “Candid Views of Our New Island Possessions” that the censors soon gave up correcting false impressions. Much of the material on Japanese possessions was compiled in advance of American occupation, and as a consequence several unfounded myths were included in the booklet. By now these myths have been reprinted in so many publications that it would be foolhardy to try to refute them.
Outstanding among the men who served as press agents for islands was Captain Charles McVarish, USMCR, a Boston and Detroit newspaperman stationed for the past year on Guam. As aide to the Island Commander, McVarish went ashore with a Tommy gun on D Day and thereafter saw to it that the activities under the command of Marine Major General Henry L. Larsen received a good press. Nearly every story written about Guam — and there have been hundreds of them — could be traced in part or almost entirely to the efforts of Captain McVarish and the enlisted men who served as his legmen.
From the approximately two hundred stories which McVarish had on file, a correspondent was assured of several colorful columns, and McVarish was the middleman who arranged interviews with the busiest Seabee or the most reticent native priest. Articles pertaining to the development of Guam as America’s foremost advance base in the Pacific were a McVarish specialty, along with stories, serious or humorous, about the capture of Japanese prisoners by means of loud-speakers.
To operate as efficiently as McVarish, a PRO had to be an idea man with a sense of news values as critical as that of a metropolitan city editor. Every morning on Guam, McVarish attended a conference of General Larsen’s chiefs of staff. Here he might learn that the representatives of the Military Government were teaching Japanese fishing methods to the Guamanians, or that the Midway to Guam telephone cable had been repaired and reopened, or that a Japanese soldier, seeking a safe way to surrender, waited outside an officers’ latrine until he was certain his prospective captor was in no position to shoot him.
After obtaining all the details that could be made public about such activities, McVarish, who for years was a reporter on the old Boston Transcript, either prepared a press release for general distribution to all correspondents or filed the information for the future use of correspondents in need of new ideas. When nothing startling occurred on Guam, McVarish created news by making a ceremony of some commonplace event which otherwise would have passed unnoticed. Because he understood the needs of newsmen and was willing to do a large share of their work, McVarish made good copy of life on Guam for more than a year.
UNFORTUNATELY, both for correspondents and for the reading public, many islands did not have PRO’s of McVarish’s caliber. A PRO on a smaller island was likely to be a good-natured officer who was discovered by a superior to have spare time on his hands. Several atoll spokesmen had no special talents for public relations work, but were considered even less qualified to handle the more important jobs pertaining to the operation of an island base. Occasionally an uncomplaining officer became a multi-titled personage, a human catchall for miscellaneous assignments, and served as psychological warfare officer, morale officer, property officer, permanent officer of the day, PRO, manager of the Officers’ Club, athletic director, and so on.
Such one-man rumor factories, aiming to please, might assure a newsman (it happened to me) that the United States was compelled to pay the British five dollars for every coconut tree destroyed while American forces were recapturing a former British possession; but the war correspondent, unless he was new to war, checked the fact with an authority less eager to supply him with sensational headlines.
Greater love for correspondents had no man than the commanding officer of a small atoll in the western Carolines, an atoll which for many months was used as a refueling and rearming point for task forces. It was the officer’s belief, and his opinions were goldbraided enough to be commands, that the best was none too good for any newspaper representatives. His PRO’s were instructed to be of every possible service to visiting war correspondents, which meant that the island was a favorite staging area of the Fourth Estate.
That island was the only spot in the Central Pacific where all meals for correspondents were free, where newsmen became guest members of the officers’ wine mess with no fees attached, and where there was no alcoholic curfew until the last man was ready to call it a night. When it was time for the correspondents to be put aboard their ships in the invasion fleet, the CO and his staff turned out at the dock with a brass band to wish them luck, and each correspondent was given two bottles of liquor, the rarest of all gifts in the Pacific.
With all the courtesies extended to the press, however, the island never received any publicity. The PRO prepared an extensive history of the island, but as long as the atoll was an important base, no discussion of Navy activities was permitted. Not until this July, when the island no longer was of strategic importance, was there any mention of the fact that the unknown island of Ulithi in the western Carolines had been, until the conversion of Guam, the most important Navy base west of Hawaii.
At one time the entire Fifth Fleet anchored in Ulithi’s coral lagoon, less than 750 miles from enemyheld Truk, the Japanese equivalent of Pearl Harbor. A Japanese submarine pack partially penetrated Ulithi’s underwater defenses on one occasion, a number of Kamikaze pilots flew from Truk to Ulithi on one-way missions, and typhoons hit the atollencircled harbor with frequency and violence; yet tiny Ulithi never made the headlines. Nor were any feature stories written about the island’s spectacular commanding officer, the best friend correspondents over had. Several writers planned to do pieces on the man who made a huge base out of a few square miles of coral reef, but the hospitality on the island was such that no one was in condition to do any writing.
Navy supply stories usually emanated from the public relations staff of the Pacific Fleet Service Force, a PRO outfit which operated with a strong dash of Hollywood press agentry. The PRO published a seven-page illustrated pamphlet addressed to “War Correspondents Who Want Ideas!“ In the form of an open letter, the pamphlet explained that the Service Force was “jam-packed with stories, news features, magazine pieces, radio copy, everything from adventure yarns to logistics and science, and so this bulletin has been prepared to put you on the trail of this story gold mine (and we do mean gold mine!).” To the horror of regular Navy men, who felt that to appear eager for publicity was poor form, the letter to correspondents added that “Service Force can arrange for you to visit any of its commands, line up interviews, arrange picture coverage, send you to sea on its ships, or, in short, do anything for you that’ll help you get your yarn.”
These enthusiastic press agents included as possible subjects for articles several topics which were restricted subjects; but enough of an uncensorable nature remained to enable at least one correspondent to write a month’s worth of interesting columns without leaving Service Fleet Headquarters.
Although the Service Fleet PRO’s widely advertised the fact that they had a vast fund of ready-made stories, most correspondents by-passed their headquarters in Hawaii and continued Guamward to the principal sources of Central Pacific news. Under the jurisdiction of the Service Fleet were hundreds of little-known naval activities, from aerial target towing and deep-sea diving to fire-fighting schools and refrigerator ships, but correspondents rarely were interested in writing about the essentially routine aspects of naval warfare.
In the competition for front-page attention, three major PRO organizations, representing the headquarters of General MacArthur, Admiral Nimitz, and the B-29’s, dominated the field. Lesser commands had able PRO’s, but their activities were dwarfed, as far as public interest was concerned, by task force strikes and Superfortress raids. Navy and Marine airmen, for example, repeatedly bombed Truk, Wake, Jaluit, and other forgotten islands, where they met enemy anti-aircraft fire as heavy as that over many Japanese industrial centers, but their accomplishments were reduced to one-paragraph summaries at the end of communiqués. Every ship larger than a landing craft also had its PRO, but individual ships, unless hit, rarely made news.
All news from the Southwest Pacific, whether pertaining to the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, or Marines, had to pass through General MacArthur’s headquarters, while any announcement of activities in the Central Pacific, an area extending from Hawaii to Japan’s Inland Sea, had to bear a Navy censorship stamp. Under this scheme MacArthur released news of fleet movements in Philippine waters, and Nimitz reported the accomplishments of the Tenth Army on Okinawa. As a result of the division of the Pacific into Army and Navy spheres of influence, there was little news of Navy, Marine, Coast Guard, and Seabee achievements in the Southwest Pacific, and a general tendency to underplay the work of the Army, exclusive of its Air Forces, in the Central Pacific.
Correspondents were accredited either to MacArthur’s headquarters or to Nimitz’s, but rarely to both, and the censorship regulations varied considerably, particularly in regard to interviews with Japanese prisoners. The Navy, under Nimitz, had a far more cautious and conservative public relations policy than the Liberator of the Southwest Pacific and was inclined to minimize its own losses until long after the truth could have been of any military value to the Japanese.
The Navy’s outstanding sea engagement of the war, the Second Battle of the Philippines, occurred in MacArthur’s domain, and the Army’s immediate announcement of the results made some of the Navy’s older guard shudder. Correspondents accredited to the Navy and actually aboard the ships which took part in the battle could not get their stories released through Admiral Nimitz’s headquarters for approximately two weeks, and by that time the story was dead. In the conflict between a premature and a belated announcement of what happened, no full and accurate account of the battle ever was published.
THE only independent news agency to operate successfully within the Nimitz-MacArthur spheres of influences was the public relations staff of the TwentyFirst Bomber Command of the Twentieth Air Force, or, less technically speaking, of the Marianas-based Superfortresses. Serving as PRO for the B-29’s was one of the most arduous assignments which a nonfighting man could draw in the Pacific. Before each raid the PRO and his staff had to prepare a description of the prospective mission, stating the target, the industrial and military objectives, the previous tonnage dropped on the area, the number of planes scheduled to take off, the type of munitions to be carried, the altitude (high, medium, low) to be flown, and any other facts of possible public interest. The PRO arranged a briefing for the correspondents, making the fifteen-mile jeep trip himself to their Navy headquarters or sending transportation for them to come to the bomber base. As soon as the planes were air-borne, the correspondents were free to start writing their own versions of the mission, with the PRO standing by to answer special questions and to work with the censors.
When the PRO had official word that bombs were away, the censored news stories went on the wire, and the PRO returned to his headquarters to begin collecting data on the results of the raid. The planes on a Tokyo raid were in the air between fourteen and sixteen hours, and the PRO, if he was lucky, occasionally had a chance to sleep a few hours in his clothes during the return flight. Once the first planes had landed, he had to attend the interrogation of the pilots and bombardiers, obtain an official summary of damage done, pick up personal anecdotes and quotations from crew members, and talk with the photo interpreters.
Shortly after the last plane had landed, he was expected to have ready for the correspondents a news release on the latest accomplishments of the B-29’s, including a statement by General LeMay, and the full names and addresses of men who had shot down enemy planes or who had made quotable remarks about what occurred over Japan. With one raid over, the PRO then had to commence writing a description of the next target.
Furnishing correspondents with the latest news pertaining to current B-29 missions was only a part of the PRO’s job. Because many wanted material for feature stories and articles, the PRO staff had to have on hand an up-to-date portfolio of statistics on the number of B-29 missions flown, the total tonnage of explosives dropped, the aggregate damage done to various Japanese cities, and a large backlog of information concerning the length of the runways, the weight of a loaded bomber, the man-hours spent in clearing the jungles for airstrips, and accounts of outstanding personalities. The PRO also had to take correspondents on a conducted tour of the bomber command, from the weather station to the briefing rooms, arrange for writers to go on bombing missions, and search out men from the correspondents’ home states for interviews.
The PRO who acted as mouthpiece for the B-29’s during the last and most devastating months of the war evolved a publicity scheme whereby a correspondent from a metropolitan newspaper could have a plane named for his city. If a reporter from the Boston Herald, for example, was looking for a new angle for his stories, the PRO would find a bomber crew which included two or three Boston men and convince the crew that it would be a good idea to name the plane the “City of Boston.”
In this way the Boston correspondent could have a local angle for all his stories, starting probably with a trick introduction, such as “Japs Fire on City of Boston.” Meanwhile, the Baltimore Sun, Milwaukee Journal, and Kansas City Star would be printing similar stories about the “City of Baltimore,” the “City of Milwaukee,” and the “City of KaySee.”
The only disadvantage of following the flights of a single “city” plane, as the representative of the Baltimore Sun discovered, was that the plane might crash just as the home-town readers had become interested enough in the plane to start sending gifts to the crew, and then no other bomber crew could be talked into adopting the jinxed name.
Admiral Nimitz’s PRO’s were my advisers and guardians for more than six months, which was almost long enough to understand both how and why they functioned as they did. Regardless of a correspondent’s attitude toward PRO’s, he could make very few moves in a war zone without their assistance.
A Pacific byline became a household name through the courtesy of the PRO’s, or, in some cases, despite the PRO’s. The top-ranking PRO in the Pacific was the recognized boss of all correspondents accredited to the Navy, and the correspondents had to sign an agreement whereby they were subject to any regulations issued by “competent naval authority.” Yet the correspondents, backed by the extra-martial power of public opinion, could make or break a PRO on the basis of their judgment of his competency. So it was questionable who was under whose thumb, and therein lay the basis of a perpetual conflict. The correspondents brought about the removal of one PRO, made an admiral of another, and at the close of the war were sizing up their latest superior officer.
Adjacent to Admiral Nimitz’s hilltop headquarters on Guam was an elongated double-decker structure occupied by his immediate public relations staff, an energizing force of some twenty-five officers, as many enlisted men, and at least a dozen censors. Close by was an equally large photographic section of the PRO organization, and still another building housed the radio department. Through these three public relations groups passed the bulk of all that one read, saw, or heard about the Navy in the Pacific. While one group created, censored, and distributed written news, another processed all the official Navy photographs taken by Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard cameramen, plus the commercial pictures taken by Acme, INS, AP Photos, and others, and the third handled the transmission of NBC, CBS, and Mutual broadcasts, in addition to transcribed radio service shows.
Channeled into the Guam news factory was the handiwork of hundreds of PRO staffmen and correspondents on islands, ships, and beachheads throughout the Pacific. Nimitz’s immediate PRO’s were few in number, compared with his widely scattered agents who photographed in Technicolor the furious onrush of Kamikaze pilots, or who toted wire recorders ashore to relay to the home front the sounds of a D Day onslaught.
ADMIRAL NIMITZ’S head newsman, who bore the title of PRO CinCPac (Public Relations Officer, Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet) in variably was an Annapolis graduate who had a firm understanding of what was or was not in keeping with traditional Navy policies, but who usually had had little or no previous experience in newspaper, magazine, radio, or public relations work. In positions of less prestige there were Naval Reserve officers who formerly had been journalists, and even one who was publisher of a large daily paper, but such an important staff position as that of PRO CinCPac, which necessitated daily conferences with bestarred superiors, called for a member of the regular Navy.
Therefore the job of riding herd over approximately two hundred competitive representatives of American journalism fell to an officer who had been divorced from civilian thinking since his initial year at the Academy. Naturally that officer was ill-equipped to appreciate the driving forces which made correspondents the high-strung, irreverent and disrespectful, sensation-minded, deadline-dazed individuals that they were.
The last PRO CinCPac title holder was Captain Fitzhugh Lee, USN, an able carrier skipper, leanfaced and still young, who came to the Guam post after a vigorous career afloat. Most of the correspondents met him for the first time when they returned from covering the opening phases of the battle for Okinawa. Captain Lee readily admitted in his first press conference that he was unfamilar with the workings of newspaperdom; he was shocked, he said, to learn that some Pacific correspondents condoned the behavior of AP man Edward Kennedy in the European Theater, and he wanted it plainly understood that under his command there would be no breaking of release dates or betrayals of the promises made among gentlemen.
He gave the green light to the formation of a correspondents’ grievance committee, inaugurated weekly showings of confidential and secret battle films to all press representatives, stepped up a system whereby crewmen from fighting ships were brought ashore for press interviews, and in general made himself more available than his predecessors.
Try as he would to stimulate a spirit of comradeship between journalists and himself, however, Captain Lee’s Navy-bred sensibilities sometimes interfered with the freedom of the pressmen. Stories not involving military security occasionally distressed Captain Lee to the point where he felt it necessary to call in an offending correspondent and explain to him that some stories were better left imprinted. One writer, for example, mentioned in a dispatch the black-market operations of naval officers who bartered their liquor rations for souvenirs or cash. Navy officers could buy several bottles of liquor a month, in addition to what they could drink nightly at Officers’ Clubs, while enlisted men were restricted to six bottles of beer a week.
Among enlisted men, whose thirst was as human as that of the officers, a bottle of whiskey was worth a precious Samurai sword or upwards of forty dollars in cash. Although Captain Lee agreed with the correspondent that it was regrettable that an officer in the United States Navy would buy a tax-free bottle of liquor for three dollars and sell it to a foxholed enlisted man for forty, he also expressed the opinion that publicizing the fact would arouse unfavorable reaction on the home front and even might result in the curtailment of the drinking privileges enjoyed by officers. The correspondent was urged to “think through” his story and reflect upon the possible consequences before cabling anything to his newspaper.
Another correspondent learned of a carrier disaster in which the bottoms fell out of a number of life rafts when the survivors of a naval battle were forced to abandon ship. Because the lines holding the floors of the rafts to their cork rims had been rotten, the survivors were adrift without food, water, fishing tackle, and the other emergency equipment ordinarily fastened to the bottoms of life rafts. The censors passed the correspondent’s version of the incident, but the writer was summoned by Captain Lee, who explained to him that the failure of the life rafts was one of the fortunes of war and should not be reported in a way which would imply that someone aboard the ship had been negligent. According to Captain Lee, any belated publicity would merely result in an investigation which would slow up the war effort. In man-to-man fashion, Captain Lee stressed the fact that civilian correspondents, just like regular military men, were working toward a quick peace, and that it was the responsibility of the press to judge all stories in the light of their contributions to final victory.
The primary duty of the PRO CinCPac was to assure full press coverage of all major Navy operations. The simple-sounding job became more arduous with each new invasion, until finally the PRO staff controlled press boats, seaplanes, extensive radio and teletype facilities, the latest paraphernalia for camping out on beachheads, and even parachute equipment for dropping press copy to securityminded censors. At least a month before an invasion the PRO had to have the complicated details of his public relations program in order.
Since space aboard key ships was limited, the PRO had the ticklish job of deciding which news agencies or papers would have representatives in the choice berths. Once the majority of the newsmen were satisfied, the PRO could equip each of them with the proper clothing and battle necessities and take care of such minor personal matters as changing mail addresses and stowing excess gear in a safe place. And finally, the PRO had to work out a system whereby the press copy written by scores of thoroughly dispersed correspondents would reach their editors, at least ten thousand miles away, within twenty-four hours.
PRO efficiency reached an all-time high during the invasion of Okinawa. At least one hundred civilian newsmen, photographers, magazine writers, newsreel cameramen, artists, and radiomen covered the operations, plus large numbers of Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine combat correspondents and enlisted personnel representing such service publications as Yank, Leatherneck, and Mid-Pacifican. While some writers wished to go ashore with the assault troops, others desired to follow the activities of fleet units and air wings. Inasmuch as the Army troops taking part in the invasion were staged in the Philippines, the Marines in the Marianas and Hawaiian Islands, while the Navy rendezvoused in the western Carolines, the PRO’s were over their heads in paper work in their attempt to get every correspondent aboard his assigned ship before the date of departure.
Eyewitness reports and photographs of the Okinawa invasion were sent to Guam and relayed from there to San Francisco and thence to the East Coast, a distance of more than eleven thousand miles. The PRO’s and censors opened a branch office aboard Admiral Turner’s flagship, with a priority to use the radio transmission facilities of three ships. All press copy and films had to pass through the PRO office aboard the flagship and then be forwarded to Guam. Urgent dispatches were censored on the spot and radioed from there to Guam, or were sent by teletype to another radio transmission ship and thence to Guam, where they were relayed to San Francisco by Navy radio or via the cable which runs from Guam to Midway to Hawaii to the West Coast. Feature stories and other less urgent press material, together with photographs and newsreel films, were bundled for shipment via a landing craft to the newly established seaplane base at Kerama Retto, a two-hour journey, and flown from there to Guam for censorship and remailing to the mainland.
The principal problem of the PRO’s was not getting the press copy to Guam, but getting it from the correspondents to the flagship. After D Day the hundred-odd correspondents were anywhere from fifty miles at sea to fifteen miles inland from the beaches. To facilitate the regular flow of copy to the flagship, the PRO’s established two mobile headquarters ashore, one to follow Army forces and the other to keep pace with the Marines. In these press headquarters, through the efforts of hard-working enlisted personnel on the PRO staffs, the newsmen were assured of a mosquito-netted bed, three meals a day (usually), a handy foxhole, a blacked-out tent where they could work with the standard typewriters brought ashore by the PRO organizations, and transportation to the beach or embattled areas. Their copy was rushed by jeep in waterproof containers to a certain sector of the invasion beach, where four times a day a PRO press boat picked it up and conveyed it to the flagship for censorship.
The written material of correspondents who were stationed aboard warships to report the Navy’s air and sea activities was picked up once a day by a landing craft. The PRO’s were required to know the location of all journalists afloat and dispatch a press boat daily to their ships, wherever they might be. The copy of writers on aircraft carriers was often flown to the transport area and dropped by parachute to the flagship. And thus by jeep, boat, and plane the PRO’s somehow managed to keep the copy moving toward American newsstands.
The PRO system for handling news could break down, and frequently did. At Iwo Jima the press boats which tried to maintain a ship-to-ship collection service were swamped by rough seas, and for several days the beachhead itself, badly clogged with the debris of scores of smashed landing craft, was closed to all small-boat traffic. The PRO’s who went ashore to establish a press headquarters were confined virtually incommunicado in their foxholes by mortar fire and only at irregular intervals were able to get copy to the flagship. Several correspondents with forward elements of the Marines were completely out of touch with the beach, and for the first four or five days none of their copy reached the censors, standing by at sea. Nothing made a correspondent more bitter about PRO’s than the discovery that the stories for which he risked his life did not reach his editor until too late to be of news value.
Since public relations were considered by most fighting men to be secondary to winning the war, a PRO had to fight for radio transmission time, transportation, and even for tent space. In a battle area, an aggressive PRO had his civilian charges eating with the chiefs of staff and riding with generals, while those PRO’s who would not have talked back to a Caspar Milquetoast — and there were several of them — had to feed their disgruntled wards themselves out of K-ration cans.
If a PRO failed to support the correspondents in the style to which they claimed to be accustomed, they soon left the PRO’s bed and board and either transferred their attentions to another unit with better feeding facilities or returned to more luxurious living on Guam. One PRO on Okinawa, for example, was left with an empty press tent and no newspaper clippings to show his commanding officer, simply because his own inadequacies forced the correspondents to spend more time foraging for food and water than in gathering news material. On the other hand, a divisional PRO on Iwo Jima, who damned the mortar fire and provided the newsmen with hot soup and roast beef sandwiches for lunch, gained the lasting friendship of the Fourth Estate and three times as much publicity for his unit as was received by any other outfit.
If correspondents had written nothing at all, there would still have been news of Pacific operations. The first announcement of an important event in the Central Pacific, excluding B-29 missions, always was made by Admiral Nimitz, and subsequent developments were reported in successive daily communiqués, which were edited by the PRO and immediately sent to the San Francisco offices of the press wire services. Admiral Nimitz’s reports on battles usually reached the newspapers at least twelve hours ahead of the correspondents’ eyewitness reports and contained essentially all that could be said at the time. In addition, the Navy furnished the newspapers with the eyewitness reports of its own combat correspondents and of the Marine, Coast Guard, and Army combat correspondents.
Although official summaries of Pacific battles were both ample and timely, nearly everyone with whom I talked agreed that civilian correspondents were an essential corps and performed a vital function. The general opinion prevailed that it would have been un-American to have had only official military reporters covering a war, and that the presence of responsible civilian newsmen, as representatives of the public at large, assured the maintenance of a relatively free wartime press.