War: Journalism and History

Instructor:  Bob Rackmales

Since the Crimean War, journalists have provided accounts of combat that brought the realities of war home to people around the world. This course will examine the lives and work of some preeminent war correspondents of our lifetimes: print journalists Martha Gellhorn; Vasily Grossman; and Bernard Fall; and photo journalist Margaret Bourke-White.

The least known of the above names is probably Grossman’s. His reporting for the Soviet Army Newspaper from Stalingrad is considered by historians a pinnacle of war reporting. His account of the Nazi extermination camp at Treblinka was used by the prosecution at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal. His great novel, Life and Fate, offers unique insights into the impact of the war, the Holocaust, and Stalinism on the Soviet people.

Gellhorn, Fall, and Bourke-White are better known in the US, and a closer look at the impact of their work on our understanding of World War Two and the Vietnam War should help us bring the contribution of war correspondents into sharper focus. The course will also provide background for the 2020 Camden Conference on the role of the media in global affairs.

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Bob Rackmales spent 32 years in the Foreign Service. “I enjoyed a wide range of contacts with journalists from major US papers and broadcast outlets as well as their counterparts in my countries of assignment. Despite my occasional disagreement with some of their reporting, my admiration for their professionalism and competency grew over time.”