Thunderbolt Productions


Newsmen in uniform

American War Correspondents of WWII

(originally ran in the MVPA magazine, Army Motors in 2009)

We’re all familiar with the scenes in the 1970 classic film, ‘Patton,’ where the besieged general is set upon by a pack of rabid war correspondents, ready tear apart his every word. In the film, the viewer is led to believe that the correspondents were to be feared almost as much as Hitler’s forces. But, is this a fair assessment of the mostly civilian reporters who wrote and broadcasted the news from the theaters of war? Many WWII enthusiasts are familiar with the name Ernie Pyle. His homespun writings garnished him a substantial fan base long before the war and his writing during the conflict earned him a celebrity far greater than that of any general. His death in 1945 was mourned to a degree rivaled only by the earlier passing of Franklin Roosevelt. Many people today can name only this fine example of a reporter gone to war. But was he the only one? With these questions in mind, any serious student of WWII must be aware that civilians in uniform, often close to the action, wrote the news. They went in unarmed and with both eyes open. Most of their stories were of others, those armed and in the fight that was being covered for an America eager for news of their boys overseas. But what of the correspondents themselves? Who were they? How did they get there? Getting a war correspondent to the battlefronts was a long, arduous process. Many never got close enough to write of the action itself. Some never made it out of the states. Among those that did get into action, some never made it home alive. While much has already been written of the military reporters for Stars and Stripes, as well as the photographers that recorded the war, little has been said of the civilian news people who served in WWII. This is their story.

Ricardo Cabez, 1945

Getting into action
The history of correspondents in wartime is a long one. Thucydides wrote first hand of his observations of the Peloponnesian Wars in the Fifth Century. Writers, artists and photographers roamed the landscapes of the American Civil War and were well known for their exploits. The American experience in WWI laid groundwork for the experience to follow in WWII. By 1942, the US Military had a system for correspondents to get in and report the action. First, a reporter had to volunteer. They had to be in good physical shape. After being accepted by the government, they had to get all their affairs in order, purchase their own equipment from a tightly-controlled packing list, get several immunizations and then show up for duty. They could choose where they wanted to go, but in the end the government made the call. Most correspondents wanted to be attached to combat units because the best stories could be obtained from outfits in action. The ‘wire’ services got top priority in getting correspondents into the field. The smaller the news source behind a reporter, the less likely they’d see any action to report on.

Harry Harris, 1944

Uniforms for civilians

Like military officers, correspondents had to buy their own uniforms. Most had an officer’s ‘pink and green’ set made by a tailor. This uniform differed in a few ways from the official US Army version. They usually wore ‘US’ collar insignia and a shoulder patch denoting their status as a correspondent. While different styles were available, the most common patch was the round lettered patch with yellow text on a light green background. Metal insignia were sometimes also worn on the shoulder straps of the jacket. While the green armband with a white letter ‘C’ was standard, and is outlined in several manuals, the photographic evidence supports it wasn’t worn very much except in official photos and in gatherings of higher-ranking officers. The practicality of wearing an armband in combat would make it difficult to assume it was worn very often in action.

Original Correspondent's patch

The army units that hosted correspondents often ‘awarded’ them the divisional patches to be worn along with the correspondent insignia. The US Navy had a shoulder insignia for correspondents, which was usually sewn to cotton service shirts and worn in rear areas or on the landing beaches. The Navy also had its own correspondent collar insignia, with a ‘C’ over the top of an anchor. A matching officer’s style hat insignia was also issued, although only the shoulder patches seem to show up in period photos. The Marine Corps had their own insignia as well, but the few correspondents serving with Navy or Marine units who wore insignia at all, appear to have almost exclusively used the USN patches. It has been noted that perhaps the correspondents in the Pacific feared standing out in a crowd due to concerns over the Japanese not taking their non-combatant status into account.

Robert Sherrod landed at Tarawa with the USMC. His patch is at the USMC museum at Quantico, VA (photo by Lee Bishop, June, 2009)

Female correspondents did serve with distinction, both to their profession and their nation. Most appear to have served in Europe and wore uniforms quite similar to their male counterparts. Their dress uniforms were also officer quality and similar to what WAC troops in the given area would be wearing at the time, only with appropriate correspondent insignia.

Newsmen up front

Correspondents rarely ever operated in groups and usually saw one another only at large gatherings of higher-ranking officers or noteworthy event, where the overlap in coverage was natural. Normally only one reporter was assigned to a specific area. There was overlap usually when different correspondents performed different duties such as a photographer; artist, or a writer from different venues might be seen in a given area, but usually not more than one of each. Field Manual 30-26 clearly outlines the duties and expectations for a war correspondent. While not members of the military itself, correspondents were still subject to military law. They were also subject to arrest and court martial in extreme situations, although there is no evidence to support this was ever necessary. The Geneva Convention clearly forbade correspondents from being armed. However, this was ignored on occasions as some correspondents were certainly armed in situations where their special non-combatant status would not have been noticed at the moment. For example, war artist Howell Dodd landed with the 1st Infantry Division at Normandy armed with a M1911A1 pistol. Correspondents usually dealt with the Public Relations Officers (PRO) of the units they operated with. Their stories were censored and filed through these departments. Unless a reporter got the all-important ‘accreditation,’ they would never leave the states. It had to be granted in writing and could be revoked at any time.

Correspondents were accorded an honorary officer status, which was reflected in their dress and living conditions. They were often allowed to eat in the officer’s mess but the smarter ones knew it wasn’t good to totally disassociate themselves with the troops on the line. They did foster a good relationship with the PRO if they wanted their stories to get out. Often photographs had to be hand carried back to a Base Section or other rear area where an early form of a fax machine could be used to transmit the images back to the press offices. Stories were transmitted by various means, and were often read over radio or telephone lines. Usually a reporter would write out the news with a pencil at the front, rush back from the lines and type out their story, then take it to the PRO for censoring and transmission. Sometimes, stories had to be held back for security reasons. Several reporters knew of the impending Normandy invasion but the stories didn’t go out until the first troops were already ashore.

Though lacking for very little, correspondents were at the mercy of the units they worked with for transportation. They rarely ever were issued vehicles for their use and often had to beg, borrow or steal rides where they could. Depending on the unit commander, a correspondent could find himself on a very low priority when the unit moved to a new location.

The names

The exact number of American war correspondents may never be known as many transferred into and out of the battlefronts throughout the war and served with many different nations. It is widely accepted that somewhere around 4000 individuals were correspondents in WWII. Many of these news reporters were well known even before the war started. Others had names made by their wartime exploits. Some of these names are well known to many Americans even today. Beloved 1930s travel writer Ernie Pyle enjoyed fame equal to today’s ‘rock stars’ before he was killed in 1945. Ernest Hemmingway landed with the 4th Infantry Division at Normandy and attempted to become a liaison to the French resistance, gathering a huge arsenal of captured German weapons for the cause. The journalistic community today speaks of Edward R. Murrow’s radio broadcasts from war-torn London with reverence. Later CBS newsman Walter Cronkite landed with the 101st Airborne Division in Holland in 1944 and covered a bombing mission from an 8th Air Force B-17. Vogue magazine actually sent a photographer to cover the war. Lee Miller was one of the few female photographers to go into the combat areas in Europe.

The legacy

As noted earlier, movies have shown correspondents in action, though not often very favorably. Still, correspondent dispatches often show up in histories of WWII. The book and film versions of Flags of our Fathers, the passing of Bill Mauldin in 2003 and the re-discovery of a ‘lost’ photo of Ernie Pyle after his death in 1945 have thrust correspondents back into the public view. As a correspondent role can be a relatively inexpensive ‘impression’ for re-enacting, several vendors make reproduction insignia to add to combat uniforms. A correspondent impression is also a valuable uniform to have if displaying WWII items or vehicles in venues where weapons are frowned upon. Individuals can be found at WWII events dressed in correspondent gear and groups such as WarCos, the international correspondent re-enacting group, carry on the legacy of the WWII correspondent and admirably tell their stories.

The author has noted that many people seen with a correspondent impression at WWII events appear to have more ‘creature comforts’ than actually existed. For example, a disproportionate amount of them have field desks, chairs and other large items. Most correspondents traveled very light and such bulky items rarely would go very far with a correspondent due to the fragile nature of their travel arrangements. Simply put, field desks and other large items often would be left behind. The only large item seen in the hands of correspondent in WWII would almost certainly be their typewriter or camera equipment.

Murlin Spencer with a standard "office" in the field, notice the lack of field desks...

The cost

After the war, an official list of correspondents killed was compiled. While some died in accidents, fifty-four car correspondents were officially listed as being killed in WWII. Ernie Pyle was of course the most notable of these when he was cut down by a Japanese machine gun on Ie Shima in 1945. The loss of President Roosevelt less than a week before made Pyle’s death even harder to accept for his fans. Many readers thought one of the most horrible ironies of the war was that neither man saw the ending of the conflict.

Soon after returning home at the war’s conclusion three more correspondents died. Among those three was New York Times writer Harold Denny. While attached to a British unit, he was captured at Dunkirk in 1940 and was a prisoner of the Germans until 1944. He died of a heart attack less than a year later which was blamed on his condition after years of captivity.
Most war correspondents went on with their lives, but none ever forgot what they saw on far-flung battlefields around the world. It would be easy to assume that many struggled with the horrors they witnessed for the rest of their lives.

Lest we forget...

Books on correspondents

Reporting World War II: American Journalism 1938-1946
by Samuel Hynes, Anne Matthews and Nancy Caldwell Sorel

Reporting the War: The Journalistic Coverage of World War II
by Frederick S. Voss

Never a shot in Anger
By Barney Oldfield

Ernie Pyle's War: American's Eyewitness to World War II
by James Tobin

The Brass Ring
By Bill Mauldin

Willie & Joe: The WWII Years
Art by Bill Mauldin, edited by Todd DePastino

Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front
by Todd DePastino

Fighting Words: The War Correspondents of World War Two
by Richard Collier

12 at War: Great Photographers Under Fire
by Robert E. Hood

A Combat Reporter's Report
James B. Sweeney

Armed With Cameras: The American Military Photographers of World War II
Peter Maslowski

Combat Cameraman
By Jerry J. Joswick

Dispatches From the Front: A History of the American War Correspondent
by Nathaniel Lande

Fire in the Wind: The Life of Dickey Chapelle
by Roberta Ostroff

First World War Photographers
By Jane Carmichael

Forward Positions: The War Correspondence of Homer Gigart
by Homer Bigart

Slightly Out of Focus
By Robert Capa

The Story of Ernie Pyle
by Lee G. Miller

The War Illustrators
by Pat Hodgson

The Warcos: The War Correspondents View of World War Two
By Richard Collier

The Women Who Wrote the War
by Nancy Caldwell Sorel

Typewriter Battalion: Dramatic Front-Line Dispatches from World War II
by Jack Stenbuck Editor

U.S. Army Photo Album: Shooting the War In Color, 1941-1945 USA to ETO
By Jon Gawne

Women War Correspondents of World War II
By Lilya Wagner

War Correspondent From Normandy to the Elbe
By Holbrook Bradley 

Weller's War: A Legendary Foreign Correspondent's Saga of World War II on Five Continents
by Anthony Weller and George Weller

Marine Combat Correspondent: World War II in the Pacific
by Samuel E. Stavisky
The Two Thousand Yard Stare
by Tom Lea

Newsmen in Khaki: Tales of a World War II Soldier-Correspondent
by Herbert Mitgang

Visions From a Foxhole: A Rifleman in Patton's Ghost Corps
by William Foley

Extra! U.S. War Correspondents in Action
by John McNamara

Combat Reporter: Don Whitehead's World War II Diary And Memoirs
by John B. Romeiser

They Drew Fire - Combat Artists World War II
By Franklin Boggs, Howard Brodie, Manuel Bromberg, and William Draper
Where the Action Was: Women War Correspondents in World War II
by Penny Colman

Eyewitness to History: Recollections of a WWII photographer
by Robery Hopkins

If you have any suggestions, please drop me a line!

Internet Links for War Correspondent information


Historical data

WarCo photo page Nothing but original WW2 War Correspondent photos and insignia/uniforms

Women Correspondents A listing of the offical accredited correspondents in WW2

Correspondents Killed in WW2 Although I know of some not listed here, this is still a good reference to those killed in WW2.

Dale Oliver artwork website Not a correspondent, but a gilder pilot in WW2. He later became a cartoonist and in 1947 draw these amazing cartoons.

Barney Oldfield website Oldfield was a PR guy for Hollywood before the war and became the chief PR guy for Ike in Europe. Every accredited correspondent who came through Europe dealt with him at one time or another.

"The Writing 69th" website The story of a group of military-civilian journalists who flew bombing missions. Sadly, more than a few died in the process. Waler Cronkite was a member of this group.

Graflex Camera website Incredible collection of wartime and pre-war Graflex cameras, and photos of them being used.

Typewriter Serial Number Database Best reference out there to determine the year a typewriter was made:

SHAEF history of PR and correspondents: Taken from "United States Army in World War II, European Theater of Operations - The Supreme Command" by Forrest C. Pogue:

Movie film of Yank and Stars & Stripes Correspondents: Taken in London before the invasion:


Re-enactment Groups


162nd Signal Photo Company Really impressive group out of England.



6th June 1944 dot com A very good EU vendor of excellent reproduction insignia

National Capitol Historical Sales A US vendor with amazing repro insignia

My Typewriter dot com Good typewriter sales and parts place. Great vendor for ribbons for older machines!

At The Front A good US/German vendor who has some Correspondent insignia. Good "one stop shopping" for people new in the hobby

Bill Mauldin Dot Com A storefront for t-shirts with "Willie and Joe" on them, sanctioned by the Mauldin estate and sold by one of his sons. The proceeds go to a good cause. I have two of these and plan to get more!



Dispatches from the front


  • I've been going round and round with some real losers in the hobby these days online. I know better but every now and then I simply can't resist the temptation to ask what's up with stuff that doesn't belong in photos. War Correspondent has, in many cases, become a generic impression people adopt so that they can pretty much show up with anything of any era as well as anything you'd never see in the hands of any correspondent actually during WW2 (I've heard from people who are into medic impressions who claim the same thing. I'm inclined to agree after seeing a 'medic' at an event a few years ago wearing modern Israel stuff). And as farbs will do, they'll get ticked when you ask, say, why there's a water bottle from Eddie Bauer right in the middle of their re-enactment gear photo. Typical farbs, they won't admit when they have the wrong stuff and will instead jump down the throat of the one who pointed it out. The latest knucklehead is a guy I've never previously heard of that I won't name here, but am seriously thinking of passing along here some of the things I've heard about him from others who read the comments he's made (including some really hilarious photos of him doing some stuff he sure wouldn't want to be posted online, courtesy of someone who truly doesn't like him very much). He even stole photos off this website, without my permission and posted them somewhere else with his own comments. I've contacted the owner of that forum to have them removed, but we'll see if that comes to pass. I'm not shocked by this, I guess, as this kind of thing seems to come with the internet when you post anything. Nor am I shocked when see some of the more funny photos of people who just slap a correspondent patch on a uniform and bring... well, whatever suits them. Research? What the heck is that? Another thing I'm getting tired of is all the people who'll see this site, email me with photos of whatever they've already bought and wanting me to sign off on it. Most of those cases are from people who probably mean well but don't want to buy the right stuff after getting insignia, equipment and uniforms that aren't right at all. So now, I'll ask if they would buy the right stuff if I suggested what best to have. Most don't reply. The ones who do, so far, have ALL said they'll just go with what they already have. They didn't want advice, they wanted an Ok for what they already had. If you're one of those, please don't waste my time. I will, however, give advice for anyone who seriously wants to know what best to bring to an event.
  • I do an annual day-long event at Capitol High School in Olympia, WA where we talk about military history and veterans issues. I did my correspondent display and lectured the subject to classes in the context of how it shaped public opinion, focused the war effort and changed the scope of media's role in US society in afterward. I think it went well, very few kids were nodding off or texting during it.

I didn't bring a huge amount of stuff as each session was only 25 minutes...

  • The 2013 MVPA convention in Portland is now history. The collection display took a long time to set up and we were ignored by not only the display awards, but ALL the media coverage of the event. For all the time, effort and expense that went this, I now don't think it was worth it from the lackluster reaction we got overall. I'd never do another one of these events ever again with this display.


  • I did a display at the 2011 Olympia Fly-in with camera collector and re-enactor Bryan Ilyankoff. It rained at the start of the day, so the display wasn't nearly as big as either us had counted on doing. This is where we got the idea for the joint display for the MVPA convention in 2013...


  • In October 2011, I took a part of my Bill Mauldin collection to a talk by Mauldin biographer Todd Depastino. I felt like such an idiot that I didn't think to take a photo of the stuff I put out there for display until I was packing it up already. From left to right; Me, Todd Depastino, WW2 vet Jay Gruenfeld (the man who broke the story of Mauldin dying in a nursing home to the press in 2002), and Steve Gay, founder of "The Friends of Willie and Joe," the only WW2 living history group that was ever personally endorsed by Bill Mauldin.

  • On March 31, 2010, a stamp commemorating Bill Mauldin came out. Todd Depastino was kind enough to have the family members sign a copy of the program for the official release in New Mexico.







A while back, I obtained an original M-41 jacket from a War Correspondent (it's an extremely small size and not named, sadly) from a collection. The other night I sat it among several other original items on a WW2 GI wool blanket and got this shot:



  • Here's my comic book debut as a character! I'm the war correspondent in the center. It's a thanks from Billy Tucci, the writer and artist, for the minor historical research help I gave on the project. So, who’s Sid Richardson, you ask? He was my grandfather. He wasn’t a news guy and missed WW2 (he worked in a factory and got an exemption for it) but I asked the character to be named after him. The only problem with the name is that there was a well known oil executive by the same name. In case anyone doubts it in the future, I kept the photo I sent Billy as a reference, there’s no question it’s what he used for that drawing. But the biggest irony here is that my character is standing in the same tent as the "Jeb Stuart" character from the "Haunted Tank" series that my brother used to love reading as a kid! I used to read "SGT Rock" as a kid, too. I never thought in a million years I'd ever be used as a model for a character in one of the stories, even a minor one! I've seen the sketches for the issue after this one and I'm in it as well, talking with Rock himself. Thanks, Billy, you made my year

A while back, I went to Washington DC again. I've been there plenty of times, but not since the passing of WW2's greatest cartoonist. I had to go pay my respects to Bill Mauldin...







This is Mauldin's grave. This is the same photo that's making the rounds as a tribute e-mail about Mauldin. While part of me is flattered that my photo is there, I never gave the creator of that e-mail any permission to use it. I have a strong guess as to who it was but I'm pretty ticked either way.

The Correspondent Memorial is also at Arlington. It's easy to find, right next to the path to the Challenger/Columbia Space Shuttle memorials.