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William Manchester

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Title: William Manchester  
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Subject: A World Lit Only by Fire, American Caesar, Port Moresby, The Glory and the Dream, Elizabeth Ann Everest
Collection: 1922 Births, 2004 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Historians, 20Th-Century American Writers, 20Th-Century Historians, 21St-Century American Historians, 21St-Century American Writers, 21St-Century Historians, American Biographers, American Historians, American Memoirists, American Military Personnel of World War II, American Military Writers, American Newspaper Reporters and Correspondents, Historians of the United States, National Humanities Medal Recipients, People from Springfield, Massachusetts, Recipients of the Purple Heart Medal, Researchers of the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, Researchers of the John F. Kennedy Assassination, The Baltimore Sun People, United States Marines, University of Massachusetts Amherst Alumni, University of Missouri Alumni, Wesleyan University Faculty
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William Manchester

William Manchester
Born William Raymond Manchester
(1922-04-01)April 1, 1922
Attleboro, Massachusetts, USA
Died June 1, 2004(2004-06-01) (aged 82)
Middletown, Connecticut
Occupation Historian, Biographer, Professor
Nationality American
Notable works American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880–1964
The Death of a President
The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill

William Raymond Manchester (April 1, 1922 – June 1, 2004)[1] was an American author, biographer, and historian. He was the author of 18 books which have been translated into over 20 languages.[2] He was awarded the National Humanities Medal and the Abraham Lincoln Literary Award.


  • Early life 1
  • Reporter and professor 2
  • JFK assassination 3
  • Later life 4
  • Bibliography 5
  • Notes 6
  • External links 7

Early life

Manchester was born in Attleboro, Massachusetts and grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts.[3] His father served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War I. After his father's death, and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, William Manchester likewise enlisted in the Marine Corps. However, he was ordered back to college until called up. Although he had expected to serve in Europe, Manchester ultimately found himself in the Pacific Ocean theater. Initially he joined the Officer Candidate School but dropped out before receiving a commission. After attaining the rank of corporal, he was sent to Guadalcanal in 1944 for further training. He served in Pacific War's final campaign on the island of Okinawa, was severely wounded on June 5, 1945, and was promoted to sergeant[4] in July and awarded the Purple Heart.[5]

Manchester's wartime experiences formed the basis for his very personal account of the Pacific Theater, Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War. In this memoir, Manchester uses some personal anecdotes from his service on Okinawa in his descriptions of battles on Guadalcanal and Saipan. He stated this in the end notes, as well as clearly denying any attempt at a chronological account. The book is part fiction, part memoir. Manchester's portrayal of himself as a sergeant on Guadalcanal is a literary device. He wrote of World War II in several other books, including the first and second volumes and much of the third volume of the three-part biography, The Last Lion, of Winston Churchill, and a biography of General Douglas MacArthur, American Caesar.

Manchester worked as a copyboy for the Daily Oklahoman in 1945 before returning to college. In 1946, he completed his B.A. from the Massachusetts State College, and in 1947 he earned his master's degree from the University of Missouri.

Manchester married Julia Brown Marshall on March 27, 1948, and they had one son and two daughters.[6]

Reporter and professor

In 1947, Manchester went to work as a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. There he met journalist H. L. Mencken, who became and friend and mentor,[7] and also became the subject of Manchester's master's thesis and first book, Disturber of the Peace. The biography, published in 1951, profiles Mencken, the self-described "conservative anarchist" who made his mark as a writer, editor, and political pundit in the 1920s. In 1953, Manchester published his novel The City of Anger set in Baltimore and dealing with inner city life and the numbers racket, subjects Manchester had learned about as a big city reporter.

In 1955, Manchester became an editor for Wesleyan University and the Wesleyan University Press and spent the rest of his career at the university.[8] For the academic year 1959–1960, he was a Fellow on the faculty at the Center for Advanced Studies of Wesleyan.[9] He later became an adjunct professor of history, adjunct professor emeritus, and writer-in-residence at the university. During his association with Wesleyan University, Manchester developed an intense writing regimen that he adhered to for much of his life, often writing nonstop for up to 50 hours at a time. He described the experience as follows: "I would work all day, all night, all the next day, all the following night and into the third day. I would look up at the clock, and it would be 3:30 in the afternoon, and I would say, 'Oh boy, I've got three more hours to write.' I just loved it."[7]

JFK assassination

His best-selling book, The Death of a President (1967), is a detailed account of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, who had been the subject of an earlier book by Manchester. In 1963, Manchester was commissioned by the Kennedy family to write the book.[10] Manchester, who retraced the movements of President Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald before the assassination, concluded, based on his study of Oswald's psychology and their similar training as Marine sharpshooters, that Oswald had acted alone. Manchester had the support of Robert and Jacqueline Kennedy, but later had a falling-out with Robert Kennedy over Manchester's treatment of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

However, before the book could be published, Jacqueline Kennedy filed a lawsuit to prevent its publication, even though she had previously authorized it. The suit was settled in 1967, reportedly with Manchester's agreeing to drop certain passages dealing with details of Kennedy's family life.[11][12] In response satirist Paul Krassner published a piece entitled "The Parts That Were Left Out of the Kennedy Book", which imagined censored material of an outrageously more scandalous nature than anything that could possibly have been the case.[13] In his collection of essays Controversy (1977), Manchester detailed Kennedy's attempts to suppress the book. The book was a best-seller at release, but was allowed to go out of print until 1988. It was re-issued in October 2013.[14]

Later life

In 2001, President National Humanities Medal. Manchester is also the recipient of the Abraham Lincoln Literary Award, among other awards.[15] Following the death of his wife in 1998, Manchester suffered from two strokes. He announced that he would not be able to complete his planned third volume of his three part-biography of Churchill, The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965. He was also initially reluctant to collaborate with anyone to finish to work.[7] In October 2003, Manchester asked Paul Reid, a friend and writer for The Palm Beach Post, to complete the Churchill biography. In 2000, Manchester received the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. The Helmerich Award is presented annually by the Tulsa Library Trust. Manchester died at the age of 82 on June 1, 2004.[5]



  1. ^ Richard Severo "William Manchester, 82, Renowned Biographer, Dies", New York Times, 2 June 2004
  2. ^ According to one writer, "Scholars generally disliked the biographies by Manchester. They were deemed superficial, anecdotal, hyperbolic, and hagiographic." Eugene L. Rasor, Winston S. Churchill, 1874–1965: A Comprehensive Historiography and Annotated Bibliography. Greenwood Press. 2000, p. 62.
  3. ^ "William Manchester, 82, Renowned Biographer, Dies". New York Times. June 2, 2004. Retrieved 2012-11-28. 
  4. ^ letters to his mother, July 1945, UMASS archives
  5. ^ a b Bernstein, Adam (June 4, 2004). "Author of Military History William Manchester Dies".  
  6. ^ "William Manchester". March 27, 1948. Retrieved 2012-04-24. 
  7. ^ a b c Dexter Filkins, Ailing Churchill biographer says he can't finish trilogy. New York Times, August 14, 2001. Retrieved 2014-07-24.
  8. ^ Seidel, Rebecca. "University To Unveil William Manchester Writings Amid Return of JFK Manuscript – Features". The Wesleyan Argus. Retrieved 2012-04-24. 
  9. ^ "Guide to the Center for Advanced Studies Records, 1958 – 1969". Retrieved 2012-04-24. 
  10. ^ 'Sam Kashner "A Clash of Camelots", Vanity Fair, October 2009
  11. ^ "Slaughtering Cows and Popping Cherries"
  12. ^ Philip Nobile, (November 17, 2013). "JFK, Jackie Joined the Mile High-Club Day Before His Death". The New York Post.
  13. ^ The REALIST issue 74 – May, 1967
  14. ^ Associated Press. " Controversial JFK book to be reissued in October" Yahoo! Finance, September 17, 2013.
  15. ^ "News Archive | National Endowment for the Humanities". Retrieved 2012-04-24. 

External links

  • Quotations related to William Manchester at Wikiquote
  • ObituaryNew York Times
  • obituaryTelegraph
  • William Manchester at Find a Grave
  • Family photo archive
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