Writer David Halberstam, dies at 73
David Halberstam, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who chronicled the Vietnam War generation, civil rights and the world of sports, was killed...
SAN FRANCISCO -- David Halberstam, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who chronicled the Vietnam War generation, civil rights and the world of sports, was killed in a car crash Monday, his wife and local authorities said. He was 73.
Halberstam, of New York, was a passenger in a car that was broadsided by another vehicle in Menlo Park, south of San Francisco, San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said. The cause of death appeared to be internal injuries, he said.
The accident occurred around 10:30 a.m., and Halberstam was declared dead at the scene, Menlo Park Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said.
The driver of the car carrying Halberstam and the person driving the car that crashed into his were injured, but not seriously.
Halberstam was being driven by a graduate journalism student from the University of California, Berkeley, which had hosted a speech by the author Saturday night.
Perhaps the best-known of Halberstam's books is "The Best and the Brightest" (1972), a searing epic of Vietnam-era policy blunders. The book provides revelatory detail on decisions that Presidents Kennedy and Johnson made in the period leading up to the war and thereafter.
In 2005, Warren Bass wrote in The Washington Post: "Most accounts of insider decision-making have only limited shelf life, but 'The Best and the Brightest' continues to captivate. The first reason is that it is a brilliant piece of reporting and writing, propelled by a young man's fury and ambition."
The second reason, Bass wrote, was that Halberstam proved to be a masterful student of policy.
In the early 1960s, Halberstam covered the Vietnam War for The New York Times, earning a Pulitzer Prize at age 30 in 1964. Out of that reporting came his book "The Making of a Quagmire: America and Vietnam During the Kennedy Era" (1965). The reporting was said to set the standard for a generation of Vietnam-era journalists.
Halberstam was born April 10, 1934, in New York City; his father was a surgeon and his mother was a teacher. His father was in the military, and Halberstam moved across the country during his childhood, spending time in Texas, Minnesota and Connecticut.
He attended Harvard University, where he was managing editor of the Harvard Crimson newspaper.
After graduating in 1955, he launched his career at the Daily Times Leader, a small paper in West Point, Miss. He went on to the Tennessean in Nashville, where he covered the civil-rights struggle, and then to The New York Times, which sent him to Vietnam in 1962 to cover the growing crisis there.
Halberstam's reporting from Vietnam was a major irritant to the Kennedy administration, which had tried unsuccessfully to pressure the Times to transfer him from the war zone.
Speaking at a journalism conference last year in Tennessee, he said government criticism of news reporters in Iraq reminded him of how he was treated while covering the war in Vietnam.
"The crueler the war gets, the crueler the attacks get on anybody who doesn't salute or play the game," he said. "And then one day, the people who are doing the attacking look around, and they've used up their credibility."
Survivors include his wife, Jean Halberstam, of Manhattan, and a daughter, Julia.
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