Stanley Karnow, 1925-2013

Stanley Karnow, the journalist and author best known for Vietnam: A History , his massive 1983 book that won the Pulitzer Prize and was the basis for a 13-part PBS documentary of the same name, died January 26. He was 87 years old and had congestive heart failure.

Karnow covered the Vietnam War for Time magazine and The Washington Post beginning in 1959, well before the American war escalated.

Karnow was born in Brooklyn, and served in the Army Air Forces in World War II. He graduated from Harvard in 1947,  and then began his journalism career in France. In addition to Vietnam: A History , he other books included The U.S. and the Philippines: In Our Image  and Mao, China: From Revolution to Revolution, and Paris in the Fifties, a memoir.  He was working on a second memoir when he died.

In the decades following the publication of Vietnam: A History , Karnow often spoke out about the Vietnam War. That included a conversation he had in 2009 with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

“He calls me and asks if there was anything I learned in Vietnam that we could use in Afghanistan, ” Karnow told a reporter in 2010.

“Well, I didn’t have a long conversation with him, but I did say if we’re going to talk about Vietnam, what we really learned in Vietnam is that we shouldn’t have been there in the first place.”


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