Ray Moseley: Native Texan. Naturalized Arkansan. Reporter, world traveler, confidant of Queen Elizabeth II.
Well, that last is not exactly the truth, except in the Trumpian sense. The queen a few years ago did award Moseley an honorary MBE (Member of the British Empire) for transatlantic good works, but I doubt that she invites him to tea every week.
His most recent good work is "Reporting War: How Foreign Correspondents Risked Capture, Torture and Death to Cover World War II," published by the Yale University Press this spring. Moseley himself has covered plenty of wars, revolutions and political thugs of all persuasions, and he knows a good war story when he sees it. He was 12 years old when WWII ended, but he was already a fan. He read the papers and listened to the radio.
His book is dotted with names that still resonate today. People like Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, Ernie Pyle and Martha Gellhorn adorn the pages. Gellhorn was famous for her war reporting before she met Ernest Hemingway, her on-again, off-again, roving-eye husband. And she was a far better war reporter than he was, legend to the contrary notwithstanding.
Delicious as the gossip is in this terrifically researched book, it is a minor part of Moseley's story. The reporting he addresses covers every theater of war in that justly named conflict. The reporters wake up in the northern Africa desert with sand in their eyes, mouths and hair. They are targeted by gunfire and bombs right across Europe and Asia. Many were heroes. A few were cowards and cheats. Some died in the war and others survived to become peacetime reporters back home.
The Allied invasion of Normandy, in June 1944, brought out the best in the reporters who drew the assignment. One of them was Doan Campbell, 24, a Reuters correspondent who had been turned down for military service because he had been born with no left forearm. He went ashore with the Royal Marine commandos.
"It is a miracle that I'm alive to write this dispatch — that I've survived 24 hours on this beachhead bag of tricks," he wrote. "Much of my 24 hours have been spent flat on my face burrowing into sand or earth ... . The front is fluid, so fluid that I crouched for two hours in a ditch before realizing that I was a good 100 yards ahead of the forward troops."
Hemingway had his moments. He watched some of the D-Day action from the battleship Texas. He could see the infantry working their way up the bluff behind Omaha Beach, "moving slowly ... like a tired pack train at the end of the day."
The villains in Moseley's book appear on almost every page. They were the censors. These were, for the most part, servicemen who had no background in journalism and no appreciation of the value of the information entrusted to them. Their jobs were important — keeping out of print any information that might compromise a military operation and endanger soldiers' lives. But far too many of the censors got lost in their zeal and ruined many a story out of pure pig-headedness.
Moseley retired in London after many years as the chief European correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. He flew to Little Rock last year to deliver a lecture commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prizes.
The Arkansas Gazette won two in 1957. One went to the executive editor, Harry Ashmore, for his editorials opposing Gov. Orval E. Faubus' intervention against the integration of Central High School. The other went to the paper for its overall coverage of that event. Moseley was one of the main reporters who spent days in the streets around the school being verbally abused by white citizens who thought their rights to white supremacy were being trampled by the federal courts.
He got through several weeks of such abuse; then, a week before he left for a larger paper elsewhere, he was assaulted by an angry editor in the newsroom. He spent time in the hospital but recovered well enough to prosper in a variety of newsrooms at home and abroad. As a foreign and diplomatic correspondent for United Press International and the Chicago Tribune, he worked in Moscow, London, Berlin, Cairo, Nairobi, Rome and Belgrade. He was a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in 1981.
He is the author of two books inspired by his fascination with the role of the Italians during World War II: "Mussolini: The Last 600 Days of Il Duce," and "Mussolini's Shadow: The Double Life of Count Galeazzo Ciano," about Mussolini's son-in-law. He also has written a journalistic memoir, "In Foreign Fields." He is at work on a book about black soldiers in World War II.
Roy Reed was a reporter for the Arkansas Gazette and The New York Times. He's the author of "Beware of Limbo Dancers: A Correspondent's Adventures with the New York Times."