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James E. Bassett, Jr. (1912 – September 24, 1978) was an American newspaper editor and author, most notably of the best-selling novel Harm's Way that was later adapted into a major motion picture.

Biography[edit | edit source]

The son of James E. and Lucille R. Bassett, Bassett was born in Glendale, California.

Raised in Mamaroneck, N.Y. from 1914 on, in 1934 he graduated cum laude from Bowdoin College in Maine, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. After college, he returned to Los Angeles, California and joined The Los Angeles Times as a reporter. He later served the paper as aviation writer, political analyst and director of the editorial pages until he was named associate editor in 1971. At The Mirror, the Times' sister publication, he held the posts of political editor, feature editor and city editor.

He entered the United States Navy as lieutenant junior grade in February, 1941, and went on to become public relations officer for Fleet Admiral William F. (Bull) Halsey. He later retired from the service as a captain, and returned to work at The Times. He held the Bronze Star with combat V. Bassett took leaves from The Times to serve in Richard Nixon's vice presidential and presidential campaigns of 1952, 1956 and 1960. He was public relations director for the Republican National Committee in 1954.

Bassett drew on his World War II experiences for his novel Harm's Way, which became a bestseller after its publication in 1962 and was made into a motion picture starring John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, and Henry Fonda and directed by Otto Preminger.

Other works include, Commander Prince, USN published in 1971, a novel dealing mainly with the events surrounding the Battle of the Java Sea, and The Sky Suspended, published in 1968.

Bassett retired October 1977 after serving 43 years on the staffs of The Los Angeles Times and The Mirror. He was working on two books at the time of his death - one an autobiography and the other a volume on great sea admirals he had observed in the Pacific in World War II. He died in Malibu, California.

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