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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
Place of burial Indian Hill Cemetery, Middletown, Connecticut[1]
Nationality American
Occupation Historian, Biographer, Professor

William Raymond Manchester (April 1, 1922 – June 1, 2004)[2] was an American author, biographer, and historian. He was the author of 18 books which have been translated into over 20 languages.[3] He was awarded the National Humanities Medal and the Abraham Lincoln Literary Award.

Early life[]

Manchester was born in Attleboro, Massachusetts and grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts.[4] 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 rising to the rank of sergeant, he was sent to Guadalcanal in 1944 for further training, then he served in Pacific War's final campaign on the island of Okinawa, he was severely wounded on June 5, 1945, and he was awarded the Purple Heart. (Note: Reference in other biography Web sites and in at least two British newspapers to a second Purple Heart, a Silver Star Medal, and a Navy Cross are incorrect.)[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 notes following his memoir, as well as clearly denying any attempt at a chronological account. However, without this additional reading at the end of his memoir, to honor those he loved, many would mistakenly believe that Manchester served in three different campaigns. He wrote of World War II in several other books, including his second of a planned three-part biography of Winston Churchill, and a biography of General Douglas MacArthur, American Caesar.

Manchester worked as a copyboy for the Daily Oklahoman in 1945 before going 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 the subject for 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 fictionally placed 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 left journalism to became an editor for Wesleyan University and the Wesleyan University Press and spent the rest of his career at the University.[7] For the academic year 1959–1960, he was a Fellow on the faculty at the Center for Advanced Studies of Wesleyan.[8] He later became an adjunct professor of history, adjunct professor Emeritus, and writer-in-residence at the University.

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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] In his collection of essays Controversy (1977), Manchester detailed Kennedy's attempts to suppress the book. The book was a best-seller, but was allowed to go out of print until September 2013, when Little, Brown and Company announced it would reissue the book in October 2013.[12]

Later life[]

In 2001, President George W. Bush presented Manchester with the National Humanities Medal. Manchester is also the recipient of the Abraham Lincoln Literary Award, among other awards.[13] 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. In October 2003, Manchester asked Paul Reid, a friend and writer for COX Newspapers, 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]


  • Disturber of the Peace: The Life of H.L. Mencken (1951)
  • The City of Anger, a novel. (1953)
  • Shadow of the Monsoon (1956)
  • A Rockefeller Family Portrait, from John D. to Nelson (1959)
  • The Long Gainer, a novel (1961)
  • Portrait of a President, John F. Kennedy in profile (1964)
  • The Death of a President: November 20 – 25 (1967)
  • The Arms of Krupp: The Rise and Fall of the Industrial Dynasty that Armed Germany at War (1968)
  • The Glory and the Dream: A Narrative History of America, 1932–1972 (1974)
  • Controversy and other essays in journalism (1976)
  • American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880–1964 (1978)
  • On Mencken, essays (1980)
  • Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War (1980)
  • One Brief Shining Moment: Remembering Kennedy (1983)
  • The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874–1932 (1983)
  • "Okinawa: The Bloodiest...", an essay. (1987)
  • The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone 1932–1940 (1988)
  • In Our Time: The World As Seen by Magnum Photographers (1989)
  • A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance—Portrait of an Age (1992) ISBN 0-316-54556-2
  • Magellan (1994)
  • No End Save Victory (2001)
  • The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965 (2012) (with co-author Paul Reid)


  1. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  2. Richard Severo "William Manchester, 82, Renowned Biographer, Dies", New York Times, 2 June 2004
  3. 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.
  4. "William Manchester, 82, Renowned Biographer, Dies". New York Times. June 2, 2004. Retrieved 2012-11-28. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Bernstein, Adam (June 4, 2004). "Author of Military History William Manchester Dies". The Washington Post. p. B7. Retrieved 2008-07-21. 
  6. "William Manchester". March 27, 1948. Retrieved 2012-04-24. 
  7. Seidel, Rebecca. "University To Unveil William Manchester Writings Amid Return of JFK Manuscript – Features". The Wesleyan Argus. Retrieved 2012-04-24. 
  8. "Guide to the Center for Advanced Studies Records, 1958 – 1969". Retrieved 2012-04-24. 
  9. 'Sam Kashner "A Clash of Camelots", Vanity Fair, October 2009
  10. "Slaughtering Cows and Popping Cherries"
  11. The REALIST issue 74 – May, 1967
  12. Associated Press. "Controversial JFK book to be reissued in October" Yahoo! Finance, September 17, 2013.
  13. "News Archive | National Endowment for the Humanities". Retrieved 2012-04-24. 

External links[]

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