Through the Eyes of Combat Correspondents

History’s most famous war correspondent, Ernie Pyle was not an enlisted man, instead reporting for Scripps-Howard newspaper chain.  He wrote not from the perspective of generals and leaders of nations, but from that of the private and sergeant on the frontlines of Sicily, Italy, France, and North Africa.  His words mirrored what resided in the hearts of young men whose first experiences away from their homes were the horrors of battle.

And though women did not serve in combat, Marguerite Higgins was the first female combat correspondent, reporting on the Korean War and winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1951 for international reporting.  Later, she reported from Vietnam.  After her death in 1966 she was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in recognition of her war reporting.

The Marines appear to be the only branch of the service with a specific organization for current and retired correspondents, the United States Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association.  That might be because according to Cpl. Joel A. Chaverri’s article (see links at the bottom of the post), the Marines created the Combat Correspondent program during World War II.

I was searching for articles and books by enlisted combat correspondents from the Vietnam era through the current action in Afghanistan and Iran.  There were few that I found by name and service.  Most I discovered in obituaries.

It’s easier to find combat photojournalists than combat correspondents. Today’s world trends toward photos more than words. An evening newscast can showcase four or five photos from the frontlines in less than a minute.

The correspondent selects each word with precision to build a picture of that same scene in the reader’s mind. But he has the advantage of instilling emotion and backstory. He draws the reader into the lives of the soldiers performing their daily duties, sharing what they talk about, what they miss from home, whispering their fears and hopes.


When he writes about the gritty sand that filters into every crevice and rubs skin raw, that’s something one photo can’t reveal.  A photo can’t describe the feel of sweat running into a soldier’s boots, or how hunger gnaws at his backbone even when he’s pinned down by enemy fire.  It can’t make the reader smell the stench of open sewers under the desert sun.  Describing the shockwave of an explosion, how it slams into a body, how it disorients every sense—a photo can only offer a hint of that impact.

A shot of the velvet darkness of a desert sky just as it’s lit with the paths of tracer bullets can’t make the viewer know how those sudden bursts of light burn the retina of the eyes hidden behind night-vision goggles.

It’s the words of combat correspondents that give life to the action photojournalists capture through their lens.  Yes, each provides an evocative look at soldiers and war.  Both correspondents and photographers capture glimpses of the desolation and the humanity involved in every conflict.  And I honor the efforts of both.


But I’m a writer, and today I especially want to remember the men and women whose words make war real to those who wait at home.  Who detail the lives of those who live, remind us of those who are injured, and often write the final words about those who leave this life on some foreign soil.  They remind us, should we ever forget, that those who enlist and serve are people, just as we are.  That those soldiers, sailors, and airmen laugh and cry, they feel fear and determination.  That they spend their lives defending us against those who wish to harm our nation or nations needing our help. 

I invite you to send the names of current or retired combat correspondents you know and love to me at Suzanne @  I’ll collect those names, plus links to articles or books they’ve written, photos if they wish to share, or links to their websites.  On November 25th, I’ll publish the names I receive and we’ll honor those soldiers, seamen, and airmen.  We can add their names to our prayers of Thanksgiving.


In the meantime, check out these links:

Marine Corps Combat Correspondent Alejandro Bedoya describes his life in service.

A retired Marine Combat Correspondent wears his MCCCA t-shirt.

A Marine Combat Correspondent defines the difference between a combat correspondent and a combat photographer.

One Navy nurse’s experiences.

One Air Force correspondent’s journey.

To every veteran, every active duty soldier,

in every branch of the service and MOS

Thank you.