E. M. Nathanson

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Erwin Nathanson
Erwin Nathanson

(1928-02-17)February 17, 1928
DiedApril 5, 2016(2016-04-05) (aged 88)
Notable work
The Dirty Dozen

Erwin Nathanson (February 17, 1928 – April 5, 2016) was an American author who wrote the novel The Dirty Dozen (1965), which was adapted into the film of the same name.[1][2]


Nathanson was born in 1928 in The Bronx. His mother suffered from depression and went into an institution when he was two years old. He was placed in a Jewish orphanage in Manhattan and lived there until he was seven, when he was sent to the Hebrew National Orphan Home in Yonkers. He remained there until he graduated high school.[1][2]

Nathanson majored in anthropology at New York University.[1] Nathanson held a variety of writing and editing jobs. He was a copy editor for Fairchild Publications in New York, a reporter for the Arlington Sun in Virginia, a stringer for The Washington Post and a freelance magazine writer.[3]

By 1959, he was living in Los Angeles, where he worked as associate editor for Daring Detective magazine and an editing job for a chain of pulp magazines.[3]

The Dirty Dozen[edit]

In 1965, Nathanson wrote the war novel The Dirty Dozen, a story about 12 servicemen, convicted of robbery, murder and rape, who are sent on a suicide mission to blow up a chateau of German generals just before D-Day with the promise of commuted sentences to those who survive.[1]

The novel was inspired by the supposedly true story of World War II criminal soldiers who got the nickname "the Dirty Dozen" (or "Filthy Thirteen") for their refusal to bathe and who were said to have been sent off on a similar mission. Nathanson heard the story from his producer friend Russ Meyer, who said he learned of the tale while working as a combat photographer during World War II.[1]

Although Nathanson researched in vain for two years to verify the story's accuracy, he still received a contract for a book. He and his editor fictionalized the story. The best-selling novel sold more than two million copies and was translated into 10 languages.[1]


Nathanson died on April 5, 2016, of heart failure in his Laguna Niguel, California home. He was 88. He is survived by his partner Elizabeth Henderson and son Michael from his marriage to Mary Ann Nathanson.[1]


  • The Dirty Dozen (1965) ISBN 978-0970466204
  • The Latecomers (1970)
  • It Gave Everybody Something To Do (with Louise Thoresen) (1973)
  • A Dirty Distant War (1987)- The Sequel to The Dirty Dozen
  • Knight's Cross (with Aaron Bank) (1993)
  • Lovers and Schemers (2003)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Lewis, Andy; Barnes, Mike (April 6, 2016). "E.M. Nathanson, 'The Dirty Dozen' Author, Dies at 87". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 7, 2016.
  2. ^ a b Weber, Bruce (April 7, 2016). "E.M. Nathanson, 88, Author of 'The Dirty Dozen'". The New York Times. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  3. ^ a b McLellan, Dennis (August 28, 1987). "Blitzkrieg : 'Dirty Dozen' Author Hawks a Sequel of Betrayal". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 7, 2016.