Joseph C. Harsch

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Joseph C. Harsch
Born May 25, 1905
Toledo, Ohio
Died June 3, 1998
Occupation Journalist
Years active 1929-1998
Known for Reporting on World War 2 and the 1930s

Joseph C. Harsch (May 25, 1905 – June 3, 1998) was a newspaper, radio, and television journalist - a foreign correspondent whose good fortune as a news reporter was his knack for being present at locations where historical events were occurring. He spent more than sixty years writing for the Christian Science Monitor and at the time of his departure from his stationing in London he was named as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE Hon).

Early life[edit]

Joseph Close Harsch was born in Toledo, Ohio, the son of Paul Harsch, a real estate salesman, and his wife Lela. When Paul Harsch became a Christian Scientist, he raised his sons in the faith, which would lead to a career-long affiliation for Harsch as a reporter. Joseph Harsch studied history at Williams College in Massachusetts, where he received a bachelor's degree in 1927 after writing a thesis on the Hundred Years' War.[1] Later, he traveled to Corpus Christi, Cambridge where he received a bachelor's degree from Cambridge University in 1929. Later that same year, Harsch went to work as a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor in Washington, D.C.[1]

Early reporting[edit]

At the outset of the Great Depression, Harsch was a newly hired young reporter at the Monitor[2] in Washington D.C. covering Herbert Hoover as the magnitude of the economic crisis began to unfold, and was still there when Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced the New Deal with measures to counteract it. In 1939, Harsch was in London when Neville Chamberlain declared war on Germany. It was the beginning of a number of first-hand accounts of events that shaped history.

Historic event coverage[edit]

Shortly after England's declaration of war, Harsch traveled to Berlin, where his reporting made him the first to cover World War II from both sides. On his way to the Soviet Union during a stopover in Hawaii, Harsch and his wife were asleep when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor began. He often repeated the story of how he awakened his wife in their hotel room, saying "Listen to this, dear. You have often asked me what an air raid sound like. This is a good imitation."[2]

Incredibly, Harsch found himself in Australia following General Douglas MacArthur's failed defense of the Philippines, and was present to record MacArthur's prophetic pledge, "I shall return."[2]

He met General Dwight D. Eisenhower in France. During the capture of Albert Speer in Glücksburg Castle (Speer was Adolf Hitler's Minister of Armaments and War Production) Harsch translated for a British officer leading the arrest and he reported of the capture of Karl Dönitz in a hospital of Mürwik (Muerwik), who was the head of the Flensburg Government.[2][3] Harsch also reported from the Nazi concentration camps in 1945 when the Allied forces made their advance, and in the early years of the so-called Cold War, Harsch correctly predicted that the Iron Curtain would eventually fall along with the Soviet bloc. His own newspaper reported in his obituary that "He seemed to be everywhere, or at least everywhere something important was happening."[2][3]


Harsch made his first broadcasts during the time he was in Berlin as bureau chief for the Christian Science Monitor, filling in sporadically for William L. Shirer who was the noted Berlin correspondent for CBS.[1] After Harsch returned to the United States, he joined CBC in 1943. For the next six years Harsch broadcast his news analysis on WTOP, Washington D.C. in addition to writing a column for the Monitor.

Because of his background in London, Harsch was hired by the BBC when influential broadcaster Raymond Gram Swing gave up his post with the weekly radio program American Commentary. Harsch alternated his coverage from Washington with Clifton Utley, who reported from Chicago.

In 1953, Harsch shifted his allegiance to NBC, serving as a news analyst for four years before returning to London as the senior European correspondent for the network. He became so well known in London circles that he was invited to dine with the Queen, was a popular member of the Garrick Club and many other social fixtures.[1] When he left England, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

ABC became his broadcast home in 1967, when he was a commentator for the network until 1971, assigned to the American Entertainment Network effective 1/1/68.

During the course of his broadcasting career, he continued to write his newspaper column, and his efforts for the Monitor that helped establish its reputation in foreign affairs coverage were celebrated in 1989 on the 60th anniversary of his column.

Personal life[edit]

Joseph C. Harsch married Ann Elizabeth Wood, the daughter of retired United States Navy Rear Admiral Spencer S. Wood, and maintained a home in Jamestown, Rhode Island. The couple had three sons and remained married for 65 years, before Ann's death in 1997.

On the evening before Harsch's 93rd birthday and a month before his death, he married Edna Raemer, his editorial assistant of 25 years. She had moved to Jamestown to help in the editing on a history project being written by Harsch.


Harsch authored several books related to the European conflict, including Pattern of Conquest (1941), an analysis of the Nazi threat before the U.S. entry into the war, and The Curtain isn't Iron (1950), about the Soviet bloc and the Cold War. His memoir, At the Hinge of History: a Reporter's Story (1993) won praise for him late in his life.


In 1951 Harsch received the Alfred I. duPont Award.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d Obituary: Joseph C. Harsch; The Independent, London, England; June 5, 1998 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "UKindependent" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  2. ^ a b c d e "Joseph C. Harsch, 93, A Journalist Who Witnessed History"; New York Times; June 5, 1998
  3. ^ a b Joseph C. Harsch: At the Hinge of History, page 129
  4. ^ All duPont–Columbia Award Winners Archived 2012-08-14 at the Wayback Machine., Columbia Journalism School. Retrieved 2013-08-06.