William Lederer

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William Lederer
Born (1912-03-31)March 31, 1912
New York City, U.S.
Died December 5, 2009(2009-12-05) (aged 97)
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Occupation American author
Spouse Ethel Hackett (1940-1965) (3 children)
Corinne Lewis (1965-1976)[1]
Children W. Jonathan Lederer
Brian J. H. Lederer
Bruce Allen Lederer[2]

William Julius Lederer, Jr. (March 31, 1912 – December 5, 2009) was American author and naval officer.[3]


He was a US Naval Academy graduate in 1936. His first appointment was as the junior officer of the USS Tutuila, a river gunboat on the Yangtze River.

His best selling work, 1958's The Ugly American, was one of several novels co-written with Eugene Burdick. Disillusioned with the style and substance of America's diplomatic efforts in Southeast Asia, Lederer and Burdick openly sought to demonstrate their belief that American officials and civilians could make a substantial difference in Southeast Asian politics if they were willing to learn local languages, follow local customs and employ regional military tactics.

Yet, if American policy makers continued to ignore the logic behind these lessons, Southeast Asia would fall under Soviet or Chinese Communist influence. The book’s epilogue argues for the creation of “a small force of well-trained, well-chosen, hard-working and dedicated professionals” fluent in the local language — not unlike the Peace Corps, which John F. Kennedy proposed in 1960.[4]

In A Nation of Sheep, Lederer identified intelligence failures in Asia. Having spent later years of his naval service as a public information officer, first at the Pentagon, then at Pearl Harbor Hawaii,[5] where he was special assistant to Admiral Felix Stump, the U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander.[6] In "Government by Misinformation" he investigates the sources he believes lead to American foreign policy:

  • Trusted local officials.
  • Local (foreign) newspapers, magazines, books, radio broadcasts, etc.
  • Paid local informers.
  • Personal observations by U.S. officials.
  • American journalists.

Other works were intended to be light-hearted and humorous fantasies. His early work, Ensign O'Toole and Me is both. A children's book, Timothy's Song, with illustrations by Edward Ardizzone, appeared in 1965.

William Lederer rose to the rank of Navy Captain.[7]

In Our Own Worst Enemy Lederer relates that, as a young Navy Lieutenant, Junior Grade in 1940, he had a chance meeting with a Jesuit priest, Father Pierre Cogny, and his Vietnamese assistant, "Mr. Nguyen", while waiting out a Japanese bombing raid in China. Father Pierre asked Lederer if he had a copy of the United States Declaration of Independence on his gunboat, and Lederer said that he did and provided them with a copy. "Mr. Nguyen" was eager to deliver the document to "Tong Van So" who later became better known as Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese Communist revolutionary and statesman who served as prime minister (1946–1955) and president (1945–1969) of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). The 1945 Proclamation of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, written by Ho Chi Minh, begins by quoting from the American document.[8] This book describes how the United States supported a corrupt President Diem in South Vietnam, ignored massive black market selling of stolen U.S. military supplies, food, and foreign aid, and refused to stand up to corrupt local officials who stole donated food and supplies, took kickbacks and bullied their own population, as we continued saying "It's their country, and we Americans are only guests here."

Lederer died December 5, 2009, of respiratory failure at the age of 97.

Eugene Burdick collaborations[edit]

  • The Ugly American, 1958 (co-author, with Eugene Burdick)
  • Sarkhan: a Novel,[9] republished under the title The Deceptive American in 1977.[10]

Selected works[edit]

  • All the Ships at Sea, 1950 (author)
  • The Last Cruise; the story of the sinking of the submarine, USS Cochino, 1950 (author)[11]
  • Spare-Time Article Writing for Money (1954)
  • Ensign O'Toole and Me, 1957 (author)
  • A Nation of Sheep, 1961 (author)
  • [McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force], 1965 (co-screenwriter)
  • Timothy's Song, 1965 (author)
  • The Story of Pink Jade, 1966 (author)
  • Our Own Worst Enemy, 1968 (author)
  • The Anguished American, 1968 (author)
  • The Mirages of Marriage, 1968 (co-author)
  • Complete Cross-Country Skiing and Ski Touring, 1977 (author)
  • Marital Choices: Forecasting, Assessing, and Improving a Relationship, 1981 (author)
  • A Happy Book of Happy Stories, 1981 (author)
  • New Complete Book of Cross Country Skiing, 1983 (author)
  • I, Giorghos, 1984 (author)[12]
  • Creating a Good Relationship, 1984 (author)


External links[edit]