The Leaderboard: Stanley Karnow

Who is he?

Stanley A. Karnow was a highly accomplished American foreign correspondent and historian, best known for his award-winning work on Asia, notably the Vietnam War and the Philippines.

His book Vietnam: A History, published in 1983, is still considered by contemporaries as the definitive work on the Vietnam War. The book is praised for its deep understanding of Vietnamese history and culture, and spawned a 13-episode Emmy-winning television series that was viewed by nearly 10 million people a night.

Stanley Karnow. Source: Library of Congress.

Karnow’s second major work, In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines, portrayed centuries of Filipino life under Spanish and American colonial rule and won the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for history.

Karnow was born in Brooklyn on February 4, 1925, and grew up in New York City. He served in the Army Air Forces in World War II and graduated from Harvard University in 1947.

Why is he in the news?

Mr. Karnow died on January 27, 2013. He was 87 years old.

Karnow was one of the few journalists to cover the entirety of the Vietnam War. Working as a correspondent for Time, he was in Vietnam when the first two American advisers were killed in 1959 and stayed for the duration of the conflict.

He also returned soon after American troops withdrew to get the views of those who had won the war or had stayed behind.

What can we expect?

Mr. Karnow’s works will continue to be admired for their comprehensiveness and his willingness to see past his own beliefs. His friendship with the late Philippine leader Corazon Aquino did not stop him from criticizing her presidency in his book on the Philippines.

His death is mourned by many in foreign policy circles, as his career as a journalist in Asia led to an increased understanding of the region and he wasn’t afraid to challenge U.S. policy when he thought it was wrongheaded. He was a frequent contributor to policy debates later in life, and his voice will be missed.

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