George Weller

13 Jul 1907
19 Dec 2002
Writer
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This article is about the writer. For the early New Zealand settler, see Weller brothers. For the elderly motorist in a fatal car accident, see George Russell Weller.

George Anthony Weller (July 13, 1907 – December 19, 2002) was an American novelist, playwright, and journalist for The New York Times and Chicago Daily News. He won a 1943 Pulitzer Prize as a Daily News war correspondent.

Weller’s reports from Nagasaki after its August 1945 nuclear bombing were censored by the U.S. military and not published in full until a book edited by his son in 2006.

Weller was born in Boston in 1907 and graduated from the Roxbury Latin School in 1925. He was editorial chairman of The Harvard Crimson as a college student graduated from Harvard in 1929. During his senior year there, he wrote the book and co-wrote the lyrics for the 83rd annual Hasty Pudding Club musical comedy production, Fireman, Save My Child!

He studied acting in Vienna, Austria as the only American member of Max Reinhardt’s theater company. Weller was named to the Balkan reporting team of The New York Times, and during the 1930s also published two novels, numerous short stories, and freelance journalism from around Europe.

Weller was married twice, first in 1932 to artist Katherine Deupree (1906–1984) of Cincinnati, with whom he had a daughter Ann. They divorced in 1944, and in 1948 he married reporter Charlotte Ebener (1918–1990): their marriage ended with Charlotte’s death.

In 1957, Weller had a second child, Anthony,by the British ballet teacher and scholar Gladys Lasky Weller (1922–1988), with whom he maintained a relationship for over thirty years.

In December, 1940, soon after the beginning of World War II, Weller began working for the Chicago Daily News Foreign Service and covered the war in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific as one of the war’s great correspondents, winning a 1943 Pulitzer Prize for his work.

He wrote a pamphlet “The Belgian Campaign in Ethiopia” published by the Belgian Information Center as part of its World War II dissemination of information favorable to Belgium and to Belgium’s role in the Belgian Congo, a valuable colony then and for many previous decades. This pamphlet is based on 1941 interviews with Belgian officers who led an army consisting of troops who had been local black police in the Belgian Congo, then Belgium’s African colony and originally the personal property of King Leopold of Belgium’s royal family. The interviews described and celebrated the surrender of Italian General Gazzera, and were conducted following the conclusion of the Belgian campaign, a “trek of 2,500 miles through jungle swamps and desert wastes.” Hardships, heroism and aggressive action against a numerically superior Italian force are reflected as well as the role of the Belgian Congo Army’s victory in assisting WWII Allied efforts to oppose the Axis in the colonial sphere. Based on articles first published in the Chicago Daily News, this pamphlet joined such publications as King Leopold Vindicated in the repertoire of the Belgium Information Center. Office of Strategic Services (OSS, predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency) officers were involved with United States government and military personnel in securing the supply from the Shinkolobwe mine of most of the uranium critical to production of the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima that brought World War II to an end.Anthony Mockler in his definitive work Haile Selassie’s War: The Italian-Ethiopian Campaign, 1935–1941 states that “troops from the Belgian Congo had reached their ‘theatre of operations’—the Baro Salient—in February 1941”.

George Weller reported from Singapore in January 1942. At 8:15 a.m. January 31 the British blew a 70-foot gap in the causeway to Johor. On February 15, 1942, British forces in Singapore surrendered to the Japanese. Giles Playfair, then of the Malaya Broadcasting Corporation, in an entry dated January 29 writes: “Outside the bank I met George Weller who told me that he was off to Java this afternoon and bade me a fond farewell.” Weller’s reports from Singapore would be published the next year in the book Singapore is Silent.

Weller’s War includes articles which were published (wholly or in part) by Chicago Daily News, Boston Globe(August 31 and September 1, 1945) and London Daily Telegraph(September 1, 1945). Weller’s reporting on Nagasaki remains one of his lasting legacies.

In 1946, Weller covered the 1946 Greek war against partisan guerrillas. For many years he covered the Balkans, Mideast and Africa from Rome, where he headed the Daily News bureau until retiring from the newspaper in 1975.

From their base in Rome, Weller’s wife Charlotte, herself a newspaper writer, often accompanied him on assignments, including Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.

Weller died at his home in San Felice Circeo, Italy, on December 19, 2002 at the age of 95

In 1942 Weller interviewed crew members who were eyewitnesses to an emergency appendectomy performed in a submarine, partly with a tea strainer and spoons. He won the annual Pulitzer Prize for Reporting, citing “his graphic story of how a U.S. Navy Pharmacist’s Mate under enemy waters in a submarine performed an operation for appendicitis saving a sailor’s life.”

General Douglas MacArthur honored him by conferring a special distinction: “It is a real pleasure to me to award you the Asiatic-Pacific Service Ribbon in view of your long and meritorious services in the Southwest Pacific Area with the forces of this command. You have added luster to the difficult, dangerous and arduous profession of War Correspondent.” Weller was also awarded a 1954 George Polk Memorial Awardand a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard.

Late in life he received Italy’s Premio Internazionale di Giornalismo. He also provided the inspiration for longtime friend Sean O’Faolain’s 1974 short story Something, Everything, Anything, Nothing.

Main article: First Into Nagasaki
The Notes to Last Train from Hiroshima state: “As it was, Weller’s notes were confiscated and classified. Later, his carbon copies were stored and replicated (in edited form) as internal military and Atomic Energy Commission documents—and in time, they became more or less gospel.”

The Atomic Energy Commission’s successor agency the Department of Energy was asked for all records by or about George Weller from September 1945 and after. Assigned to the Executive Secretariat a search was conducted of documents in the Record Storage maintained by the History Division: nothing was found.

Weller stated in his article published in the Chicago Daily News Saturday August 14, 1965: “The original notes and the original stories are buried in a family attic in New England.”

In the foreword to his Weller’s final book, First Into Nagasaki: The Censored Eyewitness Dispatches on Post-Atomic Japan and Its Prisoners of War, Walter Cronkite wrote:

“This is an important book—important and gripping. For the first time in print we can read the details of the nuclear bombardment of Nagasaki, Japan, as written by the first American reporter on the terrible scene Welreports, so long delayed but now salvaged by his son, at last have saved our history from the military censorship that would have preferred to have time to sanitize the ghastly details … Also delayed by MacArthur’s censorship were Weller’s dispatches from his visits to American prison camps here he uncovered the Japanese military’s savage treatment of their American prisoners … There is so much in this volume that we never knew or have long forgotten. This volume of the last generation’s history is an important reminder, a warning to inspire civilian vigilance.”

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