|Born||William Raymond Manchester|
April 1, 1922
Attleboro, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Died||June 1, 2004 (aged 82)|
|Resting place||Indian Hill Cemetery, Middletown, Connecticut|
|Notable works||American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964|
The Death of a President
The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill
William Raymond Manchester (April 1, 1922 - June 1, 2004) was an American author, biographer, and historian. He was the author of 18 books which have been translated into over 20 languages. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal and the Abraham Lincoln Literary Award.
Manchester was born in Attleboro, Massachusetts, and grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts. His father served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War I. After his father's death, and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, William Manchester likewise enlisted in the Marine Corps. However, he was ordered back to college until called up. Initially he joined the Officer Candidate School but was dropped before receiving a commission. After being warranted to the rank of corporal, he was sent to Guadalcanal in 1944 for further training. Although he had expected to serve in Europe, Manchester ultimately found himself in the Pacific Theater. He served in the Pacific War's final campaign on the island of Okinawa, was severely wounded on June 5, 1945, and was promoted to sergeant in July and awarded the Purple Heart. Manchester's wartime experiences formed the basis for his very personal account of the Pacific Theater, Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War. In this memoir, Manchester uses personal anecdotes from his service on Okinawa in his descriptions of battles on Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Saipan. He stated this in the end notes, as well as clearly denying any attempt at a chronological account. Manchester's portrayal of his section in combat on Guadalcanal is a literary device.
Manchester also wrote of World War II in several other books, including the first and second volumes and, according to a description of the writing of the third volume by his co-author Paul Reid in the early pages of the volume, his notes and writing were also very important in the completion of that volume of the three-part biography, The Last Lion, of Winston Churchill. Manchester also wrote a biography of General Douglas MacArthur, American Caesar.
Manchester worked as a copyboy for the Daily Oklahoman in 1945 before returning to college. In 1946, he completed his B.A. from the Massachusetts State College, and in 1947 he earned his master's degree from the University of Missouri.
In 1947, Manchester went to work as a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. There he met journalist H. L. Mencken, who became his friend and mentor, and also became the subject of Manchester's master's thesis and first book, Disturber of the Peace. The biography, published in 1951, profiles Mencken, the self-described "conservative anarchist" who made his mark as a writer, editor, and political pundit in the 1920s. In 1953, Manchester published his novel The City of Anger, set in Baltimore and dealing with inner city life and the numbers racket, subjects Manchester had learned about as a big city reporter.
In 1955, Manchester became an editor for Wesleyan University and the Wesleyan University Press and spent the rest of his career at the university. For the academic year 1959-1960, he was a Fellow on the faculty at the Center for Advanced Studies of Wesleyan. He later became an adjunct professor of history, adjunct professor emeritus, and writer-in-residence at the university. During his association with Wesleyan University, Manchester developed an intense writing regimen that he adhered to for much of his life, often writing nonstop for up to 50 hours at a time. He described the experience as follows: "I would work all day, all night, all the next day, all the following night and into the third day. I would look up at the clock, and it would be 3:30 in the afternoon, and I would say, 'Oh boy, I've got three more hours to write.' I just loved it."
His best-selling book, The Death of a President (1967), is a detailed account of the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy, who had been the subject of an earlier book by Manchester. In 1964, Manchester was commissioned by the Kennedy family to write the book. Manchester, who retraced the movements of President Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald before the assassination, tentatively concluded, based on his study of Oswald's psychology and their similar training as Marine sharpshooters, that Oswald had acted alone. Manchester had the support of Robert and Jacqueline Kennedy, but later had a falling-out with Robert over Manchester's treatment of President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Before the book could be published, Jacqueline Kennedy filed a lawsuit to prevent its publication, even though she had previously authorized it. The suit was settled in 1967, reportedly with Manchester's agreeing to drop certain passages dealing with details of Kennedy's family life. In response satirist Paul Krassner published a piece entitled "The Parts That Were Left Out of the Kennedy Book", which imagined scandalous censored material. In his collection of essays Controversy (1977), Manchester detailed Kennedy's attempts to suppress the book. The book was a best-seller at release, but was allowed to go out of print until 1988. It was re-issued in October 2013.
In 2001, President George W. Bush presented Manchester with the National Humanities Medal. Manchester was also the recipient of the Abraham Lincoln Literary Award, among other awards. Following the death of his wife in 1998, Manchester suffered two strokes. He announced that he would not be able to complete his planned third volume of his three part-biography of Churchill, The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965. He was initially reluctant to collaborate with anyone to finish the work, but in October 2003, he asked Paul Reid, a friend and writer for The Palm Beach Post, to complete the Churchill biography.