Foreign correspondent and Purple Heart recipient Bernard Redmont dies aged 98

 

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Bernard Redmont, the American foreign correspondent who broke the news in 1968 that the North Vietnamese were willing to enter into peace talks with the United States, died on 23 January 2017, aged 98.

Bernard Sidney Redmont (1918-2017) was born Bernard Rothenberg on 19 November 1918 In Manhattan, but changed his surname when he was in university because it was ‘too long and too Jewish.’ His parents were immigrants from Poland. He started journalism at the City College as editor of the school newspaper. He graduated from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in 1939.

In 1940, he married Joan Rothenberg – coincidentally with the same name, but no relation. They had a son Dennis and daughter Jane. Joan died in 2016.

He began work for The Evening Telegram in Herkimer, New York, and in 1940 he was editor of the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs in Washington.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1943 and was a combat correspondent in the South Pacific during World War II. He was awarded the Purple Heart for shrapnel wounds sustained during the battle for the Marshall Islands.

After the war, in 1946, he was hired as the first Latin America bureau chief for World News in Buenos Aires. He was accused of being a communist in 1948. He was cleared of the accusations by the House Committee on Un-American Activities and a grand jury in 1951. In a 2008 interview, Redmont said, “I am not now a spy, and I have never been a spy.” He added: “It was a very sad and poisoned period in American history where an allegation was equivalent to a conviction.

When he was stranded in Paris, without employment and without a passport (confiscated by the US State Department), he undertook freelance journalism. “At one point, I set a record in amassing the largest number of jobs in Paris with the lowest aggregate income,” Redmont wrote in his 1992 memoir “Risks Worth Taking: The Odyssey of a Foreign Correspondent.”

However, he finally gained a job as Paris bureau chief for Westinghouse from 1961 to 1976, and made the transition to television, joining CBS News, for which he was the bureau chief in Moscow and a senior correspondent in Paris. He returned to the United States in 1981 to become a professor of journalism at the Boston University College of Communication until 1986.

His fame came when he broke the news in 1968 that the North Vietnamese were willing to enter into peace talks with the United States. He was the Paris bureau chief of the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company at the time. He had long been pestering the North Vietnamese mission in Paris for an interview when he was summoned on 3 January 1968 for “a conversation.”

A government official, whom he was not permitted to identify, informed him that North Vietnam was ready to start peace talks if the United States halted its bombing campaign and other acts of war. Redmont issued a bulletin, and publications around the world disseminated the article. He even made the covers of Time and Newsweek magazines.

In May 1968, after President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered a limited halt to the bombing in Vietnam, the two sides entered into talks in Paris that led to the war’s end five years later.

For the story, the Overseas Press Club of America gave Bernard Redmont its award in 1969 for best radio reporting from abroad.

Photograph: Bernard Redmont in 2000 by his wife Joan Redmont.

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