Remembering Reporter Marguerite Higgins

Courtesy of Sergey Galyonkin (Flickr CC0)

March is “Women’s History Month.” Most Americans know something about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, and other historians who chose to offer a special place in our memories. They all deserve to be honored. Now it is time to learn about those who will never receive national notoriety but deserve to be recognized for their achievements. This article is about Marguerite Higgins.

In 1941, fresh out of college, and her portfolio in hand Ms. Higgins traveled to New York, made her way to the nearest newspaper office, and demanded a position as a reporter. That newspaper was “The New York Herald Tribune.”

Courtesy of Brendan DeBrincat (Flickr CC0)

She received a position on the staff and after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, was immediately sent to Europe to cover the war. She and a second reporter, Homer Bigart, covered every battle and every invasion, each eager to have their stories in print.

She would be most recognized for her coverage of the liberation of Hitler’s brutal concentration camps. When Dachau was targeted as the next camp to be free, Higgins and a Stars and Stripes reporter arrived before the army.

In 1944 she returned home and did not travel overseas until the beginning of the Korean Conflict in June of 1950.

Ms. Higgins was sent to the Tribune’s Far East office, located in Japan, shortly after. She decided that she belonged on the front lines. She was sent back to Japan several times. The government of the United States passed a law forbidding female correspondents access to a war zone.

Frustrated, Ms. Higgins took her situation directly to General Douglas MacArthur. On July 19th, MacArthur lifted the ban.

MacArthur sent a telegram to the Tribune saying, “Ban on women correspondents in Korea has been lifted. Marguerite Higgins is held in highest professional esteem by everyone.”

A couple of months later, Ms. Higgins managed to be part of the amphibious landing at Inchon. The following is a short portion of the article she wrote about her experiences as Army and Marine Corps forces stormed the beach.

Despite a deadly and steady pounding from naval guns and airplanes, enough North Koreans remained alive close to the beach to harass us with small-arms and mortar fire. They even hurled hand grenades down at us as we crouched in trenches which unfortunately ran behind the sea wall on the inland side.

It was far from the “virtually unopposed” landing for which the troops had hoped after hearing the quick capture of Wolmi Island in the morning by an earlier Marine assault.

Higgins was one of six foreign correspondents awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1951 for their courage and excellence in reporting in a war zone.

Continuing her desire to report the reality of war, Higgins went to South Vietnam in 1953 to cover French forces who were battling the Communist forces from the north.

In the lost battle of Dien Bein Phu, her photographer was blown up when he stepped on a land mine.

In the early 1960s, Ms. Higgins received a pass to cover the Cold War from both sides. She returned to South Vietnam as America’s involvement escalated in 1965. Unfortunately, she contracted leishmaniasis. “Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease that is found in parts of the tropics, subtropics, and southern Europe. It is classified as a neglected tropical disease (NTD). Leishmaniasis is caused by infection with Leishmania parasites, which are spread by the bite of phlebotomine sand flies.”

Higgins was sent home and admitted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for treatment. Marguerite Higgins died on January 3, 1966.

War heroes are not always those carrying rifles, they are often the ones taking notes. Without war correspondents telling the truth about the horrors of war, civilians would never understand the futility of engaging in mortal combat. Only those invested in the military-industrial complex benefit from wars.

Op-Ed James Turnage


We Are The Mighty: This woman landed under fire at Inchon with the Marines; by Logan Nye
The Pulitzer Prizes: Marguerite Higgins Hits ‘Red Beach’

Top and Featured Image Courtesy Sergey Galyonkin’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inline Image Courtesy of Brendan DeBrincat’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License