George A. Weller ’29, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Chicago Daily News and former editorial chair of The Crimson, died in Rome on Dec. 19. He was 95.
Some of his best-known work brought him to the battlefields of World War II, including the Nazi invasion of the Balkans and the fall of Singapore to the Japanese.
“He really should have lost his life many hundreds of times,” said Anthony Weller, his son.
Weller won the 1943 Pulitzer Prize for war correspondence for a story on the world’s first major surgical operation in a submerged submarine, an appendectomy during which the crew had to make use of a tea strainer and spoons.
After the war, Weller defied a ban by the U. S. government against visiting the atomic bomb cites in Japan. Weller was the first Western civilian reporter to enter Nagasaki after it was devastated by a nuclear bomb in August 1945.
He also covered the signing of the armistice aboard the U.S.S. Missouri which ended WWII.
Weller, who knew eight languages, was one of the only reporters in the 1940s to cover the Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South America, according to his son.
“He was really a breed of man that one rarely encounters now,” Anthony Weller said.
Weller’s assignments often were adventures.
One assignment took him into the heart of central Africa, where he tracked down some of the surviving porters of the famed nineteenth-century explorer Henry Stanley, who had himself tracked down Dr. David Livingstone.
On another assignment in New Guinea, Weller was struck over the head by a tribesman who stole one of his notebooks—containing eight months of research. Weller brought the tribesman to court but only received monetary compensation worth the price of the notebook.
Weller was acclaimed for more than just his war reporting. He won the prestigious George Polk Memorial Award in 1955 for a series on Turkey he wrote for the Chicago Daily News.
Weller’s family said Harvard remained important to Weller, even when he was reporting in the far reaches of the globe.
“Throughout his entire life Harvard meant a great deal to him,” said Katherine Tagge, his granddaughter.
In 1933, Weller published Not to Eat, Not for Love, a novel which American historian Arthur Schlesinger described as “the best book about undergraduate life at Harvard.”
Weller gravitated to literature and the stage before becoming a journalist. During his undergraduate years, he wrote a Hasty Pudding Theatricals show entitled Fireman Save My Child.
He returned to Harvard in 1947 on a Nieman fellowship, an honor given to accomplished mid-career journalists.
“One of the things he was most proud of was that as a Nieman fellow he played football on the Adams House team against Yale,” Tagge said.
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