Obituary: Joseph C. Harsch

JOSEPH C. HARSCH - he was always most insistent on the inclusion of his middle initial in his byline - was an outstanding American writer on foreign affairs. He contributed to the Christian Science Monitor for well over 60 years. British listeners may recall his stimulating BBC broadcasts in the American Commentary series started by Raymond Gram Swing. Harsch was a foreign correspondent who had a happy knack of managing to be at the right place at the right time.

He was a young reporter for the Christian Science Monitor in Washington when Herbert Hoover began to grasp the magnitude of the Great Depression, and when Franklin Roosevelt inaugurated the New Deal to tackle it. He was in London on 3 September 1939 when Neville Chamberlain announced the declaration of war against Germany. Soon afterwards he was in Berlin, the first correspondent to cover both sides in the Second World War. He was in Hawaii, on his way to the Soviet Union, on 7 December 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He was with General Douglas MacArthur in Australia when he made his famous "I shall return" speech. He reported from the liberated concentration camps in 1945. He travelled behind the newly forged Iron Curtain in 1947 and 1949.

Harsch's book The Curtain Isn't Iron, published in 1950, challenged the then prevalent American assumption that war with the Soviet Union was ultimately inevitable. He was one of the first to foretell the eventual collapse of Russian domination of Eastern Europe. His earlier book Pattern of Conquest, issued in 1941 before America entered the war, brilliantly analysed the German drive for power.

He was not only a good eyewitness reporter of the major events of the 20th century for the Christian Science Monitor and for all three of the major broadcasting networks. He was also steeped in history and able to relate those events to their wider historical context.

Harsch was a lightly built man with a beaky nose and a puckish sense of humour. He grew up in Ohio, where his father had become a Christian Scientist. He studied history at Williams College in Massachusetts, writing the thesis for his MA degree on the Hundred Years War. He then came for further education to Corpus Christi, Cambridge. His dispatches and columns were always rich in historical allusions and comparisons.

It was when he was the bureau chief of the Christian Science Monitor in Berlin that Harsch made his first broadcasts, covering on occasion for William Shirer, the famous Berlin correspondent of the Columbia Broadcasting System, who had been the earliest recruit of Edward R. Murrow, CBS's chief war correspondent. In 1943 Harsch, by that time no longer a foreign correspondent, also joined CBS. From then until 1949, in addition to writing a column for the Christian Science Monitor, he broadcast a regular thoughtful news analysis from the CBS Washington station WTOP.

When Raymond Gram Swing relinquished the weekly American Commentary towards the end of the war the BBC replaced him with Harsch, speaking from Washington, alternating with Clifton Utley, speaking from Chicago. Harsch's familiarity with Britain and his clarity of thought made him an ideal interpreter of developments in the American capital.

In 1953 Harsch joined the National Broadcasting Company as a news analyst and four years later gave up the opportunity of co-authoring a syndicated column with his great friend Walter Lippmann in order to return to London as NBC's senior European correspondent. He became a well-known figure on the London scene. The Queen invited him to one of her private luncheons. He was a popular member of the Garrick Club, where he served on the committee and was made a life member. Indeed he was always a most clubbable man. He also belonged to the St James's in London, the Metropolitan and the Cosmos in Washington, the Century in New York and the St Botolph in Boston.

He was stationed in London in the wake of Suez, a time when there were considerable pressures testing the Anglo- American alliance. His broadcasts to the United States sympathetically interpreted what was happening in Britain. When he left to return to America to become NBC's diplomatic correspondent in 1965 he was appointed an honorary CBE.

Like many in the American stage army of news commentators, after two years he changed networks again. From 1967 to 1971 he was a commentator for the American Broadcasting Company. After that he broadcast less, but he loyally continued his column for the Christian Science Monitor. In 1989 his 60 years on the paper were given a great celebration. Its reputation for the quality of its coverage of foreign affairs, acknowledged by non- Christian Scientists, owes much to Harsch.

Joe Harsch married in 1932 Anne Wood, one of two daughters of an American admiral. Both sisters had houses in Jamestown, Rhode Island, a friendly community across Narragansett Bay from Newport. Anne died in January 1997 and Joe was desolate after 65 years of an extremely happy marriage.

Edna Raemer, who had been his editorial assistant for a quarter of a century, moved to Jamestown to help him edit his work on the history of the Harsch family who had arrived in America from the southern Rhineland in 1743. On the eve of his 93rd birthday they decided to get married.

Leonard Miall

Joseph Close Harsch, writer and broadcaster: born Toledo, Ohio 25 May 1905; contributor, Christian Science Monitor 1929-97, Washington correspondent 1931-39, foreign correspondent 1939-42, Chief Editorial Writer 1971-74; Senior European Correspondent, NBC 1957-65, Diplomatic Correspondent 1965- 67; CBE (Hon) 1965; Commentator, ABC 1967-71; married 1932 Anne Wood (died 1997; three sons), 1998 Edna Raemer; died Jamestown, Rhode Island 3 June 1998.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'