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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

HSE Manger - Solar

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: HSE Mana...

Data Governance Manager (Solvency II) – Contract – Up to £450 daily rate, 6 month (may go Permanent)

£350 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently looking...

Powertrain Design Engineer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I hope you are well. My client based in ...

Java Developer - Banking - London - Up to £560/day

£500 - £560 per day: Orgtel: Java Developer FX - Banking - London - Up to £560...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried