A.B.C. Whipple Dies: Got WWII Photo Published, Helping End Censorship Rule

Tuesday, 19 Mar 2013 08:06 AM

By Michael Mullins

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A.B.C. “Cal” Whipple, a Pentagon correspondent for Life magazine who helped get a groundbreaking photograph published that showed dead American soldiers in World War II, died on Sunday of pneumonia. He was 94.

The photo, which was taken by George Strock in February 1943, showed three dead American soldiers after being killed in combat lying on Buna Beach in New Guinea. The photo was a first of its kind to be published during WW II, prior to which all dead American military personnel were shown in coffins, draped in American flags.

Whipple's determination to have the photo released, showing the terrible reality of the war, led him though the military ranks, with his request eventually winding up on the desk of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who approved its release. The photo was published by Time-Life Magazine in September of that year.

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In a 1986 interview Whipple, who claimed the photo by Strock was his favorite, said: "I had to go over to the Pentagon and really beat on the censors. And that took a lot of negotiating on the part of a lot of people at Life who were trying to get that picture cleared."

According to Whipple's son Chris, the photo boosted support for the war, had a lasting effect on photo journalism and effectively ended the censorship rule during the war, reported The Associated Press.

"I think that he felt this was a watershed in the course of the war," Chris Whipple said. "I think that he felt that in his own way he had made a real contribution. I think he thought it was a special achievement and probably the most important thing he did as a journalist."

When it initially published the photo, Time-Life accompanied the print with the question: "Why print this picture, anyway, of three American boys dead upon an alien shore?"

Its answer: "Words are never enough . . . Words do not exist to make us see, or know, or feel what it is like, what actually happens."

At the time the image was published, Roosevelt believed that Americans had grown complacent and wished to instill a greater resolve among his countrymen to win the war. Following the magazines lead, other publications soon followed suit and published similar photos that showed the harsh, dismal reality that is war, reported Time-Life Magazine.

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The Connecticut-born Whipple went on to become executive editor of Time-Life Books and wrote more than a dozen books about maritime history, reported the AP.

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