CORVALLIS - Oregon native Ralph Barnes was an eyewitness to history, seeing the rise of Hitler in Germany, the reign of Mussolini in Italy, and the iron-fisted rule of Stalin in Russia. The New York Herald Tribune reporter also became the first U.S. foreign correspondent to die in combat in World War II.
His extraordinary life is captured in a new book by the Oregon State University Press called "Dispatches and Dictators: Ralph Barnes for the Herald Tribune."
Written by Wilsonville resident Barbara S. Mahoney, the book provides new insights into the tumultuous decade that led up to WWII. It also offers an intimate account of one family's experience with the risks, hardships and separations that belie the romantic popular image of the foreign correspondent, said Tom Booth, marketing manager for the OSU Press.
"Ralph Barnes lived and reported in an era unsurpassed for its complexity and peril," Booth said. "He was a journalist during a time when Americans relied almost exclusively on newspapers to find out what was going on. As a foreign correspondent, he saw his role as providing the best possible information about events and their background and, just as important, about the lives of the people in the countries where he worked."
Throughout the 1930s, Barnes served in Paris, Rome, Moscow, Berlin and London, making him one of the few foreign correspondents to have experienced that turbulent era in all five major capitals.
Barnes also was the first U.S. reporter to interview Charles Lindbergh after his historic flight; the first reporter to suggest that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union would become enemies; and the first U.S. correspondent to die in WWII.
He was 42 years old when he died in the 1940 crash of a British bomber in Yugoslavia. At the time of his death, he was among the most famous and respected journalists in the world.
The author Mahoney is senior vice president for development for the Oregon Health & Science University Foundation. She has a Ph.D. in European history from Saint Louis University.
"Dispatches and Dictators" is available in libraries and bookstores, or can be ordered by calling 1-800-426-3797.