Edward Samuel Behr, foreign correspondent and war journalist, Died at 81


Edward Samuel Behr died on the 27th of May 2007 in Paris at the age of 81; he was a foreign correspondent and war journalist, who worked for many years for Newsweek.

Born on the 7th of May 1926, his early career as a reporter was with Reuters in London and Paris.

He then became press officer with Jean Monnet at the European Coal and Steel Community in Luxembourg from 1954 to 1956.

Later he joined Time-Life as Paris correspondent, and in the late 1950s and early 1960s often covered the fighting in the Congo, the civil war in Lebanon as well as the Indo-Chinese border clashes of 1962.

He wrote about the unrest in Ulster, the fighting in Angola and the Moroccan attack on Ifni, the Spanish enclave in West Africa.

Operating from Hong Kong as Asia bureau chief, Behr wrote on China’s Cultural Revolution, secured an interview with Mao Zedong and reported from Vietnam.

The year 1968 turned out to be a hectic one for Behr: he was in Saigon during the Tet offensive, in Paris for the student riots and in Prague when it was occupied by the Russians.

Behr turned gradually from a career in war reporting to writing books and making television documentaries, including award-winning programmes on India, Ireland and the Kennedy family.

A notable production was The American Way of Death, Behr’s look at America’s undertaking industry.

During his years roaming the globe, Mr. Behr covered wars in Algeria, Angola, Congo, Vietnam, Lebanon and Northern Ireland. From Hong Kong, he wrote about China’s Cultural Revolution.

He went to Cuba shortly after the 1962 missile crisis. And in 1968 alone, he covered the Tet offensive in Vietnam, the student riots in Paris and the Soviet occupation of Prague.

Among Mr. Behr’s 19 books are biographies of Emperor Hirohito of Japan, the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and Pu Yi, the last emperor of China. His biographical conclusions were sometimes controversial.

In “Hirohito: Behind the Myth” (Villard Books, 1989), he wrote that Japan’s emperor from 1926 to 1989 had not been the pacifist portrayed by his post-World War II image.

Mr. Behr said the emperor knew about the Nanking massacres in 1937, played a part in planning the attack on Pearl Harbor and failed to seize opportunities to surrender before the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The emperor “escaped the consequences of his actions with total impunity,” Mr. Behr wrote.

In 1978 he published his memoirs.

Memorably entitled Anyone Here Been Raped and Speaks English?, it was retitled more blandly for the American market as Bearings: A Foreign Correspondent’s Life Behind the Lines.