- Byliner Original
Men have always fought. And, like no other magazine, Esquire has always chronicled war.
Writing in 1943, Lieutenant J.K. Taussig, Jr., who commanded antiaircraft batteries on the USS Nevada, chronicled the bombing of Pearl Harbor. “We were low on matches and I think somewhat more worried about running out of them, than about damage done to the ship.” Taussig was writing from the U.S. Naval Hospital in Newport, Rhode Island. Four inches of his leg had been crushed in the attack and he was still recuperating a year later. “Bombing seems to affect men this way,” he wrote. “Little things become very important.”
Two decades later, John Sack, one the original New Journalists, literally invented what the Department of Defense came to call “embedded journalism.” In his 33,000-word “M,” he followed a single Army company from basic training at Fort Dix to their first combat in the jungle of South Vietnam. The story, the longest ever printed in Esquire, filled nearly the entire October 1966 issue, and, abetted by the cover of that issue—the words “Oh my God—we hit a little girl” in stark white letters on an all-black background—it became emblematic of the war and what war journalism could be. Timely. Shocking. Compassionate. Extremely detailed and extremely close.
Sack set the stage for Michael Herr, whose “Hell Sucks,” about Vietnam after the Tet Offensive, formed the foundation of what became one of the greatest books written about that war, Dispatches. Decades later, fighting an e...