His most notable work was "Hiroshima," a story for The New Yorker about the effects of the atomic bomb dropped on that Japanese city on August 6, 1945. The article, which tells the story of six victims of the bombing, ran in its entirety in a single issue of The New Yorker, a precedent for the magazine. The article was later published as a book, and is often cited as one of the first examples of new journalism in its combining the elements of non-fiction reportage with the pace and devices of the novel. But the publication of "Hiroshima" in The New Yorker also caused a rift in Hersey's relationship with Henry Luce, the head of Time-Life and Hersey's first mentor, who felt that Hersey should have reported the event for Luce's magazine instead.
He also wrote the novel The Wall (1950) which gives a graphic account of the birth, development, and destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, the largest of the Jewish ghettos established by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust.
His article about the dullness of grammar school readers in a 1954 issue of Time was the inspiration for The Cat in the Hat. Further criticisms of the school system came with "The Child Buyer," a speculative-fiction novel. Hersey also wrote The Algiers Motel Incident, about racist killings by the police during the 12th Street Riot in Detroit, Michigan, in 1968, A Bell for Adano, which won the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1945. The novel was adapted into the 1945 film A Bell for Adano directed by Henry King starring John Hodiak and Gene Tierney. Hersey is also known for his pseudo-chronicle, A Single Pebble, about a young American engineer traversing upstream Yangtze.
Hersey was the Master of Pierson College, one of the twelve residential colleges at Yale University, from 1965 to 1970. He taught two writing courses, in fiction and non-fiction, to undergraduates. As Master of Pierson College, Hersey subsequently hosted his old boss Henry Luce when he spoke to the undergraduates.
A longtime resident of Vineyard Haven, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, Hersey died at home in Key West, Florida, on March 24, 1993 at the compound he and his wife shared with his friend writer Ralph Ellison. He was survived by his wife, Barbara (the former wife of Hersey's colleague at The New Yorker, artist Charles Addams), Hersey's five children, and six grandchildren.
On October 5, 2007, the United States Postal Service announced that it would honor five journalists of the 20th century times with first-class rate postage stamps, to be issued on Tuesday, April 22, 2008: Martha Gellhorn, John Hersey, George Polk, Ruben Salazar, and Eric Sevareid. Postmaster General Jack Potter announced the stamp series at the Associated Press Managing Editors Meeting in Washington. Hersey's "Hiroshima" described the effects of the atomic bomb dropped on Aug. 6, 1945. He also won the Pulitzer Prize for "A Bell for Adano."
Observing a solemn anniversary; Reading of John Hersey's ``Hiroshima'' marks 61 years since A-bomb destroyed city.(Capital Region)
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