A.B.C. Whipple dies: LIFE editor pushed publication of WWII casualty photo

Posted By GABRIELLE LEVY, UPI.com  |  Updated March 19, 2013 at 4:12 PM
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It took A.B.C. Whipple more than six months to convince the military to allow Life Magazine to print the photo, but when he did, the image changed photojournalism -- and the course of World War II -- forever.

'Cal' Whipple, who was a Pentagon correspondent for Life in 1943, died Sunday of pneumonia in Connecticut at the age of 94.

Whipple was a reporter for Life and an executive editor of Time-Life Books, but he will undoubtedly be best remembered for his efforts to get a photograph of three dead American soldiers on a beach in New Guinea published in the September 20, 1943 issue of the magazine.

Up until the Buna Beach photo, taken by George Strock in February 1943, American dead were only shown in flag-draped coffins in American media. But Whipple pressed on, and up, ultimately getting the issue before President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who allowed the photo published.

Roosevelt relented, in part, to stave off complacency on the home front.

"I had to go over to the Pentagon and really beat on the censors," Whipple said in a 1986 interview. "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."

Chris Whipple, who confirmed his father's passing, said his father felt the photograph was a turning point.

"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."

At the time of publication, Life printed the photograph opposite a full-page editorial explaining the decision.

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

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