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William Manchester
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William Manchester

William Manchester (April 1, 1922June 1, 2004) was a historian and biographer notable as the author of 18 books that have been translated into 20 languages.

Manchester was the son of a WWI Marine, and grew up in Attleboro, Massachusetts. He enlisted and served as a Marine himself in the Pacific theater after the attack on Pearl Harbor. (He later wrote of WWII in a number of his books, including his second of a planned three part biography of Winston Churchill, a biography of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and a very personal account of his experiences, Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War.)

He received a B.A from the University of Massachusetts in 1946 and a master's degree from the University of Missouri in 1947. He worked as a reporter for the Daily Oklahoman and Baltimore Sun. He published his first book, a biography of H. L. Mencken, in 1951, then followed it up with a novel two years later.

In 1955 Manchester became an editor for Wesleyan University and spent the rest of his career there, later becoming an adjunct professor of history and writer-in-residence there.

He remarked that the generation coming of age in the 1950s were "withdrawn, cautious, unimaginative, indifferent, unadventurous and silent", helping to cement the generational moniker Silent Generation.

Following the death of his wife in 1998, Manchester suffered two strokes, and announced, to the disappointment of many of his readers, that he would not be able to complete the previously planned third volume of his three part biography of Churchill.

Controversy over the Kennedy book

Jacqueline Kennedy originally filed suit to prevent the publication of Manchester's Death of a President, a work that she had previously authorized. The suit was resolved in 1967; it was reported that Manchester dropped certain passages dealing with details of Kennedy family life. Satirist Paul Krassner published a piece at that time entitled "The Parts Left Out of the Kennedy Book", which gained national attention by imagining censored material of a far more scandalous nature than anything that could possibly have been the case.