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John Hersey

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Hersey, a World War II correspondent who captured the horrors of the world’s first atomic bomb attack in his book “Hiroshima,” died yesterday. He was 78.

Hersey won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1945 for “A Bell for Adano,” his third book. It was followed by his celebrated account of the bombing of the Japanese city of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945.

He was felled by a stroke a year ago, and also suffered from cancer of the colon and liver, said Barbara Hersey, his wife of 35 years. His family was at his side when he died, she said.

His more than 20 books include “The Wall” (1950), “A Single Pebble” (1956), “The War Lover” (1959), “The Child Buyer” (1960), “The Algiers Motel Incident” ( 1968) and “Aspects of the Presidency” (1980).

His last book, “Antonietta,” published in 1991, tells the story of a Stradivarius violin, and Hersey inserted himself as a character.

“A Bell for Adano” told of the impact of American soldiers occupying an Italian village. It was written after he returned to the United States at the end of a stint covering the war in Africa and Italy.

It was made into a film of the same name in 1945, directed by Henry King and starring Gene Tierney, John Hodiak and William Bendix.

“Hiroshima” was originally written for the New Yorker, which devoted an entire issue to it in 1946. It came out in book form shortly thereafter.

“John Hersey’s writing about the moral problems in World War II was of the highest quality,” said author James Michener. “Those of us who participated in that war at any level recognize the gravity of what he was attempting.”

Judith Jones, his editor at Alfred A. Knopf for the past 15 years, said Hersey not only wrote, but fought for the rights of all authors and was active until the end.

“He was extraordinarily versatile, a wonderful story writer, a wonderful journalist,” she said. “He brought some of that journalistic ability to his novels.”

Hersey was born June 17, 1914, in China, the son of American missionaries. His parents returned to the United States when he was 10. He graduated from Yale University in 1936.

His first books were written while he was a correspondent for Time magazine, which assigned him to cover the situation in the Far East.

Among his early works were “Men on Bataan” and “Into the Valley.” The latter, about fighting on Guadalcanal, prompted The New York Times to hail “the birth of a new Hemingway.”

For many years, Hersey was associated with Yale University as a lecturer, adviser and professor. He retired in 1984.

He had four children with his first wife, Frances, and a fifth with his second wife, Barbara.

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