Neil Sheehan

Neil Sheehan

Cornelius Mahoney "Neil" Sheehan (born October 27, 1936) is an American journalist. As a reporter for The New York Times in 1971, Sheehan obtained the classified Pentagon Papers from Daniel Ellsberg. His series in the Times revealed a secret U.S. Department of Defense history of the Vietnam War and resulted in government attempts to halt publication. The resulting case, New York Times Co. v. United States (403 U.S. 713), saw the Supreme Court reject the government's position, and became a landmark First Amendment decision. This exposé would earn The New York Times a Pulitzer Prize.


Life and career

Born on a farm in Holyoke, Massachusetts, Sheehan graduated from Mount Hermon School (later Northfield Mount Hermon) and Harvard University with a B.A. in 1958, served in the U.S. Army from 1959 to 1962. In 1962 he began working at the United Press International's Tokyo bureau, and spent the next two years covering the war in Vietnam as UPI's bureau chief. In 1963, during the Buddhist crisis, he and David Halberstam debunked the claim by the regime of Ngo Dinh Diem that the Army of the Republic of Vietnam regular forces had perpetrated the Xa Loi Pagoda raids, which the American authorities initially believed, and that instead the Special Forces loyal to Diem's brother Ngo Dinh Nhu had done so to frame the army generals.

In 1964 he joined The New York Times. He worked the city desk before returning to the Far East to report from Indonesia and then to spend another year in Vietnam. In the fall of 1966 he became the newspaper's Pentagon correspondent and in 1968 began reporting on the White House. He was a correspondent on political, diplomatic and military affairs. In 1971 he obtained the Pentagon Papers for the Times.

In the New York Times Book Review, December 27, 1970, he claimed that Conversations With Americans by Mark Lane was a collection of Vietnam war crime stories with some obvious flaws which the author had not verified. Sheehan called for a more thorough and scholarly work to be done on the war crimes being committed in Vietnam.[1]

He was awarded a nonfiction Pulitzer Prize in 1989 and a National Book Award for A Bright Shining Lie about the life of Lieutenant Colonel John Paul Vann and the United States involvement during the Vietnam War. (The book was published by Random House and edited by Robert Loomis.)[2]

His wife, Susan Sheehan, also was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1983 for Is There No Place On Earth For Me?

As of 2009, Sheehan lived in Washington D.C.


  • The Pentagon Papers as published by the New York Times, 1971
  • The Arnheiter Affair, 1972
  • A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. 861 pp. New York: Random House. 1988
  • After the War Was Over, 1992
  • A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon, 2009


  1. ^ Review of Conversations With Americans, The New York Times Book Review, December 27, 1970 by Neil Sheehan
  2. ^ Smith, Dinitia (2007-01-23). "A career in letters, 50 years and counting". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-14. 

External links

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