Neil Sheehan Dies: Pulitzer Prize Winner & New York Times Journalist Who Obtained Pentagon Papers Was 84

Neil Sheehan, a Pulitzer Prize winner and the New York Times journalist who obtained the Pentagon Papers, has died.

His wife, Susan Sheehan, told the New York Times that he died Thursday due to complications of Parkinson’s disease in in his Washington home. He was 84.

Born on Oct. 27, 1936 in Holyoke, Massachussetts, Sheehan graduated from Harvard and began his reporting career as Army journalist. For the New York Times and United Press International, Sheehan chronicled the events of the Vietnam War.

Sheehan, however is most known for reporting on the Pentagon Papers, which revealed U.S. involvement in Vietnam ordered by the Department of Defense. Military analyst Daniel Ellsberg granted Sheehan access the critical documents in 1971, which exposed the truth about American involvement about the war and set off legal retaliation from the Nixon Administration.

After the bombshell report, Sheehan focused his attention on his novel, A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. The book, which follows Vietnam veteran and Army officer Vann’s time in the war, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1989.

Shortly after, Sheehan published After The War Was Over in 1992. In 2009 he published A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon.

Sheehan’s journalistic work transcends the realm of news and has found itself represented multiple times in TV and film titles.

In Steven Spielberg’s The Post, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks revisit the Washington Post amid NYT’s Pentagon Paper leaks. Justin Swain portrayed Sheehan in the Oscar-nominated film. The Emmy-nominated The Pentagon Papers also sees Jonas Chernick as the late journalist.


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