Heimann, Judith M. 1936- (Judith Moscow Heimann)

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Heimann, Judith M. 1936- (Judith Moscow Heimann)


Born March 1, 1936, in New York, NY; daughter of Warren and Esther Moscow; married John Paul Heimann (a diplomat), June 9, 1956; children: J. Paul, Mary Elizabeth. Education: Harvard University, A.B., 1957.


Home—Washington, DC; Brussels, Belgium.


Foreign Area Studies Program, American University, Washington, DC, researcher, 1968-72; U.S. Embassy, Brussels, Belgium, vice consul, 1972-75, as- sistant attache, 1975-78; U.S. Embassy, Kinshasa, Zaire, second secretary, 1978-80; U.S. Mission to the European Economic Community (EEC), Brussels, Belgium, first secretary, 1980-84; EEC political affairs, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC, officer-in-charge, 1984-86; U.S. Consulate, Bordeaux, France, consul general, 1987-91; Indochinese refugee program, U.S. Embassy, Manila, coordinator, 1991-92.


Honorary Phi Beta Kappa, 2007.


Meritorious Honor, 1986, Award for Valor, 1991, U.S. State Department; honorary Phi Beta Kappa, 2007.


(With others) Area Handbook for Indonesia March 1970, [Washington, DC], 1970.

The Most Offending Soul Alive: Tom Harrisson and His Remarkable Life, University of Hawaii Press (Honolulu, HI), 1999.

The Airmen and the Headhunters: A True Story of Lost Soldiers, Heroic Tribesmen, and the Unlikeliest Rescue of World War II, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2007.


Judith M. Heimann retired as a career diplomat in 1992 and spent the next several years researching and writing The Most Offending Soul Alive: Tom Harrisson and His Remarkable Life, a biography of Harrisson (1911-1976), a controversial figure whom Heimann first met in Borneo. Harrisson was a pioneering explorer, ornithologist, sociologist, ethnologist, anthropologist, author, museum curator, filmmaker, and soldier. Heimann also notes that he was an arrogant drunk, a bully, and a horrible husband and father. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "Heimann's mesmerizing account of Harrisson's wartime exploits reads like an international thriller." The reviewer felt that Heimann honestly addresses Harrisson's darker side, but added that he "emerges … as a forerunner of the contemporary movement to preserve local cultures and ecosystems."

Harrisson's 1937 best seller, Savage Civilization, portrays the natives of the Oceanic islands of New Hebrides as being exploited by the white colonists. During the late 1930s he cofounded Mass Observation, a group that surveyed British citizens and compiled information useful to the British government in determining responses to the war against Nazi Germany. In 1945, he parachuted into Borneo behind Japanese lines, set up an intelligence network, recruited guerrillas, and formed an army of headhunters who used blow pipes in killing and capturing 1,500 Japanese before the Allied landings. Harrisson's great passion was the rights of indigenous peoples and protection of native animal species. Harrisson brought endangered green sea turtles through their juvenile stage in his bathroom and raised several orangutans as though they were members of the family. Heimann notes that he could sometimes be seen driving drunkenly with one of the animals waving from the passenger window.

An Economist reviewer wrote that "much of the honour he deserved evaded him, partly through his own failings and the vengeance of his enemies, and partly because the complexities of his life would daunt most biographers. Judith Heimann has done her subject a signal service." Library Journal reviewer Glenn Peterson called the book "a pleasure to read as pure biography" but added that it would also be useful to those interested in the ethnography of Southeast Asia or the history of opinion research. "She writes persuasively and entertainingly about what Harrisson did that makes him worth reading about," commented a Harvard magazine reviewer. Taipei Times contributor Bradley Winterton called the work "an excellent biography," adding: "It's manifestly painstaking and thorough, and refuses to take sides on ideological issues such as the rights and wrongs of colonialism." Likewise, Margot Cohen, writing in Far Eastern Economic Review, wrote that Heimann "not only displays a talent for thorough research and lively prose but also a sensitivity to the gender politics that permeated both Harrisson's personal and professional spheres." In fact, Harrisson's one-time friend and colleague William Solheim wrote in Asian Perspectives: "Her book is what I feel is a very accurate, well-written and enjoyable picture of Tom Harrisson. This is the first time this has been done for a man who was and will remain a very important person in the development of archaeology in Southeast Asia…. It amazes me how well Heimann is able to present this very offending side of Tom without turning the reader against him." Booklist contributor Joe Collins concluded that Harrisson is "a deeply flawed but brilliant protagonist—and one that anyone who delves into this book won't soon forget."

In The Airmen and the Headhunters: A True Story of Lost Soldiers, Heroic Tribesmen, and the UnlikeliestRescue of World War II, Heimann recounts the true story of eleven American airmen who were shot down in their B-24 bomber, Lucky Strike, over Borneo during World War II. Landing in a mountainous region in the country's northern section that was controlled by the Japanese, the survivors struggled to remain hidden and safe. The local tribe, known as the Lun Dayeh, strove to assist the Americans even as they fought the Japanese invaders into their homeland. Because the Japanese forces were so strong and cruel, a number of the Lun Dayeh revived the ancient practice of headhunting, something they had long ago culled out of their traditions. However, in the face of the Japanese aggressors, the Lun Dayeh changed their minds and embraced headhunting as a means of protecting those around them and remaining strong against the invasion. The book depicts the long trek through the jungle and the struggle the Americans experienced in their efforts to survive. Roland Green, writing for Booklist, declared that "career diplomat Heimann has unearthed a first-class World War II thriller." A contributor for Kirkus Reviews found Heimann's effort to be "a fascinating anthropology lesson, delivered with the bonus of a dramatic adventure and a happy ending."



Asian Perspectives, Volume 39, 2000, William Solheim, review of The Most Offending Soul Alive: Tom Harrisson and His Remarkable Life.

Booklist, November 15, 1999, Joe Collins, review of The Most Offending Soul Alive, p. 583; September 15, 2007, Roland Green, review of The Airmen and the Headhunters: A True Story of Lost Soldiers, Heroic Tribesmen, and the Unlikeliest Rescue of World War II, p. 17.

Economist, February 19, 2000, review of The Most Offending Soul Alive, p. 11.

Far Eastern Economic Review, June 1, 2000, Margot Cohen, "Ode to an Enigma."

Harvard, July-August, 2000, review of The Most Offending Soul Alive, p. 26.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2007, review of The Airmen and the Headhunters.

Library Journal, December, 1999, Glenn Peterson, review of The Most Offending Soul Alive, p. 148.

Publishers Weekly, November 29, 1999, review of The Most Offending Soul Alive, p. 64.

Taipei Times, October 8, 2000, Bradley Winterton, "A European Explorer Loses Himself in Asia."