Toland, John (Willard) 1912-2004

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TOLAND, John (Willard) 1912-2004

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born June 29, 1912, in La Crosse, WI; died of pneumonia, January 4, 2004, in Danbury, CT. Historian and author. Toland was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of best-selling history books. After earning a B.A. from Williams College in 1936, he attended the Yale University School of Drama for a year with the aspiration of becoming a playwright. He struggled to make a living for several years, having no luck selling his manuscripts, and then, with the onset of World War II, joined the U.S. Army Air Force Special Services, obtaining the rank of captain. After the war, he diligently returned to his original plan to become an author, writing plays, short stories, and novels, again with no success. To earn an income, he turned to journalism, writing for such magazines as Coronet and American Magazine. His first book, Ships in the Sky, finally saw the light in 1957. Finding himself to be adept at writing history, Toland set to work, releasing such books as Battle: The Story of the Bulge (1959), The Dillinger Days (1963), and the Pulitzer-winning The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945 (1970). As a historian, Toland was notable for conducting hundreds of interviews as research for his books; many of his subjects were survivors of World War II. Toland's interview technique won him particular praise with 1976's Hitler: The Definitive Biography, which many critics called the best biography of the Nazi leader up to that time. The historian became somewhat controversial, however, with his Infamy: Pearl Harbor and Its Aftermath (1982), in which he suggested that President Roosevelt had foreknowledge of the Japanese attack but did nothing to prevent it for political reasons, a position that many historians disputed. Toland was also the author of the autobiography Captured by History: One Man's Vision of Our Tumultuous Century (1997), the novels Gods of War (1985) and Occupation (1987), and the children's history books The Flying Tigers (1963) and The Battle of the Bulge (1966), among many other works.



Chicago Tribune, January 6, 2004, section 3, p. 13.

Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2004, p. B11.

New York Times, January 7, 2004, p. C12.

Times January 12, 2004.

Washington Post, January 6, 2004, p. B5.