Knebel, Fletcher

Born: October 1, 1911
Died: February 26, 1993

Ohio connection: Birth


Fletcher Knebel was born October 1, 1911, in Dayton, Ohio.  His middle-class childhood and education (B.A. 1934, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio) were followed by early success in journalism even in the depths of the 1930s depression.  He worked as a reporter in Coatsville, Pa., Chattanooga, Toledo, and Cleveland from 1934 to 1936 and in 1937 went to Washington as correspondent for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He served in the U.S. Navy, 1942-45 becoming a lieutenant.  After service as a naval officer in World War II, he joined the staff of Cowles Publications where he wrote for Look Magazine, the Des Moines Register and Tribune, and the Minneapolis Star and Tribune and also wrote a syndicated column, “Potomac Fever” and began a free-lance writing career in 1964.  Political journalist-turned-novelist, Fletcher Knebel wrote a number of adventure stories based on then current international events. His books have sold well in excess of six million copies with translations in thirty countries, and several of his best-known early works are still in print after some thirty years. At least twice in his writing career Knebel has stirred up the murky waters of Washington bureaucracy. In 1960, a few months after the publication of his and Charles W. Bailey’s nonfiction account of the bombing of Hiroshima, No High Ground, in which the authors drew on unpublished documents in the archives of the Manhattan Project, the State Department suspended public access to material in its archives, citing specifically a series of newspaper articles on the 1945 Potsdam Conference by Knebel and Bailey in the Des Moines Register and Tribune. In 1964, in spite of Knebel’s protests to a correspondent from Moscow’s Izvestia that Seven Days in May was “a piece of fiction, pure and simple,” the Soviet Ministry of Defense published a Russian translation of the novel with an introduction by Major General A. M. Shevchenko asserting that it was “profoundly realistic and politically timely.” The novel was also the subject of a highly successful motion picture in 1964. Knebel was married four times from 1935 to 1985. He committed suicide after a long bout with cancer, February 26, 1993, at his home in Honolulu, HI.

Sigma Delta Chi award for best magazine reporting, 1955; Ohioana Book Award, 1966, for Night of Camp David; D.L., Miami University, 1964; D.LL., Drake University, 1968.