Who is Susan Sheehan? How Pentagon Papers reporter Neil Sheehan's wife helped him in the top-secret mission

A Pulitzer Award-winning writer, Susan Sheehan was instrumental in helping her late husband, Neil Sheehan, obtain the Pentagon Papers


                            Who is Susan Sheehan? How Pentagon Papers reporter Neil Sheehan's wife helped him in the top-secret mission
Susan Sheehan(Vinatage), Neil Sheehan (Getty Images)

One of the prime examples of investigative journalism, the Pentagon Papers saw the press take on the Richard Nixon administration head-on in the 1970s. The 7,000 odd pages of highly classified government documents on the Vietnam war was brought to light by Neil Sheehan, a journalist with The New York Times. Neil, who was a former Vietnam War correspondent and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, went to great lengths to make the papers public knowledge, carrying out a risky expose that could've not only ended his career but also jeopardized the safety of his source, had the information been leaked. Neil, who passed away at age 84 on January 7, is survived by his wife, Susan Sheehan and their two daughters. He was suffering from Parkinson's disease. 

Who is Susan Sheehan?

Neil's wife, Susan, was born in Vienna, Austria. A prolific writer herself, she has won a Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1983 for her work 'Is There No Place on Earth For Me?'. The book chronicles the experiences of a young woman in New York City diagnosed with schizophrenia. Her husband was also a Pulitzer Award winner, for his work 'A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann' and 'America in Vietnam', in the general non-fiction category. Susan was instrumental in helping her husband obtain the Pentagon Papers, seeing that his source was against him photocopying the confidential documents. She was also a reporter with The New Yorker at the time. When faced with the crucial decision of whether he should photocopy those documents in order to blow the government's cover, she reportedly told him: “If I were you, I’d get control of that situation", with regard to the fact that his source had strictly forbidden it.

She also flew down to Boston, in order to help her husband create copies of the 7,000 pages in the most discreet manner possible, which proved to be both, a highly risky and daunting task as was mentioned in a recently published by The New Yorker. The story of how Neil obtained the papers was only just revealed post his demise, seeing that he had strictly chosen not to tell the story of the same and promised that this information would only be made public post his death.

Susan has written for multiple publications

Susan wrote for The New Yorker as a staff writer, the same publication as her late husband. She's also written for The New York Times and Architectural Digest. Some of her most known works include 'A Missing Plane' a three-part series on the US Army's attempt to identify the victims of a 1944 plane crash for The New Yorker.

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