Gordon Prange

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Professor Prange teaching his history class at the University of Maryland in 1964

Gordon William Prange (July 16, 1910 – May 15, 1980) was the author of several World War II-historical manuscripts which were published by his co-workers after his death in 1980. Prange was a Professor of History at the University of Maryland from 1937 to 1980 with a break of nine years (1942–1951) of military service overseas, and in the postwar era of military occupation of Japan, when he was the Chief Historian in General Douglas MacArthur's staff.[1] It was during this time that Prange collected material from and interviewed many Japanese military officers, enlisted men, and civilians, with the information later being used in the writing of his books. Several became New York Times bestsellers, including At Dawn We Slept and Miracle at Midway.

The University of Maryland's Web site contains this information about Prange:

"Gordon W. Prange was born in Pomeroy, Iowa, on July 16, 1910. He studied at the University of Iowa, receiving his Ph.D. in 1937. That same year, he began his teaching career as a professor of history at the University of Maryland. In 1942, he was granted a leave of absence from the University to embark on a wartime career as an officer in the United States Navy. He was sent to Japan in 1945 as a member of the American Occupation Forces. He completed his Navy service soon thereafter, but continued in Japan as a civilian from 1946 to 1951 as the chief of General Douglas MacArthur's 100-person historical staff. When censorship of the Japanese media by Allied Forces was lifted in 1949 and the Civil Censorship Detachment disestablished, Prange, recognizing the historical significance of the CCD material, arranged for its shipment to the University of Maryland. The materials arrived at the University in 1950. On September 15, 1978, the Board of Regents of the University of Maryland passed a motion to name the collection the "Gordon W. Prange Collection: The Allied Presence in Japan, 1945-1952."

Prange continued to teach at the University of Maryland until several months before his death on May 15, 1980. He is still remembered by alumni as one of the University's truly great teachers, and is well known today for major works on the war in the Pacific, particularly At Dawn We Slept, The Untold Story Of Pearl Harbor.

The Terrapin, the University of Maryland's yearbook, said of his World War I and World War II history lectures in 1964:

Students flock to his class and sit enraptured as he animates the pages of
twentieth century European history through his goosesteps, "Sieg Heils",
"Achtungs", machine gun retorts, and frantic gestures.[2]

Prange's 1963 Tora! Tora! Tora!, published in the October and November issues of Reader's Digest, and later expanded into At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story Of Pearl Harbor, portrayed the attack on Pearl Harbor, and is credited as the basis for the screenplay of the film Tora! Tora! Tora!, which was produced in 1970, while Prange took a leave of absence from the University of Maryland to serve as the technical consultant during its filming. His extensive research into the attack on Pearl Harbor was the subject of a Public Broadcasting Service television program in 2000, "Prange and Pearl Harbor: A Magnificent Obsession", and was acclaimed "a definitive book on the event" by The Washington Post.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Gordon William Prange was born on July 16, 1910, in Pomeroy, Iowa. His father was Al, a blacksmith and his wife Johanna.[4] He had one older brother Russell. He attended Pomeroy High School where he excelled in baseball and track athletics. He was also known as the class clown.[4] He graduated form Pomeroy in 1928 and enrolled at the University of Iowa intending to become a coach, but switched to history. He obtained his Bachelor's degree, his Masters in 1934, and Doctorate in 1937. He studied at the University of Berlin in 1935 to 1936, during which he said: "I saw Hitler operate firsthand and heard him speak a number of times,"[4]


In 1937 he married Anne Root, a professor's daughter from Iowa City. They had two daughters and a son. They moved to Maryland where Prange took employment as a history instructor at the University of Maryland.[4]


Prange died on May 15, 1980 in Baltimore, Maryland from cancer. He was 69. 'Prange Park' in Pomeroy is named after him.[4]

Selected bibliography[edit]

All below by Gordon W. Prange, with Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon:


  1. ^ "Press Release: February 20, 2002 Exhibit of UM Prange Materials To Open at Hornbake Library". University of Maryland Libraries. Archived from the original on 23 Jun 2012. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  2. ^ Terrapin 1964. University of Maryland Yearbook. 
  3. ^ "What to Watch". The Washington Post. December 3, 2006. Retrieved 2007-12-10. 
  4. ^ a b c d e http://data.desmoinesregister.com/famous-iowans/gordon-w-prange

External links[edit]