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Ward Swift Just Papers

Identifier: 1990-34

Collection Scope

Ward Swift Just's papers document his early career in the family business of newspaper journalism and his occupational shift from reporter of the news to author of novels, two non-fiction books, and short stories. A 2021 addition to his papers add significantly more material from Just's Vietnam War reporting and a more complete set of his working drafts of his books.

Five series in the collection include: professional, personal, and Vietnam War correspondence; research, reporting and journalism material; literay output, from juvenelia and early short stories to working drafts of most of his manuscripts; audio-visual materials (mostly photo prints and negatives); and ephemera and realia.

Series I: Correspondence

Contains a mix of personal and professional correspondence, including editorial correspondence with news and literary editors and mail from readers of Just's articles and books. Most of the series are letters written to Just, though there are folders of letters from him to his mother, Mrs. F. Ward Just, and to his sister Joy Steiner, beginning with Just's letters home from Cranbrook from 1951-1953. A later run of letters is also from Ward Just, saved by his friends Ann Pincus and Walter Pincus.

Series II: Vietnam

Documents Just's reporting from the war in Vietnam, including correspondence, notes, notebooks and ephemera, mostly from December 1955 through 1967. Many of Just’s Vietnam correspondents have additional letters in Series I. One exception is U.S. Army colonel David Hackworth's letters (1968-1987 and undated), kept together to reflect Just's original organization. Most of the photographic prints and negatives from Just's Vietnam War papers, plus three small boxes of related slides, are in Series V, however some snapshots remain with Hackworth's correspondence.

Series III: Reporting

Materials related to Ward Just's journalism career. These include daily news and investigative magazine pieces as well as features, reviews, and a short memoir. Formats include: typescript article drafts and tear sheets; some editorial correspondence; notepads and datebooks; clippings including those donated to Cranbrook by Ward Just's mother, Mrs. F. Ward [Elizabeth, "Betty"] Just; a scrapbook and scrapbook pages; full copies of magazines and newspapers. A few folders contain related personal, news, or the family news business materials.

Series IV: Literary

The largest series, it contains: miscellaneous literary papers, awards, some books, and realia; short stories; and manuscripts and books authored by Just, including related files, like reviews, that Ward just kept about each of his books. A small number of photographs are filed with early short story manuscripts. Most but not all of Just's novels and other books (includes Just's two reported, non-fiction books) are represented in some form, many in multiple drafts, documenting his writing and rewriting process. This series also includes one of the many typewriters Just used during his writing career

Series V: Audio Visual

Contains photographic prints, mostly 35 mm black and white photographic negatives, slides, and audio and video recordings.

Materials primarily illuminate Just's time in Vietnam and Ireland, centering on Just's reporting on the Vietnam War for The Washington Post from 1966-1967. These images include U.S. soldiers, combat scenes, Vietnamese villagers and at least one prisoner of war, other war reporters, and (separate) press events with General Nguyen Cao Ky and William Westmoreland. There are prints of Ward Just injured on the battlefield by a grenade in June, 1966, vacations, and Just's time in Glin, Ireland writing his war memoir, To What End. Some of the Ireland images show Frances FitzGerald and film director John Huston.

In addition, there is a small amount of family photographs, as well as literary portraits or documentation of American and European events in which he participated in the 1970s-2010s.

Folders in this series may be designated SENSITIVE because they contain imagery of war casualties, or RESTRICTED due to poor physical condition.


  • 1940 - 2019


Language of Materials

Most papers are in English. There are French translations of a few articles (Series III) and a manuscript of one novel (Series IV). There are some Vietnamese news clippings and ephemera in Series II. One book in Series IV is a published translation in Portuguese.”


Access to the collection is unrestricted, with a few exceptions due to value, physical condition, or federal classified status. The transcript and recording copies of Just's 1982 interview with the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library must be accessed from that library due to donor imposed restrictions.


Copyright and exclusive licensing of materials in this collection has been retained by the donors and their heirs. Permission to use collection materials for non-educational purposes must be requested in writing.


Ward Swift Just was an award-winning American journalist and author. His family background in news and politics and own early career as a news reporter, covering war and politics, informed his short stories and novels.

The son and grandson of newspaper publishers, Ward Swift Just was born 5 Sep 1935, in Michigan City, Indiana, and grew up in Waukegan and Lake Forest, Illinois. His father, F. Ward Just, was the publisher of the Waukegan News-Sun. His mother, Elizabeth Swift Just, was a granddaughter of Chicago Mayor George B. Swift. Ward Just had one sibling, Joy (Just) Steiner.

After graduating from Cranbrook School in 1953 he attended Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1957 he returned to the Midwest and took his first job as a reporter for The News-Sun. Between 1959 and 1965 Just wrote for a variety of news sources, including The Reporter, then for Newsweek’s offices in Chicago, Washington D.C., New York City, and London. After working for Newsweek covering foreign conflicts in Cyprus and the Dominican Republic, Just was hired by editor Ben Bradlee to join the staff of The Washington Post. Soon, Just was sent to Saigon as a Vietnam War correspondent. From December of 1965 to May of 1967, the Post published close to 400 of Just's articles, often on the front page. He was seriously wounded by a North Vietnamese grenade attack in June, 1966, while accompanying an American commando-reconnaissance patrol that came under heavy attack. After his recovery in Washington, D.C., Just returned to Saigon. He planned, with fellow war reporter Frances FitzGerald, to go to Ireland. He left Saigon in May, 1967. In Ireland, Just wrote To What End: Report from Vietnam, which was widely cited as helping the nation understand the futility of the war.

On his return to the United States, Just covered the 1968 presidential campaigns of Eugene McCarthy and Richard Nixon for the Washington Post, then joined their editorial board but he did not stay for long. Taking a leave of absence in 1969, Just moved to Vermont to write his first novel, A Soldier of the Revolution, then researched and wrote Military Men, both books published in 1970. From 1971-1973 The Atlantic Monthly published nine short stories by Just, collected as The Congressman Who Loved Flaubert and Other Washington Stories (1973). Just continued to write about war and politics. He became a contributing editor for The Atlantic Monthly which published several more of his short stories and two novellas. They appeared later as a collection, Honor, Power, Riches, Fame, and the Love of Women in 1979. In Just's 1978 novel, A Family Trust, the location shifted back to the American Midwest and concerns a family-owned newspaper that is moving into the third generation. It is heavily based on his early experiences with the family newspaper.

Throughout his writing career, Ward Just continued to explore themes of power, politics, love, and family. Most of his books were novels, but he continued publishing short stories, and experimented with screen scripts and a one-act stage play. He never returned to live in Illinois, though he commuted there from the East Coast for some time to serve as publisher for the News-Sun until the Just family sold their stake in the paper in 1983-1984. Leaving the daily news business, Just and Sarah Catchpole lived part-time in Paris for years, the rest of the time at their home on Martha's Vineyard. Over the years, Just stayed in contact with many members of his formative, Vietnam milieu, including FitzGerald, reporter Martha Gellhorn and U.S. Col. David Hackworth. Just wrote introductions to books about both Gellhorn and Hackworth.

Ward Just was married three times: to Jean Ramsay in 1957, to Anne Burling in 1967, and to Sarah Catchpole in 1983. He has two daughters, Jennifer Ramsay and Julia Barnett, by his first wife and one son, Ian Ward, by his second. Just passed away at the age of 84 on December 19, 2019 in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Source: "Ward Just, 84, dies." New York Times, Dec. 23, 2019


46.2 Linear Feet (33.5 MS, 24 SB, 2 OS) ; 2 OS: one negative box, one 20x24x5"

163.2 Megabytes (13 files) : Files are JPEGs.


A 1953 graduate of Cranbrook School, Ward Swift Just (1935-2019) was an American writer of 24 books. He began his career in journalism, as a reporter, Vietnam War correspondent and editorialist. Born into a family of newspaper publishers, Just wrote for Newsweek, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic Monthly, among other media outlets. Then he began publishing short stories and novels, although two of his earliest books were non-fiction and he continued to publish journalism, short memoir, and introductions to books by others. Just was celebrated as a Washington, D.C. novelist. In 1997, his novel Echo House was a finalist for the National Book Award; A Dangerous Friend received the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for fiction from the Society of American Historians in 2001; and An Unfinished Season was the winner of the Chicago Tribune Heartland Award and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005. In 2013 Just was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His final novel, The Eastern Shore, was published in 2016. His inside perspective on government, war and international relations informed his creative work, however his books and short stories take place in a variety of locations, outside the United States or in the American Midwest.

The Ward Swift Just Papers document his early career in the family business of newspaper journalism and his occupational shift from reporter of the news to author of novels, two non-fiction books, and short stories. A 2021 addition to his papers add significantly more material from Just's Vietnam War reporting and a more complete set of his working drafts of his books. His papers contain research and notes, correspondence, books reviews, diaries, calendars, notebooks, scrapbooks, souvenirs, and many creative writing documents: from drafts and editors' feedback to printer's galleys and published copies of a few of Just’s books.


The papers are arranged to follow Ward Just's work as a news writer, war correspondent and author. They are organized in five series, focused on different aspects of his work. These are: Series I: Correspondence (Box 1-10), Series II: Vietnam (Box 11-14), Series III: Reporting (Box 15-28), Series IV: Literary (Box 29-57), and Series V: Audio-Visual (Box 58-60).

Series I: Correspondence is alphabetized by sender's surname or institution name, or by type of correspondence: publishing and general. Folders are further arranged chronologically.

Series II: Vietnam is arranged in alphabetical order by type of document. Correspondence is further divided alphabetically by sender's surname or type.

Series III: Materials are arranged alphabetically by type. Articles are further arranged in chronological order, starting with the earliest. Magazines are further arranged alphabetically by title. Box 18 is mostly clippings given to the archives by Elizabeth Swift Just, these seem to be filed as she filed them.

Series IV: Literary papers are first arranged by subject: general literary papers and realia; short stories; and books. Typescript pages of book manuscripts are numbered, but they are often out of order. This maintains the original arrangement of Just’s revisions. Manuscripts for books and short stories are further filed by title in alphabetical order.

Series V: Audio-visual materials are boxed by type: negatives, photographic prints, recordings, and slides. Negatives and prints are in chronological order.


Original gift made in September, 1990 by Ward S. Just. Several additions were made between 1998 and 2021, by gift of Ward S. Just, Sarah Catchpole, Jennifer R. Just, Julia B. Just, and Ian W. Just.


The original 1982 interview recording and transcript is owned by the LBJ Presidential Library.

Other Copies

Digital copies of seven photographs from folders 59:03 and 59:11 are available.

Related Materials

At Cranbrook Archives, papers about Ward Just are found in the Crane-Clarion within the Cranbrook Publications collection (1995-13) and in a vertical file. Martha Gellhorn papers at Boston University. LBJ Library Oral Histories, LBJ Presidential Library, The American Academy of Arts and Letters archives has books inscribed by Just and his event correspondence.

Processing History

Processed by William McMahon, September 1994. 2021 accession processed and legacy collection reprocessed together as one cohesive collection in 2023 by Meredith Counts.

Guide to the Ward Swift Just Papers
Original finding aid written by William McMahon. ArchivesSpace resource record created by Nichole L. Manlove. Revision written by Meredith Counts.
1994, 2020
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2023-05-31: Collection re-processed to include new papers and record updated by Meredith Counts.

Repository Details

Part of the Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research Repository