Neil Sheehan, who died at his home in Washington DC on Thursday, was the New York Times journalist who in 1971 obtained the classified Pentagon Papers from Daniel Ellsberg for a series of articles which revealed a secret United States Department of Defense history of the Vietnam War. Sheehan, who was 84, had suffered from complications of Parkinson's disease. See "Now It Can Be Told" (NYT) here.
Cornelius Mahoney Sheehan was born to Irish parents in Holyoke, Massachusetts, on October 27, 1936. He graduated from Mount Hermon School (later Northfield Mount Hermon) and from Harvard University with a BA in history (cum laude) in 1958. Sheehan served in the US Army from 1959-62 and was assigned to Korea and then transferred to Tokyo. In Japan he began moonlighting in the Tokyo bureau of United Press International (UPI). Following his discharge, Sheehan spent two years covering the war in Vietnam as UPI's Saigon bureau chief. In 1964 he joined The New York Times and worked the city desk before returning to the Far East, first to Indonesia and then to spend another year in Vietnam. In 1966, he became the Pentagon correspondent and two years later began reporting on the White House as a correspondent on political, diplomatic and military affairs.
Sheehan's 1986 book A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam was nominated for the Pulitzer Prizes in Biography and History and received the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. It also won the National Book Award for Nonfiction. In 1990, Sheehan received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.