Biography and History

Don Oberdorfer was born 1931 in Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from Princeton University in 1952 and served as a U.S. Army lieutenant in Korea, 1953-1954. In 1955 he began his journalistic career as a reporter for the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, becoming the paper's Washington correspondent in 1958. From 1961-1965, he was a Washington editor and contributing editor of the Saturday Evening Post magazine. From 1965-1968, he was national affairs correspondent for the Knight Newspapers chain, covering the Vietnam War both at home and abroad. During the next 25 years, he worked for the Washington Post, serving as White House correspondent, Northeast Asia correspondent, and diplomatic correspondent.

Oberdorfer won the National Press Club's Edwin M. Hood Award for diplomatic correspondence in 1981 and 1988, and Georgetown University's Edward Weintal prize for diplomatic reporting in 1982 and 1993. He is also a member of the Council of Foreign Relations.

In addition to The Turn, Oberdorfer is the author of Tet! (Doubleday, 1971; Da Capo Press, 1984), and numerous magazine articles. He was a visiting professor at Princeton University in 1977, 1982, and 1986 and now serves as a resident scholar with the title of Distinguished Journalist in Residence at Johns Hopkins University's Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.

He is married to the former Laura Klein, and they have two children, Dan and Karen.

Source: From the finding aid for MC162

  • Don Oberdorfer Papers. 1930-2012 (inclusive), 1978-2008 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC162

    Don Oberdorfer (1931-2015) worked as a journalist for nearly four decades; twenty-five of those years were as a staff member at the Washington Post, where he served as White House correspondent (1968-1972), Northeast Asia correspondent (1972-1975), and diplomatic correspondent (1976-1993). The collection is mostly composed of Oberdorfer's notebooks that chronicle his assignments with the Post, as well as his work post-retirement. The collection also consists of transcripts of interviews conducted by Oberdorfer with both American and Soviet foreign policy officials for his book The Turn: From the Cold War to a New Era, The United States and the Soviet Union, 1983-1990 (Poseidon Press, 1991, and Touchstone Press, 1992). Additionally, the papers contain a significant amount of research material and writings related to Oberdorfer's career, foreign policy actions taken by the United States and the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War, and the political climate of Japan and Korea from the late 1960s into the early twenty-first century.