Finding aid for the Cornelius Ryan Collection of World War II Papers

Cornelius Ryan Collection of World War II Papers
Ohio University
Phone: 740-593-2710
Ryan, Cornelius
110 cubic feet
Correspondence, documents, photographs, diaries, accounts, manuscripts, audio tapes, interviews, journal articles, screenplays, scrapbooks, memorabilia, and books detailing Ryan's career as a journalist and author of the books The Longest Day, The Last Battle, and A Bridge Too Far.
The records are in English

Biography of Cornelius Ryan

War correspondent, journalist, editor, and author, Cornelius Ryan was born in Dublin, Ireland on June 5, 1920. He was educated in Dublin by the Christian Brothers and studied violin at the Irish Academy of Music. At the age of twenty, he entered the service of Garfield Weston as secretary and moved to London, England. His ambition was to write, however, and in 1941 he joined the London staff of Reuter's News Agency. In 1943 Ryan joined the staff of the London Daily Telegraph as a war correspondent, covering the US 8th and 9th Air Forces and the air war over Germany. Upon the activation of General George S. Patton, Jr.'s 3rd Army, Ryan joined that force and covered its activities until the end of the war in Europe. He then transferred to the Pacific Theater and subsequently opened the Daily Telegraph's Japan bureau. In 1946 he was transferred to Jerusalem as the Telegraph's Middle East bureau chief, writing the same time as a stringer for Time and the St. Louis Post Dispatch. In 1947, Ryan was offered a job as contributing editor for Time and emigrated to the United States. He left Time in 1949, served briefly with Newsweek, and joined the Collier's staff as an associate editor in 1950. During that same year he also married Kathryn Morgan and became a naturalized citizen of the United States. During Ryan's association with Collier's, he achieved international recognition for his journalistic reporting of the United States space program and introduced Wernher von Braun to the American public. In 1956, two of his articles, "One Minute to Ditch" and "Five Desperate Hours in Cabin 56" gained him three national awards for distinguished magazine writing: the Benjamin Franklin award, the Overseas Press Club award, and the University of Illinois award. Following Collier's demise in 1956, he began serious research and writing on The Longest Day. When it was published in 1959, it was an instant success and gained him international repute. He was awarded the Christopher Award for the best book on foreign affairs in 1959 and the Bancarella Prize (Italy) in 1962. He joined the staff of Reader's Digest immediately following the publication of The Longest Day, continuing his career in journalism while beginning research on his second World War II battle book, The Last Battle, which was published in 1965. Ryan was diagnosed with cancer in 1970 and he began a program of chemotherapy. Meanwhile, he continued his research and writing on the third of his battle books, A Bridge Too Far. In July of 1973 he was awarded the French Legion of Honor in recognition of his contributions to the fields of journalism and historical writing. The following year A Bridge Too Far was published and he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Literature degree from Ohio University. During the publicity tour for his latest book he re-entered the hospital and died of cancer on November 23, 1974. The notes and tapes he made during his bout with cancer were compiled and edited along with his wife's diaries and published in 1976 as A Private Battle.

Scope and Content

The Cornelius Ryan Collection of World War II Papers primarily consists of material relating to World War II, the European Theater of Operations, in the form of his research papers and files for his three battle books: The Longest Day (Operation OVERLORD, Normandy, France, June 6, 1944); A Bridge Too Far (Operation MARKET-GARDEN, Holland, September 17-26, 1944); and, The Last Battle (the capture of Berlin, Germany April 15-May 10, 1945) There are personal files for 3,072 individuals, both military and civilian participants of the battles, covering all nationalities. The files contain 2,551 questionnaires, 955 interviews, and numerous letters, diaries, accounts, and observations. In addition, there are 166 audio recordings of interviews. Of particular not among the interviews are those with Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands, President Eisenhower, and General Simpson, all from 1963. In addition to the personal files there are numerous newspaper and magazine articles and book excerpts dealing with the battles. Ryan also collected military documents of all types: combat interviews and after action reports, war diaries, message files and logs, strategic and tactical analyses, maps, and unit histories from all national forces involved. Of particular not among the military documents are war diaries and message logs of the major German commands from all three battles and accounts, interrogations and unit histories from the Moscow Archives concerning the storming of Berlin. The bulk of the German documents had not been consulted by any researcher prior to Ryan and, in the case of the Russian documents, no one else had ever been allowed access to the Moscow Archives. There are in excess of 1,900 original photographs in the files, collected from various national archives and private individuals, the vast majority of which are unpublished. The remainder of the collection deals with his journalistic productions. The research files for his two articles "One Minute to Ditch" and "Five Desperate Hours in Cabin 56" are complete, containing interviews, photographs, and official documents. Also of special note among these files are a collection of interviews with President Eisenhower's West Point classmates (class of 1915) and correspondence and original material on the early American space program from Dr. Werhner von Braun.

Statement of Arrangement

These records are organized in the following series:
Series I: The Longest Day Series
II: The Last Battle Series
III: A Bridge Too Far Series
IV: Miscellaneous Supplementary Material Series
V: Material in Book Files of Special Note Series
VI: Books and Book Excerpts Series
VII: Journal and Periodical Articles Series
VIII: Military Documents, Reports, and Publications
Series IX: Pamphlets, Brochures, Titled Accounts, Speeches
Series X: Audio Recordings
Series XI: Screenplays, Radio Broadcasts Scripts, Film
Series XII: Other Manuscript Materials
Series XIII: Armageddon Series
XIV: Unlabeled Manuscript
Series XV: Journalistic Materials Series
XVI: Discoverer
XVIII Series
XVII: Apollo 11 and Apollo 12
Series XVIII: Communications Satellites
Series XIX: Photographs and Artwork
Series XX: Miscellaneous Notebooks
Series XXI: Miscellaneous Audio Recordings
Series XXII: Travel Guides and Books
Series XXIII: Photographs and Memorabilia
Series XXIV: Reference Library

Subject Terms

The following terms have been used to describe this collection.


War correspondents.
World War II.


Ryan, Cornelius.

Preferred Citation

Researchers are requested to cite collection name, collection number, and Ohio University, Athens, Ohio in all footnotes and bibliographical references.