John O'Donnell

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John Parsons O'Donnell (July 23, 1896 - December 18, 1961) was an anti-interventionist Washington-based journalist. He published a column called "Capital Stuff".

Early life

John O'Donnell was born in Somerville, Massachusetts to Dr. Louis P. O’Donnell a radiologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He attended St. Joseph’s Academy in Wellesley, Massachusetts and graduated in 1920 from Tuffs College in Boston. Later he took graduate studies in literature at Harvard. During World War I he served in the US Army as a lieutenant.[1]


John O’Donnell was married to Kathryn Mullin for two years.

He joined New York's Daily News in May 1927 and meet another journalist Doris Fleeson whom he married in 1930. They had one daughter. Their marriage collapsed over political differences and were divorced in 1942. Doris was a staunch supporter of the Roosevelts both the president and his wife Eleanor. John O'Donnell was not.[2]

War reporting

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor O’Donnell was able to report the actual losses and number of causalities, angering the White House. For the next year O’Donnell continued his hard hitting reporting on the war, always critical of the White House’s attempt of censorship.

O’Donnell wrote a satirical column on how two of his press buddies in Australia were playing “flutes and piccolos” to keep their fingers nimble until the time when press censorship was lessen and they would be able to type a tell-report of how the war was going against Japan. Roosevelt was livid over the column and at his next press conference told the press corp when they see O’Donnell to give him this Iron Cross medal for his reporting.[3] The German medal was from World War I and given to the president by another journalist earlier as a souvenir.[4] [5] The press conference came on the eve of a lawsuit trial that O'Donnell had brought against David Stern and the Philadelphia Record after an editorial described him as a Naziphile and an anti-semite.[6]

O’Donnell was the first to report on the famous incident of General George S. Patton slapping a cowering soldier in Sicily calling him a "yellow bellied" or "yellow streaked" Jew. Patton denied the specifics of the report. It would later be determined the soldier was not Jewish.[7] O’Donnell wrote a column the real reason Patton lost his command was upon the insistence of Jews in the White House coming specifically form Secretary of State Henry Morgenthau Jr.

The O’Donnell column read:

Behind the successful drive to disgrace and remove General George S. Patton from his Army command in occupied Germany is the secret and astoundingly effective might of this republic's foreign-born political leaders--such as Justice of the Supreme Court Felix Frankfurter, of Vienna, White House administrative assistant Dave (Devious Dave) Niles. alias Neyhus, and the Latvian ex-rabbinical student now known as Sidney Hillman.[8]

See also


  1. Doris Fleeson: Incomparably the First Political Journalist of Her Time, by Carolyn Sayler, page 50
  2. Notable American Women: The Modern Period : a Biographical Dictionary, Volume 4, edited by Barbara Sicherman, Carol Hurd Green, page 240
  3. The Lewiston Daily Sun, “FDR presents Nazi Cross to NY columnist”, December 19, 1942, page 9
  4. "Presidents have Feelings Too", The Free Lance-Star, January 11, 1996, page C-8
  5. Doris Fleeson: Incomparably the First Political Journalist of Her Time, by Carolyn Sayler, page 52
  6. All Governments Lie: The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I. F. Stone, by Myra MacPherson, page 103
  7. "O’Donnell Smears Jews Using Patton Case", The Canadian Jewish Chronicle October 5, 1945
  8. Patton: Ordeal and Triumph, by Ladislas Farago, page 821