Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Frank Tillman Durdin Papers
Identifier/Call Number: MSS 95
Mandeville Special Collections Library
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, California, 92093-0175
Language of Material:
29.8 Linear feet
(27 archives boxes, 5 card files boxes, 16 records cartons, and 1 flat box)
Date (inclusive): 1937 - 1974
Papers of Frank Tillman Durdin, China specialist, journalist for the
New York Times
(1937-1974) and the first American journalist granted a visa to reenter China in 1971. During his career, Durdin reported
on the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), the collapse of European colonial rule in Indo-China and the emergence of the People's
Republic of China. Materials include correspondence between Durdin and the
New York Times
staff, original copies of news reports filed by Durdin, extensive subject files on the People's Republic of China, Taiwan
and other East Asian countries, and photographs documenting the Sino-Japanese War, 1937-1945.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Tillman Durdin Papers focus on important events in East Asian political, economic and social history from the early 1930s
to the early 1970s. They document China's struggle against Japanese expansion in the late 1930s and early 1940s, the collapse
of European colonialism in Indo-China and the emergence and development of the People's Republic of China.
The collection is arranged in eight series: 1) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) WRITINGS BY TILLMAN DURDIN, 4)
WRITINGS BY MARGARET DURDIN, 5) FINANCIAL RECORDS, 6) SUBJECT FILES, 7) PHOTOGRAPHS, and 8) ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES.
SERIES 1: BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS
The BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS series contains articles about Durdin, passports and identity cards of Margaret and Tillman Durdin,
awards, and an interview with Durdin after his 1971 trip to China.
SERIES 2: CORRESPONDENCE
The CORRESPONDENCE series is arranged in five subseries: A) General Correspondence, B) Family Correspondence, C)
New York Times Correspondence, D) Cables, and E) Invitations. The general correspondence (1950-1970) is arranged in alphabetical order and
contains exchanges with other journalists, institutions and family friends. The
New York Times correspondence and cables document Durdin's coverage of events in East Asia and his relationship with newspaper management.
SERIES 3: WRITINGS BY TILLMAN DURDIN
The WRITINGS BY TILLMAN DURDIN series contains five subseries: A) Newspaper Materials, B) Book Reviews, Lectures and Broadcasts,
C) Notebooks, D) Appointment Books, and E) Address Books. Tillman Durdin's work is documented in the newspaper reports that
he wired to the
New York Times and the "mailers" or longer articles that usually focused on geographical places. The reports are organized chronologically
and the mailers are arranged alphabetically by geographical location. Also included are notebooks which Durdin created on
assignment, appointment books and address books. Finally, the series contains several book reviews by Durdin, drafts of broadcasts
and drafts of lectures about his 1971 return to China.
SERIES 4: WRITINGS BY MARGARET DURDIN
The WRITINGS BY MARGARET DURDIN series contains chapter drafts and subject files for her unpublished biography on Mao Tse-tung's
wife, Chaing Ch'ing. Also included are several notebooks and a history of China and Tibet edited by Margaret Durdin.
SERIES 5: FINANCIAL RECORDS
The FINANCIAL RECORDS contain summary expense statements and tax records.
SERIES 6: SUBJECT FILES
The SUBJECT FILES are arranged in two subseries: A) General Files and B) Geographical Files. The General Files are arranged
in alphabetical order. The Geographic Files are arranged by location and contain collected research materials and Durdin's
SERIES 7: PHOTOGRAPHS
Finally, the PHOTOGRAPHS series is arranged in three subseries: A) Personal Photographs, B) Geographical Places and C) Albums
of the Sino-Japanese War. Among the photographs of geographical places are images that Durdin created while in China in 1971.
Also of significance are the albums that contain photographs Durdin took between 1937 and 1945 while reporting on the Sino-Japanese
War. The albums have been photocopied and the photographs have been numbered and removed.
SERIES 8: ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES
The ORIGINALS OF PRESERVATION PHOTOCOPIES series contains the originals of brittle or high acid content documents that have
Frank Tillman Durdin was born on March 20, 1907, in Elkhart, Texas. He began his career in journalism during high school as
editor of the weekly newspaper
Pecos Enterprise. During college Durdin worked intermittently for the
San Antonio Express and the
Los Angeles Times.
In 1930, Durdin entered the merchant marine and shipped out as a seaman to see the world and left ship in Shanghai, China,
where he took up residence. He became a reporter for the English-language daily
Shanghai Evening Post, and later, the managing editor of the
On August 20, 1937, Durdin joined the staff of the
New York Times as a special correspondent and covered the Sino-Japanese War. He spent the next four years reporting and photographing events
while accompanying Chinese troops. He was present during the siege of the Chinese capitol city of Nanking in December 1937,
and reported one of the important stories of the war, usually referred to as the "Rape of Nanking." Later, Durdin lived in
Chungking and came under daily Japanese aerial attack. In 1941, he was made bureau chief in China.
With the impending expansion of Japanese hostilities in East Asia, Durdin moved to Singapore in time to cover the invasion
of Indochina, Malaya, and the Dutch East Indies. He was evacuated shortly before Singapore fell. He continued to cover World
War II in the Pacific and was the first
New York Times correspondent on Guadalcanal after the Marines landed. Durdin later covered the China-Burma-India theater of operations.
After the war, Durdin re-established the
New York Times China bureau in Nanking, served as its bureau chief and reported on the Communist takeover. During 1948-1949 Durdin spent
a year at Harvard as a Neiman Fellow.
In the summer of 1949, Durdin returned to Southeast Asia hoping to re-enter mainland China as a correspondent. Unable to obtain
an entry permit, he resigned himself to reporting the news of the region, moving between Saigon, Bangkok, Singapore, Hong
Kong, Rangoon, and Djakarta. Durdin spent much of the early 1950s reporting on the war in Indo-China, taking the opportunity
to cover other places and stories when the rainy season dampened hostilities.
In 1961, Durdin returned to New York to become the Far East Specialist on the editorial board of the
New York Times. He also worked as a consultant for the Institute for Defense Analyses researching the possible regional impacts of Communist
China's development of an atomic bomb. In late 1963 he took a year's leave to work on a study project on Taiwan for the Council
on Foreign Relations. Dissatisfied with his position on the editorial board, Durdin transferred back to the news department
and accepted an assignment in Australia. He left in late 1965 for Sydney to become the first permanent
New York Times correspondent in the South Pacific, where he established a bureau for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.
Durdin felt that Australia was out of the mainstream of world events. In 1967, he applied for a transfer to Asia to renew
his focus on China and report on the region without the responsibilities of a bureau chief. Durdin loosely based himself at
the Hong Kong office and followed important stories under direction from New York.
In April 1971, China issued an entry visa to Durdin to cover a British ping pong team touring the country. Durdin, the first
American journalist granted a visa by the post-war Communist regime, travelled with a group of British journalists on a tour
which focused more on the press than on the players.
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
Frank Tillman Durdin Papers, MSS 95. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.
Collection is open for research.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Jiang, Qing, 1910-
Mao, Zedong, 1893-1976
China--Description and travel
China--Politics and government--20th century
East Asia--Description and travel
East Asia--History--20th century
Indochina -- Description and travel
Indochina -- Foreign relations -- United States
Indochina -- History
Japan -- Armed forces -- East Asia -- History
Japan -- Colonies -- East Asia
Japan -- History -- 20th century
Photographic prints -- 20th Century.
Sino-Japanese Conflict, 1937-1945
Southeast Asia -- Description and travel
Southeast Asia -- History -- 20th century