Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Frank Tillman Durdin Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1937 - 1974
30.90 linear feet
(26 archives boxes, 5 card files boxes, 16 records cartons, and 11 oversize folders)
Abstract: 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. 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.
University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
La Jolla, California 92093-0175
Collection number: MSS 0095
Language of Material:
Collection materials in English
Collection is open for research.
Frank Tillman Durdin Papers, MSS 0095. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
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 CHINA POST.
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.
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 geographical 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) Scrapbooks
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 scrapbooks that contain photographs Durdin took between 1937 and 1945 while reporting on the
Sino-Japanese War. The scrapbooks 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
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Durdin, Tillman -- Archives
Jiang, Qing, 1910-
Mao, Zedong, 1893-1976
New York times
Sino-Japanese Conflict, 1937-1945
Indochina -- History
Indochina -- Description and travel
Indochina -- Foreign relations -- United States
East Asia -- Description and travel
East Asia -- History -- 20th century
Southeast Asia -- Description and travel
Southeast Asia -- History -- 20th century
Japan -- History -- 20th century
Japan -- Armed forces -- East Asia -- History
Japan -- Colonies -- East Asia
China -- Description and travel
China -- History -- 20th century
China -- Politics and government -- 20th century
China -- Economic conditions -- 1912-1949
China -- Economic conditions -- 1949-1976
China -- Social conditions -- 1949-1976
China -- Social conditions -- 1912-1949
Photographic prints -- 20th Century.