Class of 1934
David F. Schoenbrun was a veteran radio and television correspondent and an author whose deep knowledge of France informed a distinguished career during and after World War II. He was one of “Murrow’s Boys,” a legendary group of broadcasters recruited by Edward R. Murrow of CBS starting in the 1940s, men such as William L. Shirer, Winston Burdette, Charles Collingwood and Richard C. Hottelet. Schoenbrun, who joined CBS in 1947, along with two other CAG Hall of Famers, Daniel Schorr and Marvin Kalb, were among the “second generation” group of CBS reporters closely associated with Murrow.
Although Schoenbrun worked primarily in Paris and Washington, he was the first journalist to broadcast from North Vietnam and the only American correspondent inside the French garrison at the historic battle of Dien Pien Phu in 1954, when the North Vietnamese defeated the French. His fluency in French led to a close relationship with Charles de Gaulle, who granted Schoenbrun one of his first interviews after becoming president of France. A member of U.S. Army Military Intelligence during World War II, Schoenbrun was sent to Algiers to establish an operation that would broadcast news to occupied France. It was in Algiers that he was introduced to Murrow, by no less a figure than Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, then Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe. Schoenbrun covered the invasion of southern France in 1944 and was the first American soldier to reach the Rhine with the First French Army. He was decorated by the French government with a Croix de Guerre and the Légion d’honneur. France also awarded him one of its top literary prizes, Les Palmes Académiques, for his many books on France, French history and contemporary affairs.
Schoenbrun left CBS News in 1964 after a series of disputes with management, becoming a lecturer, freelance broadcaster and author. Among his many honors were multiple awards from the Overseas Press Club: in 1955, for Best Reporting in Television and/or Radio; in 1957, for Best Book on International Affairs, “As France Goes”; in 1960, for Best Magazine Article; and in 1961, for Best Television Reporting of Foreign Affairs. In 1959, he won the Alfred I. DuPont Award for his reporting and analysis of European affairs. City College recognized his achievements with a Townsend Harris Medal in 1971.
Schoenbrun was born in New York on March 15, 1915. Following his graduation from the College at the age of 19, he taught Spanish and French. He was already fluent in German, the language spoken by his family. In 1941, he joined the Office of War Information as editor of its Western European desk, broadcasting in French, Spanish and German. He was one of the first commentators on the Voice of America. Schoenbrun enlisted in the Army in 1943, was discharged in 1945 and opened an Overseas News Agency bureau in Paris. He began stringing for CBS and in 1947, with Murrow’s endorsement, was named Paris Bureau Chief for CBS News. In 1961, he was appointed chief Washington correspondent and bureau chief and was a frequent presence on “CBS Washington Reports,” interviewing top government officials. He returned to Europe in 1963 as the network’s chief European correspondent, but left CBS the following year.
As a freelancer, Schoenbrun was a news analyst for WNEW Radio in New York (now WBBR) and other Metromedia properties, and for WPIX television and its Independent Network News operation. He taught at The New School for Social Research in New York and lectured regularly on Israel and world affairs.
In addition to “As France Goes,” his books include “The Three Lives of Charles de Gaulle” (1966); “The New Israelis: A Report on the First Generation Born in Israel” (written with Robert and Lucy Szekely, 1973); “Soldiers of the Night: The Story of the French Resistance” (1980); “America Inside Out: At Home and Abroad From Roosevelt to Reagan” (1984), and “On and Off the Air: An Informal History of CBS News” (1989).
Schoenbrun died in New York on May 23, 1988 at the age of 73.