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David Westheimer (1917–2005) Biography

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(Z.Z. Smith, David Kaplan Westheimer)

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for SATA sketch: Born April 11, 1917, in Houston, TX; died of heart failure November 8, 2005, in Los Angeles, CA. Journalist and author. Westheimer was a novelist best known for his books Von Ryan's Express and My Sweet Charlie. A 1937 graduate of Rice University, his early career was devoted to journalism. He was working for the Houston Post when America entered World War II, and he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces. Aboard a B-24 bomber near Italy when it was shot down. Westheimer was captured and became a prisoner of war (P.O.W.). While a prisoner, he spent as much time as he could reading, and this inspired him to become a writer. After the war, he returned to the Houston Post, working as an editor for the paper's Sunday magazine and as a television and radio editor until 1960. By that time, he had gained enough success with his first novels, including Summer on the Water (1948) and Watching out for Dulie (1960), that he decided to write full time. Von Ryan's Express (1964) was a bestseller and was adapted as a film starring Frank Sinatra and Trevor Howard. My Sweet Charlie (1965) was likewise produced as a film, as well a 1966 Broadway play. Other works by Westheimer include Lighter than a Feather (1971; published as Death Is Lighter than a Feather, 1995), Von Ryan's Return (1980), and Delay en Route (2002). In addition, he wrote the television screenplays Trouble Comes to Town (1972) and A Killer among Us (1990), and the autobiography Sitting It Out: A World War II POW Memoir (1992). During the 1980s, Westheimer returned to journalism for a time as a columnist for the Houston Post.



Westheimer, David, Sitting It Out: A World War II POW Memoir, Rice University Press (Houston, TX), 1992.


Los Angeles Times, November 12, 2005, p. B17.

New York Times, November 20, 2005, p. A28.

Washington Post, November 19, 2005, p. B7.

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