Hersey, Maine, a town
Hersey, Michigan, a village
Hersey, Wisconsin, an unincorporated community
Hersey Township (disambiguation)
Hersey (MBTA station), below-grade commuter rail station in Needham, Massachusetts
John Hersey High School, in Illinois
Alan Hersey Nature Reserve, on the Isle of Wight
Hersey was born in Tientsin, China, the son of Grace Baird and Roscoe Hersey, Protestant missionaries for the Young Men's Christian Association in Tientsin. Hersey learned to speak Chinese before he spoke English; Hersey's novel, The Call (1985), is based on the lives of his parents and several other missionaries of their generation. John Hersey was a descendant of William Hersey (or Hercy, as the family name was then spelled) of Reading, Berkshire, England. William Hersey was one of the first settlers of Hingham, Massachusetts in 1635.
Hersey returned to the United States with his family when he was ten years old. He attended public school in Briarcliff Manor, New York, including Briarcliff High School for two years. At Briarcliff, he became his troop's first Eagle Scout. Later he attended the Hotchkiss School, followed by Yale University, where he was a member of the Skull and Bones Society. Hersey lettered in football at Yale, was coached by Ducky Pond, Greasy Neale and Gerald Ford and was a teammate of Yale's two Heisman Trophy winners, Larry Kelley and Clint Frank. He subsequently was a graduate student at the University of Cambridge as a Mellon Fellow.
After his time at Cambridge, Hersey got a summer job as private secretary and driver for author Sinclair Lewis during 1937; but he chafed at his duties, and that autumn he began work for Time, for which he was hired after writing an essay on the magazine's dismal quality. Two years later (1939) he was transferred to Time's Chongqing bureau. In 1940, William Saroyan lists him among "contributing editors" at Time in the play, Love's Old Sweet Song.
During World War II, newsweekly correspondent Hersey covered fighting in Europe as well as Asia, writing articles for Time as well as Life magazine. He accompanied Allied troops on their invasion of Sicily, survived four airplane crashes, and was commended by the Secretary of the Navy for his role in helping evacuate wounded soldiers from Guadalcanal.
After the war, during the winter of 194546, Hersey was in Japan, reporting for The New Yorker on the reconstruction of the devastated country, when he found a document written by a Jesuit missionary who had survived the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The journalist visited the missionary, who introduced him to other survivors.