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Number 1 Shimbun

From the Archives

03

Life-member Frank Gibney speaking at a Club event on June 12, 1995, commemorating coverage of WWII. Frank achieved renown in multiple roles—as journalist, author and editor.  He also wrote the Introduction for our history book, Foreign Correspondents in Japan, expanding on his memories of the earliest days of the Club when he was a U.S. Navy Public Information Officer prior to becoming a journalist. Seated next to Gibney, Bob Neff (Business Week) gives his words full attention.


Journalist, author, editor, scholar

Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 21, 1924, and raised in New York City, Frank Bray Gibney attended Yale University before serving in the U.S. Navy. There he was educated in the Japanese language as an intelligence officer during WWII. The duty brought him into contact with Japanese POWS and provided early insights on the Japanese people, which later led to his first major book in 1953, the humanistic Five Gentlemen of Japan. It was a book that had an early influence on me.

After further service as a public information officer for the Navy during the Occupation, Gibney became a foreign correspondent, and was posted to several countries prior to returning to Japan to cover the Korean War. He went on to cover other countries of Asia and Europe for Time magazine. He also became an editorial writer for Life magazine, and later was a feature writer for Newsweek before moving on to several start-up magazines in the early 1960s. In the late 1960s he worked for Encyclopedia Britannica, directing translations into Japanese, Korean, and Chinese as well as serving as vice-chairman of its Board of Editors and heading a joint venture with Tokyo Broadcasting System.

His important book, Japan: The Fragile Superpower, was published in 1975, followed in 1982 by Miracle by Design, describing the Japanese work ethic. The Pacific Century was published in 1992 and later made into a PBS series featuring the author, who also co-produced it.
In recognition of his cultural contributions, the Japanese government in the late 1970s awarded him, first, the Order of the Rising Sun (Third Class), followed a few years later by the Order of the Sacred Treasure (Second Class).

In 1979, Gibney founded the Pacific Basin Institute in affiliation with Pomona College in California, where he was a professor. He served as president until 1999.

Frank was married three times and sired seven children, of whom two became active in media, Alex in documentaries and James in journalism. Frank died on April 9, 2006, at age 81 of congestive heart failure.

– Charles Pomeroy
editor of Foreign Correspondents in Japan,
a history of the Club that is available at the front desk

Published in: September 2019

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