WHITE, OSMAR EGMONT DORKIN (1909–91)
Osmar White, journalist, war correspondent and author, was born in New Zealand, migrating to Townsville when he was five.
White began his journalistic career at the Cumberland Times in Parramatta in 1931. He later worked for the Wagga Wagga Advertiser before travelling to the Pacific Islands, the Far East, the Dutch East Indies and New Guinea. Throughout the 1930s, he wrote hundreds of short stories and adventure articles.
White returned to New Zealand in 1935 as chief of staff at the Taranaki Daily News, and later the Radio Record in Wellington. In 1938 he moved to Melbourne and joined the SunNews Pictorial.
Although he intended to enlist in the AIF, his employer, Sir Keith Murdoch, retained his services as a journalist under the manpower regulations. White became an official war correspondent in late 1941, and in February 1942 he returned to New Guinea, where he established his reputation as one of Australia’s most acclaimed journalists. He travelled from Port Moresby to Wau with Damien Parer, taking supplies for the guerrilla Kanga Force fighting the Japanese at Lae and Salamaua, and covered the AIF’s campaign along the Kokoda Track.
White was accredited to the US Pacific Fleet in April 1943 and later to the US Army. He was seriously wounded by Japanese dive-bombers in the Solomon Islands. While recuperating, White completed his first book, Green Armour (1945). By September 1944, he was in England reporting on the British home front; in February 1945, he was with General George Patton’s Third Army as the unit advanced across the Rhine into Berlin. The only Australian reporter to witness the German surrender, he stayed in Germany for the rest of the year reporting on the occupation and the war crimes trials.
After the war, White remained with the Herald and Weekly Times as a senior writer. Retiring from journalism in 1963, he wrote a series of children’s books, two novels, plays, radio and television scripts.
It was his non-fiction that distinguished him as one of Australia’s finest authors. Green Armour provided a vivid account of the Japanese invasion of New Guinea. His other wartime account, Conquerors’ Road, was slated for release in 1946 when the publishers abruptly cancelled. The book was finally published in 1996, after his death.
White’s other books included Parliament of a Thousand Tribes: A Study of New Guinea (1965), Time Now, Time Before (1967) and Under the Iron Rainbow: Northwest Australia Today (1969).
One of White’s daughters, journalist and author Sally A. White, endowed the Ossie Awards, organised by the Journalism Education Association of Australia.
REF: O. White Papers (NLA).