Steve Vogel

Author and former Washington Post journalist
Steve Vogel
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Steve Vogel is an author and veteran journalist who reported for The Washington Post for more than two decades and who writes frequently about military history and defense issues. His most recent book, Through the Perilous Fight, about the burning of Washington, the battle for Baltimore and the dramatic chain of events that led to the writing of our national anthem two hundred years ago, is being released in paperback by Random House in 2014, as the nation marks the 200th anniversary of The Star-Spangled Banner. “Through The Perilous Fight is probably the best piece of military history that I have read or reviewed in the past five years. . . . ,” Gary Anderson wrote in The Washington Times. “No one who hears the national anthem at a ballgame will ever think of it the same way after reading this book, nor want the national anthem changed.” Joyce Appleby, in a review for The Washington Post, called the book “a fine study. . . . Steve Vogel does a superb job.”

Coverage of Wars.  Vogel’s coverage of the U.S. war in Afghanistan was part of a package of Washington Post stories selected as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2002. He reported on the U.S. war with Iraq in 2003 as an embedded journalist with an Army airborne brigade.  Based overseas from 1989 through 1994 and reporting for The Washington Post and Army and Air Force Times, he covered the fall of the Berlin Wall and the first Gulf War, as well as military operations in Somalia, Rwanda and the Balkans.

Vogel covered the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon and was the first journalist to get inside the building’s most damaged sections. He reported in depth on the victims of the attack and the building’s reconstruction. His subsequent book, The Pentagon- A History, was published by Random House in 2007, and was described by the military journal Proceedings as “an epic work that transcends partisan politics. It is worthy of the highest historical honors.”  The book garnered high praise from The New York Times and The Economist, among other publications. “Among books dealing with seemingly impossible engineering feats, this easily ranks with David McCullough’s The Great Bridge and The Path Between the Seas, as well as Ross King’s Brunelleschi’s Dome,” wrote Kirkus Reviews.

Frequently Published Journalist.  Vogel’s work has appeared in a number of newspapers and magazines, including The Miami Herald and Smithsonian Air & Space. His stories and books often shed light on overlooked history, places and people. His reporting helped expose problems faced by veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflicts, including the maze of red tape they have encountered at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other military hospitals, their high suicide rates, and their lengthy waits for disability payments and other services from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Vogel has a master of international public policy degree from the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. He has been a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and has also appeared on Fox News Radio, MSNBC, C-SPAN, BBC World Service and the Smithsonian Channel.

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The Burning Of Washington.  This year marks the 200th anniversary of the burning of Washington, the battle for Baltimore, and the dramatic chain of events that led to the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  In Through the Perilous Fight, Vogel writes of a turning point where the country’s history could easily have gone in a different, less bright direction. We think today’s divisiveness and partisanship is unprecedented, yet the state of American discourse during the War of 1812 was, as Francis Scott Key put it, “radically vicious.” Key, like many Americans of the day, was deeply opposed to the war. But his eyewitness description of the American flag flying over Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor after the tremendous British bombardment created an indelible image for a nation shaken by the fall of Washington, not unlike later images of the flag raised by Marines at Iwo Jima or by firefighters at the World Trade Center after 9/11. It’s essential to remember that the first verse of the anthem everybody sings at baseball games is really one long question, ultimately wondering not just whether the flag was still flying, but whether the republic would survive. Key wasn’t at all sure at that moment that it would. 

The Wartime Race to Build the Pentagon and the Race to Restore It after 9/11. The construction of the Pentagon in 17 months during World War II is one of the great engineering feats in American history, as I relate in The Pentagon. The audacious forces behind the project, including Leslie Groves and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, harnessed the urgency of Pearl Harbor to make it happen with astonishing speed and on an unprecedented scale. The common wisdom was that the type of esprit and national purpose that built the Pentagon would be impossible to recreate 60 years later. Yet after the Pentagon was seriously damaged on Sept. 11, 2001, the teams repairing the building were determined to respond to the terrorist attack. The workers turned a construction project into a crusade, repairing the building in less than a year. The damaged building was restored in a manner that echoed its creation.

Worldwide Wars.  As a reporter for the Post and the Army Times, Vogel covered military conflicts around the world, including the first Gulf War, the Balkans, Somalia, and Rwanda. He embedded with a U.S.  Army Airborne brigade during the invasion of Iraq, and his coverage of the war in Afghanistan was part of a package of Post stories selected as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2002. But much of Vogel’s reporting over the last decade has focused on what has happened to veterans in the aftermath of these conflicts.  His stories have helped shine a light on the failures of the government to care for troops and veterans as promised. Vogel has written about the red tape ensnaring service members at Walter Reed and other military hospitals, the missed opportunities to help veterans with mental disorders and the resulting tragedies such as suicide, and the unconscionably long waits for assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs.  He addresses the strain the wars have placed on military families and veterans, and describes what the VA and veterans groups are doing right, where the government and the American people are failing their veterans, and what needs to be done to make the situation better.

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