Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Altoona, Blair County
After sailing with Jacques Cousteau on a National Geographic Expedition, Dugan wrote Undersea Explorer: Story of Captain Cousteau (1957).
Awards: Academy Award
Historian and naturalist James Dugan was born in Altoona in 1912. He matriculated at Penn State University where he began his writing career in campus publications. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Corps and worked with the Office of War Information. After the war and subsequent stints as a journalist, Dugan formed an association with the French explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, editing his books and writing the narration for his documentaries. Dugan would be part of two Oscar-winning films. He passed away in 1967.
James Dugan was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania, on May 7, 1912. His parents were Mary Katherine (Hoffman) Dugan and John Henry. He was the oldest of three sons. Dugan went to Altoona High School and graduated in 1929. After high school, he came to Penn State University where he studied from 1933 to 1937. Lynn Christy, class of 1935, wrote: “perhaps more so than any other period in Penn State’s history—the students who wrote for campus publications enjoyed an enviable, if hard-won, status.”
Dugan soon joined the ranks of the Penn State authors. Jim Dugan, as he was called by his peers, became the editor of the campus literary magazine, Old Main Bell. Later he became the editor of another campus magazine, the Penn State Froth, in 1936. He brought his “Claycatures” to Froth. These were lifelike caricatures modeled in clay and photographed for the magazine. They were used in a few articles to represent faculty, administration, and students. He got much recognition for his “Claycatures” at Penn State University. In 1937, Dugan graduated a well-known and liked student.
After earning a college degree, James Dugan resided in New York. He then traveled to England with the Office of War Information. He was promoted to the rank of corporal. In medical corps at Fort Hancock, New Jersey, Dugan supervised French, German, Spanish and Russian classes for soldiers. Dugan also worked as a war correspondent in the European Theater. He served in the Army Air Corps during WWII as well. From this experience, he co-wrote Ploesti: The Great Ground-Air Battle of August 1, 1943 (1962) with Carrol Stewart, who served in the Air Force with him during the war. Ploesti was an account of the great American air-raid on Romanian oil refineries, August 1, 1943. He also wrote articles for magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, Holiday, National Geographic and New York Times.
On April 19, 1946, he married Ruth Mae Lonergan, whom he met while she was a WAC in London during the war. Dugan continued to write as a married man. Much of his writing in the 1950s and 1960s concerns underwater exploration with Captain Jacques Cousteau, the French scientist and television producer. He wrote The Great Iron Ship (1953), which detailed the laying of the trans-Atlantic cable.
Dugan had a long-lasting connection to Jacque Cousteau. Dugan first met Cousteau in 1944 during the liberation of France. At this time he was a Yank magazine correspondent. He wrote Undersea Explorer: Story of Captain Cousteau (1957) about Cousteau’s diving experiences and undersea expeditions.Dugan also edited Cousteau’s books, The Silent World (1953), and World without a Sun (1965).
Dugan wrote, Man under the Sea (1956), Man under the Sea and His Shipping Empire (1963), The Living Sea (1963), The Great Mutiny (1965), and World beneath the Sea (1967). He co-wrote The Living Sea (1963) with Cousteau. Dugan also teamed up with Cousteau to co-edit Captain Cousteau’s Underwater Treasury (1959). He also edited Men Underwater (1965) with Richard Vahan.
Dugan’s books helped to show the underwater world to the general public. He was also able to do this by contributing to magazines and writing narrations for films. He wrote the narration for World without Sun (1964) and the script for “Twentieth Century” (CBS-TV). He also wrote the narration for The Silent World (1956).
Dugan received the Grand Prix, Cannes International Film Festival award for The Silent World in 1956. He was also part of the team that produced the Academy Award-winning documentaries The Silent World (1956) and World Without Sun (1964).
James Dugan helped Cousteau with the presentation of the underwater documentaries, which had a huge influence on future makers of TV documentaries around the world. He helped to inform the general public about the sea, which was not extensively explored at the time. He served as the president of the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences. He allocated the rest of his time between serving on the advisory board for the American Littoral Society (an organization devoted to the preservation of beaches and tidal areas) and being an active member of the American Geographical Union, Authors League, and the Overseas Press Club.
James Dugan died June 3, 1967, in Panama City, FL from a heart attack; He was 55-years-old. His residence was still an 18th-century historic house at 237 Pine St. in Philadelphia. Dugan was buried at sea; this was a true testament to his dedication to underwater exploration and his lifetime contributions. He was survived by his widow and his two brothers, Wayne and Philip.
Ploesti: The Great Ground-Air Battle of August 1, 1943. New York: Random House, 1962.
The Living Sea. London: Hamish Hamilton Ltd, 1963.
Man under the Sea and His Shipping Empire. London: Harper, 1963.
The Great Iron Ship. New York: Harper, 1953.
The Great Mutiny. New York: Putnam, 1965.
Man under the Sea. New York: Harper, 1956.
Undersea Explorer: Story of Captain Cousteau. New York: Harper, 1957.
World Beneath the Sea. New York: Harper, 1967.
“Jacques Cousteau.” Classic Diving Books. Ocean Enterprises. 2003. 15 October 2003. <www.classicdivebooks.com>. Web address inactive.
“James (Thomas) Dugan.” The Gale Literary Database: Contemporary Authors. 2002. 20 October 2003. <http://www.galenet.com>.
Penn State University Libraries. James Dugan vertical file. Penn State University Archives. University Park, PA.