The 73-year-old writer was killed in a car crash Monday while working on a book about the legendary 1958 NFL championship game between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants.
Halberstam was riding in a car that was broadsided by another vehicle in Menlo Park, about 25 miles south of San Francisco. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and the cause appeared to be internal injuries, according to San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault.
"The world has lost one of our greatest journalists," said Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of The New York Times, where Halberstam won a Pulitzer Prize in 1964 covering Vietnam.
Halberstam's 1972 best-seller, "The Best and the Brightest" a critical account of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia and especially Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, established him as one of the most committed journalists of his generation.
"He was the institutional memory of the Vietnam War. I think he understood it better than any other journalist," said former CNN correspondent Peter Arnett, who won a Pulitzer for Vietnam coverage in 1966 while with The Associated Press.
Halberstam's other books included "The Powers That Be," a 1979 undressing of the titans of the news media; "The Fifties," his 1993 chronicle of that decade's upheavals; "Summer of '49," his account of that year's Yankees-Red Sox rivalry; "The Reckoning," about the U.S. auto industry; and "The Children," a 1999 narrative about the civil rights movement.
His 2002 best-seller, "War in a Time of Peace" — an examination of how the lessons of Vietnam have influenced American foreign policy in the post-Cold War era — was a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction.
His book "The Coldest Winter," an account of a key early battle of the Korean War, is scheduled to be published in the fall.