He wound up skipping the classes, reportedly bribing the attendance taker to mark him present while he used the GI funds to live the Bohemian life in the Montparnasse area of Paris. To supplement his income, he landed a job as Paris stringer for Variety.
Launches career as columnist
Within three months, he maneuvered his way into the Paris edition of the New York Herald Tribune by offering to review Parisian nightlife. His weekly salary was $25.
In January 1949, he took a sample column to the offices of the Herald Tribune's European edition. Titled "Paris After Dark," it brimmed with scraps of offbeat information. Buchwald was hired.
The four-times-a-week column caught on swiftly and Buchwald started writing a second column, "Mostly About People," in 1951. A year later, the two columns were combined and began running stateside as "Europe's Lighter Side" and then "Art Buchwald in Paris."
His work soon began to entice readers on both sides of the Atlantic. The 1953 column in which Buchwald explains Thanksgiving to the French is reprinted with ceremonial regularity every November.
After a three-year courtship complicated by the fact that he was Jewish and she was a devout Roman Catholic, Buchwald married Ann McGarry, a former fashion coordinator for Neiman Marcus whom he had met in Paris, in 1952.
The Buchwalds adopted three children in Europe -- Joel, who is Irish; Connie, who is Spanish; and Jennifer, who is French.
Buchwald's wife, an author and former literary agent, died in 1994 at the age of 74. The couple had separated after 40 years of marriage but reconciled as she was dying of lung cancer.
In the summer of 1957, Buchwald placed an advertisement in the London Times classifieds: "Would like to hear from people who dislike Americans and their reasons why. Please write Box R. 543." The ad drew 209 replies, ranging from the most terse of answers to lengthy tributes to Americans, according to "Current Biography" (1960). He got two columns out of the replies.
The same year, he made headlines when President Eisenhower was visiting Paris to attend a NATO treaty conference. Buchwald spoofed the detailed reports given each day by the president's press secretary, James Hagerty. Reporters in Buchwald's fantasy sessions posed questions such as "What time did the president start eating his grapefruit, Jim?"
Outraged, Hagerty blasted Buchwald's work as "unadulterated rot." Eisenhower, however, enjoyed the column and advised his press secretary to "simmer down," the New York Herald Tribune reported in 1957.
Buchwald had the final word in a column in which he replied to Hagerty: "I have been known to write adulterated rot, but never unadulterated rot."
Wins Pulitzer for commentary
Even as Buchwald's popularity soared, he surprised adoring readers and colleagues in 1962 by returning to the United States to poke fun at American political and social life.
In Washington, his satirical observations became more popular than any of his work from Europe. He hit the lecture circuit, commanding up to $3,000 per speech. Speaking in a booming voice, he would tell his life story, which he regularly updated and punctuated with gags.
In 1970, a play Buchwald had written called "Sheep on the Runway," about American foreign policy, ran for three months on Broadway.
In 1982, he won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary.
He dabbled in screenwriting, an effort that landed him in a four-year, $2.5-million courtroom battle against Paramount Pictures in the early 1990s. Buchwald maintained that the 1988 hit movie "Coming to America" had come from an idea he had submitted.
A judge ruled in Buchwald's favor, and he and his partner Alain Bernheim received $900,000 in the settlement.
After more than 8,000 columns and 37 years of stinging observations from Washington, Buchwald sought fresh perspective in the late 1990s and moved into New York's Regency Hotel, and later the Wyndham.
In March, at his Washington hospice, he was presented with the Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. He apologized for not being able to attend the formal ceremony in July saying, "Sorry I couldn't be there. My theory is that dying is easy, parking is tough."
Like his good friends "60 Minutes" correspondent Mike Wallace and the late author William Styron, Buchwald was prone to depression. But the satirist managed to find humor in that too.
Styron "and I had depressions at the same time," Buchwald said in a 1998 New York Times interview, "and the only difference is he made a million on his, and I didn't make a dime on mine. We argued who had the worst depression. He says his was a 9.9 on the Richter scale and mine was a rainy day at Disneyland."
In "Leaving Home" he tried to explain his life's work: "People ask what I am really trying to do with humor. The answer is, 'I'm getting even.' "
In addition to his son, Joel, Buchwald is survived by daughters Jennifer Buchwald of Roxbury, Mass., and Connie Buchwald Marks of Culpeper, Va.; sisters Edith Jaffe of Bellevue, Wash., and Doris Kahme, of Delray Beach, Fla.; and five grandchildren.
He will be interred at the Vineyard Haven Cemetery in Martha's Vineyard, Mass. where his wife is buried.
Times staff writer Valerie J. Nelson contributed to this report.