Death Zones and Darling Spies: Seven Years of Vietnam War Reporting

Death Zones and Darling Spies: Seven Years of Vietnam War Reporting

Death Zones and Darling Spies: Seven Years of Vietnam War Reporting

Death Zones and Darling Spies: Seven Years of Vietnam War Reporting


In 1961, equipped with a master's degree from famed Columbia Journalism School and letters of introduction to Associated Press bureau chiefs in Asia, twenty-six-year-old Beverly Deepe set off on a trip around the world. Allotting just two weeks to South Vietnam, she was still there seven years later, having then earned the distinction of being the longest-serving American correspondent covering the Vietnam War and garnering a Pulitzer Prize nomination.

In Death Zones and Darling Spies, Beverly Deepe Keever describes what it was like for a farm girl from Nebraska to find herself halfway around the world, trying to make sense of one of the nation's bloodiest and bitterest wars. She arrived in Saigon as Vietnam's war entered a new phase and American helicopter units and provincial advisers were unpacking. She tells of traveling from her Saigon apartment to jungles where Wild West-styled forts first dotted Vietnam's borders and where, seven years later, they fell like dominoes from communist-led attacks. In 1965 she braved elephant grass with American combat units armed with unparalleled technology to observe their valor-and their inability to distinguish friendly farmers from hide-and-seek guerrillas.

Keever's trove of tissue-thin memos to editors, along with published and unpublished dispatches for New York and London media, provide the reader with you-are-there descriptions of Buddhist demonstrations and turning-point coups as well as phony ones. Two Vietnamese interpreters, self-described as "darling spies," helped her decode Vietnam's shadow world and subterranean war. These memoirs, at once personal and panoramic, chronicle the horrors of war and a rise and decline of American power and prestige.


History; despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but
if faced with courage, need not be lived again.

Maya Angelou, at Clinton presidential inauguration, 1993

November 8, 1960. Brisk gusts descended with the twilight hour as Sam Lubell and I entered Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan, headed for the news studio of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). We were geared up to assess the soon-to-arrive ballots cast in the presidential election between Democrats Senator John Kennedy and his running mate, Lyndon Johnson, versus Republicans Vice President Richard Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge.

I cradled a dog-eared cardboard box of notes Sam and I had handwritten during the campaign to record his pioneering doorbell-ringing technique of interviewing voters. My one-time professor at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism and now my boss, Sam was a big name in political journalism, thanks to his syndicated newspaper columns and award-winning book. His reputation prompted nbc to contract him to predict accurately the winner of what proved to be the nations closest presidential race up to that time and to do so ahead of the computers pitted against him by the other two network stations.

Throughout the night I answered phone calls bringing us latest results of voting in selected precincts where we had earlier conducted interviews. By matching the phoned-in results with our earlier statistics, Sam beat the other networks’ computers to project accurately that Kennedy would win the popular vote. Not in my wildest dreams did I then imagine that these four politicians would influence so profoundly what would happen in Vietnam — or even that I would be in Vietnam. Yet Kennedy was . . .

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