Academic journal article Journalism History

Saigon Has Fallen

Academic journal article Journalism History

Saigon Has Fallen

Article excerpt

Arnett, Peter. Saigon Has Fallen. New York: Rosetta Press, 2015. 224 pp. $14.95.

Any historian interested in war reportage in general, or the reporting of the Vietnam War in particular, will find Peter Arnett's latest book absorbing. Arnett, a New Zealander, worked for the Associated Press while covering the war in Vietnam, then moved to CNN where he reported on the later wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The book is full of first-person anecdotes, such as when military police in Saigon beat Arnett while he was reporting on a July 1963 protest. The crowd pushed him into an alley, where plainclothes security men beat and kicked him, then enthusiastically stomped on his camera. Another time, an American military policeman threatened him at gunpoint on a Saigon street.

Arnett also tells of dangerous trips into the jungles with the military in which ground troops battled North Vietnamese soldiers or Viet Cong and U.S. planes screamed overhead dropping napalm or other bombs and U.S. helicopters hovered above, spitting bullets into the undergrowth. Other journalists in Vietnam appear briefly in his anecdotes, so readers find stories involving Malcolm Browne, bureau chief in Saigon for the Associated Press; daring AP photojournalist Horst Faas; AP staffer Eddie Adams; Bob Schieffer, then reporting for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram\ New York Times reporters Charles Mohr, Neil Sheehan, and David Halberstam; and others. Several American and South Vietnamese officials and military officers also appear in the book's anecdotes. Among these vignettes is one about General William C. Westmoreland, who grew incensed that Arnett wrote he was playing tennis at an exclusive Saigon country club while U.S. soldiers under his command were being killed and injured in combat.

Best is his description of the fall of Saigon and his interactions with the North Vietnamese soldiers. Arnett was one of the few journalists who stayed in Saigon rather than fleeing with other Westerners who clambered aboard crowded helicopters that ferried people to waiting U.S. ships in the harbor. Arnett reports that North Vietnamese soldiers were friendly toward him and gathered around a table in the Saigon AP bureau, describing their successful route into South Vietnam's capital. …

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