Southeast Asia: A Correspondent's Vietnam Revisited 35 Years after the Fall of Saigon

By Kirk, Donald | The Christian Science Monitor, May 19, 2010 | Go to article overview

Southeast Asia: A Correspondent's Vietnam Revisited 35 Years after the Fall of Saigon


Kirk, Donald, The Christian Science Monitor


Every conflict has its own scribes. Southeast Asia's had a singular take.

For correspondents on the scene of the past half century of foreign wars, there never was anything quite like the decade of United States military involvement in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos from the early 1960s to "the fall of Saigon" on April 30, 1975. Call it the best of times, the worst of times, or both, but journalists had a measure of freedom, and often luxury, in those days that they never had in the Korean War or World War II - and certainly don't see in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Memories of jumping on US Army helicopters or lumbering C-130 transport planes bound for distant landing zones and airstrips remind those who covered the war of how easy it all seemed. One letter from an employer to the Joint US Public Affairs Office on the ground floor of the Rex Hotel in Saigon (the name by which the historic core of Ho Chi Minh City is still known), or two letters from editors willing to vouch for freelancers, were enough to get a press card good for military transport, for cheap dining in military mess halls, for shopping at post and base exchanges, and even for using the Army post office. And hotels, markets, bars, and restaurants of Saigon and other Vietnamese cities offered services at amazing discounts for those who changed their dollars for local dong at "the Bank of India" - the catchall name for the money- changers from India who operated behind the cover of bookstores and offices.

"We had incredible freedom in Vietnam and Cambodia," says Dan Southerland, a former correspondent for the Monitor and United Press International (UPI). Mr. Southerland, revisiting Phnom Penh as executive editor of Radio Free Asia, a US government network that broadcasts news into Asian countries, compares the ease with which journalists ranged over the region with the practice now of "embedding" reporters with military units if they wish to cover whatever they're doing.

"What you need is both embedding and the outliers," he says, meaning news organizations should rely on reporters both within and outside military units. In general, he says, "I think they are doing the best they can."

Others, however, strongly disagree. "My instinct is not to get embedded," says Simon Dring, who reported on Vietnam for Reuters in the 1960s. He sees reporters as having done some of their "best work" in Iraq and Afghanistan beyond the scope of military control. "It is very dangerous," he observes. "They take tremendous risks. They do fantastic reporting."

Journalists who covered wars in the states of former French Indochina faced many of the same risks but seem to have more of a sense of camaraderie than do those from later conflicts in Eastern Europe, Central America, and the Middle East. They share nostalgic memories of fine French menus mingled with the adrenalin rush of rocket attacks and firefights, distant battles and close-up coups.

Even mentions of the daily military briefings in Saigon, the "5 o'clock follies," evoke stories of tiffs with briefing officers, of reporters noted for relying more on the word of MACV, the Military Assistance Command Vietnam, than on firsthand views from the scene. Those days, old-time correspondents concede, have disappeared into the mists of history while US forces wage war in very different environments, in which security is never certain and adventurous, off-base night life largely nonexistent.

Danger lurked in different forms, often where least expected, in Vietnam and Cambodia, where 69 correspondents, photographers, and local interpreters and assistants were killed. The first casualty was the female photographer Dickey Chapelle, killed by shrapnel set off by a booby trap in the Mekong River Delta in November 1965. The last was another photographer, Frenchman Michel Laurent, killed on April 28, 1975, two days before the surrender of the US-backed government in Saigon. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Southeast Asia: A Correspondent's Vietnam Revisited 35 Years after the Fall of Saigon
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.