A long time nemesis of the West has died, Vietnamese Gen. No Nguyen Giap. During the siege of Khe Sanh, Ford Jennings, one of the main characters in The Five O’Clock Follies, insisted that the U.S. Marine outpost there was going to fall on the same day in the same that the French had been defeated at Dien Bien Phu 14 years earlier.
The correspondent’s thinking: General Vo Nguyen Giap, the mastermind of the French rout, was thought to be calling the shots in Khe Sanh.
We remember the pictures of the last horrifying 1975 flights out of Saigon, but Da Nang? A disgusting picture of South Vietnamese deserting soldiers shoving aside women and children to fight their way aboard a rescue flight. The stampede was so awful that the plane couldn’t close its boarding stairs, and took off with men dangling from its wings, baggage holes and wheel wells. The desperadoes who couldn’t clamber aboard fired shots and damaged the plane as it took off. Of the 268 who finally were in the cabin at takeoff, 5 were women and there were 2 or 3 small children. The rest were thugs trying to save their own skins.
A CBS video report by Bruce Dunning that was voted by Columbia University’s School of Journalism one of the 100 best pieces of reporting by its graduates in this, the school’s centennial year.
You got to see this to believe it!
Watch the video here:
1975: The Last Flight from Da Nang
For many the Vietnam War is no more than history. For those of us for whom it is a vivid memory, the 45th anniversary of the Tet Offensive this year is a time to wonder if we’ve learned any lessons from the war.
Here’s my take on truth in fiction: a guest article I wrote for The Crime Writers’ Chronical
This business about truth is confusing. Novels should be truer than life? Heightened reality? I spent my early working life as a daily journalist, and truth was truth and facts were facts. And anyone who strayed from that was soon on the carpet, or more likely out the door. Or should I say, anyone who got caught. So when I began struggling to write my first novel – set in Vietnam, of all places – I did one whale of a lot of research. I didn’t have to research the main character’s dilemma: She was a journalist in the late 1960s trying to prove to the all-male cast of characters that she could do the work. I’d been there done that, all I had to do was teach myself about Vietnam and the “American” war. And as I got rejection after rejection on my early novelistic attempts, I couldn’t grasp the meaning behind the comments.
They all were a variation on the same theme: The setting, the characters were mesmerizing, spellbinding, couldn’t-put-it-downable. So why didn’t they want to buy my book? Because the story didn’t work.
I had a hard row to hoe, to figure out how one makes fiction real, breathing of life, yet … what’s that extra magic ingredient?
Malcolm Browne died last week. George Esper and Horst Faas earlier this year. Hugh Mulligan and David Hallberstram left ages ago. The Vietnam War, and those who covered it, are truly becoming history. We’re coming up on the 45th anniversary of the Tet offensive, certainly a turning point of that long, long war. Browne arrived in Saigon for the AP on Nov. 11, 1961. Do your math.
Talk About a Difference of Opinion!
I read the New Yorker’s critic at large review of the new bio of Walter Cronkite before stumbling upon Chris Matthews’ take in the New York Times’ Sunday Book Review. Whoa! I thought for a minute they were talking about two different books, maybe two different men, both named Walter Cronkite.
Matthews gushes: “It was consummate Cronkite — unscripted, authentic and heartfelt. For 19 years, the anchor of ‘The CBS Evening News’ shared in our public grief and celebration. He was one of us, and Douglas Brinkley’s ‘Cronkite’ is a majestic biography of America’s greatest and most beloved broadcast journalist.”
THE NEW YORKER:
Meanwhile, Louis Menand of Harvard in a bit of a rambling, unfocused, review uses other sources to debunk the David Halberstam contention that Uncle Walter was “the most significant journalist of the second half of the twentieth century.”
And that, by golly, LBJ may well NOT have said that if he’d lost Cronkite’s support for the Vietnam War then he had lost the country’s.
THE BEAT GOES ON
In picking up the ensuing controversy, Robert W. Merry of The National Interest cites Continue reading
Find out in The Five O’Clock Follies, the debut novel by Theasa Tuohy.
A novel of Vietnam War reporters, their loves and lives, when all was not fair in love and war. Is it ever fair for women among men in wartime?
Just published: a stellar book review from Kirkus Reviews. The World’s Toughest Book Critics.