If there's one clear lesson the U.S. military learned from Vietnam, it was "Never again." Never again let the media run around the theater of war reporting whatever they wanted from wherever they wanted. It was a lesson the Pentagon acted on in the Gulf War, severely limiting media access. It was also a lesson hard learned.
As was happening on college campuses, concert stages, and at political rallies across the country, journalism underwent a revolution in the '60s and early '70s. Though led by patrician families that were firmly entrenched in the political and cultural elite of the nation, newspapers and magazines were being written by young reporters who came of age with Elvis, the Beatles, and the Civil Rights Movement. All previous generations of journalists had accepted that an American war was a good war. The Vietnam press corps held no such belief.
Reporting Vietnam collects the best writing and reportage from the war into two volumes of gripping, painful reading. Part one covers the war from 1959 to 1969 from the first American deaths to the bloody battle of Hamburger Hill. Along the way, reporters fan out to uncover the military blunders, the political minefields, and the cultural changes spreading from America to Vietnam: from the Tet Offensive to the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, from a violent Christmas in Saigon to Black power in the U.S. forces.
The two volumes compile the works of the best and boldest writers who covered the war: David Halberstam, Russell Baker, Stanley Karnow, Peter Arnett, Walter Cronkite, Wallace Terry,SydneySchanberg, Neil Sheehan, Gloria Emerson, Philip Caputo, and Michael Herr, to name just some of the over 80 writers whose work appears in the collection.
Part two, covering 1969 through 1975, begins with My Lai and ends with the fall of Saigon and the evacuation of the U.S. embassy. This was the war at its most chaotic, its most lawless, its most tragic. Concluding this volume, and summarizing the complete experience of reporting on Vietnam, is Michael Herr's Dispatches, a stunning book-length memoir of his experience of the war.
Reporting Vietnam is a valuable collection of primary source narratives from reporters in the field. As a collection, it is also a comprehensive document of the pain America went through in Vietnam.