The Barnes & Noble Review
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, on 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. armed forces.
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 mostlawless, 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.
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, Sydney Schanberg, Neil Sheehan, Gloria Emerson, Philip Caputo, and Michael Herr, to name just some of the more than 80 writers whose work appears in the collection.
Reporting Vietnam is a valuable collection of primary-source narratives from reporters in the field. It is also a comprehensive document of the pain America went through in Vietnam.
Greg Sewel, barnesandnoble.com
One of the few achievements of the long Vietnam conflict seems to have been its reporting, as distinct in its own way as the World War II stories of Ernie Pyle and A.J. Liebling. The Vietnam correspondents overcame the official "credibility gap" with a journalistic style that could be cool and defiantly factual, or personal, or sometimes exuberantly paranoid, echoing the soldiers themselves. The style develops as you read these two marvelous volumes: the early news accounts of advisers give way by mid-decade to a mission confusion and a growing respect for the underestimated Vietcong ("We used to call the enemy Victor Charlie. But now we call him Charles. Mr. Charles."). After the 1968 Tet Offensive, a more personal, sardonic voice emerges to match the bitter experience. In all, 80 writers survey the complex scene from all angles--from Don Moser's terrific anatomy of a 1968 guerrilla bombing to first-person accounts by POWs like John McCain, while Norman Mailer watches the street battles waged back home. Not everything here is literature, but the average is high. The collection concludes with Michael Herr's masterly, jungle-weary memoir, "Dispatches." Highly recommended for history, journalism, and literature collections.--Nathan Ward, "Library Journal"