March 28, 2016

1968. War Correspondents in Vietnam

"The United States Marines in Vietnam are Invaded by Reporters"
"Walter Cronkite conducting an interview in Hue, February 1968" (source)
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

March 12, 1968

The weekly newspaper Sea Tiger is published by the III Marine Amphibious Force now fighting in Vietnam. A few days ago it printed an editorial as the Leathernecks were clearing out the battle area around the ancient city of Hue, and as the Communists kept the pressure on the Marine base camp at Khe Sanh below the demilitarized zone.

We thought you might like to share the warm feelings expressed in this editorial, which is indicative of the morale and spirit in the embattled I Corps area of South Vietnam.

Said the Sea Tiger: "Newsmen of every sort, size, shape, skill, sex and sect descended on I Corps in the past couple of weeks. Sensing the big stories at Khe Sanh and Hue, representatives of every major American news media moved in on the action. Joining them were their counterparts from France, Germany, Britain, Sweden, Italy, Australia, Japan, Okinawa, Korea and Vietnam..."

The editorial continued: "TV and radio networks were well-staffed. ABC News President Elmer Lower was backed up by three news teams. Walter Cronkite of CBS news flew in. NBC had four teams on hand for most of the period. Seven foreign nations had at least one radio or TV crew on hand..."

The Sea Tiger then went on to describe the task forces of war correspondents sent in by the Associated Press and United Press International; magazines like Newsweek, Time, and Life; and the major newspapers in the US and abroad.

The Marine newspaper also noted that the newsmen were suffering casualties. Igor Oganesoff of CBS and Bill Brannigan of ABC wounded at Khe Sanh; Sam Bingham of Empire News, Dana Stone of UPI, and David Greenway of Time magazine hit at Hue, to mention only a few.

And the Sea Tiger summed up: "They come and go—those in the front row of the 4th Estate—with little more recognition than the occasional by-line. But they do the job."

It's a rare on-the-spot tribute to the men and women reporting the confused and dangerous fighting in Southeast Asia, reporting that has become so commonplace on radio and television that Americans take it for granted.

But we like the tribute which the Marine newspaper unconsciously paid to its Leatherneck readers in Vietnam, when the editorial concluded: "So smile! Men, you're on cameras...and in newsreels, documentaries, newspapers, magazines, books and radio..." That's the way the Marines tell it.

This is Bill Downs in Washington.