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In the last few years, with the publication of such books as Jacques Leslie'sThe Markand William Prochnau'sOnce Upon a Distant War, historians and former correspondents have been examining closely the role of journalism in the conduct of the Vietnam War. The two volumes ofReporting Vietnamoffer a trove of material for such studies. Part One contains combat-front writing by journalists who are well known to students of Vietnam War history--Stanley Karnow, David Halberstam, Frances FitzGerald, Bernard Fall, Neil Sheehan, Ward Just, and Zalin Grant among them. The hefty volume--which runs the gamut of journalistic genres, including hard news, analysis, profiles, think pieces, and interviews--covers the home front as well, from which the likes of Norman Mailer and Tom Wolfe have their say.

The collection opens with a fairly dispassionate account from Time magazine reporting the deaths of the first U.S. military advisors in 1959; it ends with the complete text of Daniel Lang's long New Yorker piece, "Casualties of War," the basis for Brian De Palma's controversial movie of the same name. In between are accounts of battles on the streets of Chicago and the Central Highlands, studies of the rise of black-power militancy on the ever-changing front lines, and perceptive portraits of ordinary soldiers on both sides of the war. Among the book's many highlights is Neil Sheehan's memoir of his change from hawk to dove as the war progressed. "I have sometimes thought," he writes, "when a street urchin with sores covering his legs stopped me and begged for a few cents' worth of Vietnamese piastres, that he might be better off growing up as a political commissar. He would then, at least, have some self-respect." Such changing views, we can now clearly see, helped shift public opinion in the United States against the war. --Gregory McNamee

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ISBN-10:  1883011582
ISBN-13:  978-1883011581
Author:  Milton J. Bates
Publisher:  Library of America
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review by . September 03, 2000
Reading this collection of Vietnam-era reportage from The Library of America is a stark reminder of the lasting power of the written word. Has it really been nearly a quarter-century since the black and white images of the helicopters taking off from the roof of the American Embassy faded from our television screens? Grenada, Panama, Iraq -- three wars and God knows how many humanitarian efforts (Somalia, Yugoslavia, did I miss any?) Yet, the power of memory is such that it doesn't take much to …
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Reporting Vietnam: American Journalism 1959-1969
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