This isn't an article about gear or kit, but I'd like to think it will be of interest to most of you.
There are a few really big names in the ranks of war correspondents. Guys that truly represent the finest of ethical, upright no-#&%*combat journalism. One of those names was Ernie Pyle.
Another is Joe Galloway.
Have a good Monday. I made it to El Paso in one piece and will be spending the next few day pow-wowing with some of the Border Patrol folks down here. Let ya know if I come across anything really cool.
If you're interested, here's an interview with Mr. Galloway, courtesy of the author of Haunting Legacy:
Q and A with Joseph Galloway, Vietnam War correspondent and authorHaunting Legacy
Joseph Galloway is a well-known war correspondent, author and lecturer. He covered the Vietnam War, as well as many other military conflicts, and is the co-author of several books, including the Vietnam War classic We Were Soldiers Once...And Young.
Q: How would you compare the coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the coverage of the Vietnam War?
A: There's a vast difference in how the wars of today in Iraq and Afghanistan are covered when compared to how the Vietnam War was covered. The technology of transmitting the words, images and films of reporters and photographers has advanced exponentially. Where once we spent hours screaming down military telephone lines to dictate 400 words from some provincial capital to our bureaus in Saigon; where once it could take a day or two for your undeveloped film to be "pigeoned" to Saigon, processed, printed and& captioned and then sent out by radiophoto transmitter by Saigon PTT; where once it could take a day or two for unprocessed TV film to be carried to Saigon; another day for it to be carried to Tokyo or Hong Kong where it could be processed and roughly edited before being transmitted via cable to New York and the evening news shows---now there are satellite telephones that fit in a reporter's pocket and the equipment to feed a live TV broadcast that fits in a small suitcase. Information and images flow instantly.
Beyond the technical aspect there is the more important difference in control exerted by the military on those who would cover soldiers and Marines in battle. Vietnam was the most openly and freely covered war in American history. In World Wars I and II there was official censorship of all press material. Correspondents were de facto members of the military and subject to military orders and military justice. In Korea there was less in the way of official censorship but control of communications, travel and access gave the military much of what it wanted.
In Vietnam there was no censorship and no control to speak of. Anyone with a letter from an editor back home could pitch up in Saigon and get accreditation from the U.S. and Vietnamese military commands. All the U.S. officials asked was that one sign a simple one-page pledge to obey a few basic operational security rules: 1. I will not report on the movement of allied troops while that movement is still underway. 2. I will not report the actual number of friendly casualties in an engagement while it is still underway. Instead I will categorize friendly losses as light, medium or heavy. etc.
With a U.S. press card you could travel anywhere in Vietnam on U.S. military transportation. You could visit virtually any American unit and stay as long as you wished or your editor permitted. There was no pre-censorship. At any given time during the eight years of direct U.S. military involvement in Vietnam (1965-1973) there were an average of 400 to 500 accredited correspondents. Seventy of them were killed in action while trying to get the story and photos and film of the war. Many others were wounded.
Since Vietnam the military has again reverted to a Korean War model of controlling access and communications. The U.S. military invaded the island of Grenada and captured it eventually, without a single correspondent being present. The media were simply locked out. Protests and complaints led to the formation of a media ready reaction pool in Washington, D.C. Members had to be prepared to leave on very short notice for an undisclosed location. When the invasion of Panama came along the pool was alerted and flown to Panama, and then its members were locked up in a hangar on an air base and kept there until the action was over. More complaints and negotiations.
When the Gulf War was brewing in 1990 the military began cooking up a plan to form 10 pools of 10 journalists each to cover the coming war with Iraq. Each pool would be under control of an officer, usually a colonel, who would decide where they could go, what they could cover and would have the power to censor their pool reports or to refuse to forward those reports at all. Some 1,200 correspondents from all over the world descended on Saudi Arabia, most going to the International Hotel in Dhahran; the rest to the Marriott Hotel in Riyadh to cover allied and U.S. headquarters there.
With an allied force of over 600,000 troops the number of pools was clearly inadequate. On the eve of the invasion in 1991 the number was increased to 15 pools of 10 correspondents each. The system was still too few too late. At the end of a brilliant 100-hour campaign the military discovered that it had no photos or film of the tank battles in Kuwait. The "heroes" of the Gulf War, in the absence of real news coverage of the combat and the troops on the front, became the briefing officers in Riyadh and in the Pentagon. Army division commanders bemoaned their own decisions to lock up their press pool in the rear, or their failure to provide a helicopter to ferry them around a large, mostly empty and impassable desert battleground.
All this led to some improvements in military-media relations when it came to planning for a U.S. invasion of Haiti in the mid-1990s. Although U.S. forces did not have to fight their way in, plans had been laid to take along embedded journalists if it came to that. The idea of embedding journalists with American combat units came to fruition in Bosnia. An embed was expected to spend a long time with his assigned combat unit--weeks rather than days. The longer the better. This made for much improved access for the media, and much more informed reporting for and about the military.
When serious preparations began in the fall of 2002 for an invasion of Iraq one of the Pentagon's biggest worries was that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's propaganda machine would churn out lies about American atrocities, misplaced airstrikes and the like...and it would be hard to counter those lies. A decision was made in the office of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to set up a massive program to embed U.S. and foreign journalists with every combat unit involved on land, air and sea operations. In the end more than 725 embeds accompanied the force that invaded Iraq in early 2003.
After the fall of Baghdad and Saddam's government, the numbers of embedded media shrank quickly. As the months and years drew on those numbers covering the Iraq War would shrink even more as American viewers and readers turned away from unpleasant news, and as newspapers began severe cost-cutting moves to stay afloat as their business model began failing. Keeping a war correspondent in Iraq cost approximately $32,000 per month and it was easy for an editor or a publisher to say: Let the AP cover it for us. The numbers that covered the Vietnam War from beginning to end simply were not there to cover the Iraq War. Even fewer to cover Afghanistan.
Q: Do you think that the American public’s perception of Vietnam veterans has changed over the decades, and if so, how?
A: The American public's perception of Vietnam veterans has indeed changed drastically over the nearly four decades since the last Americans lifted out of Saigon aboard helicopters in April 1975. If you don't believe this take a look at the last U.S. Census, which asked a question about military service. Just over three million Americans served in the Indochina Theater during 10 years of the Vietnam War. Yet some 10 million Americans claimed to have served in Vietnam when asked that census question. At the time of the war, middle-class males ducked behind college deferments to avoid serving in Vietnam. Others went to Canada to avoid the draft. Demonstrators filled the streets. But now being a Vietnam veteran seems to be a desirable thing in our society.
In the first years after the war ended our country remained deeply divided in how it thought about this war and its veterans. We were unable to separate the war so many opposed and hated from the young men our country and its political leaders of both parties sent to fight that war. Veterans generally went to ground in the crossfire, keeping quiet about their service.
There were several catalysts for a change in thinking about Vietnam veterans, not least the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., in 1982. Veterans donated the funds to build the Wall. Veterans led the campaign to gain congressional approval for its construction. Vietnam veterans are leading a current campaign to collect the funds needed to build an Education Center underneath the National Mall adjacent to the Memorial.
Another of the catalysts involved the welcome home parades and ceremonies across the nation for troops returning home at the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991. The parades were huge and glorious and even those who opposed that, or all, wars could celebrate the end of a war and the troops coming home. As those troops marched down America's biggest boulevards they reached out and pulled Vietnam veterans off the sidewalks and into their ranks--in effect sharing their warm homecoming with those who never got one after their war ended.
I like to think that the book We Were Soldiers Once...and Young, co-authored by Lt. Gen. Hal Moore and myself, had a little something to do with changing how Americans thought about the young men it sent to fight in the war of our youth. The war we had seen, the young soldiers and officers we had known, were honorable men who did the best they could in a very bad situation. When America's leaders could offer no reasonable explanation for why they were sent to fight, these young men simply fought for each other, laid down their lives for each other. While we wrote about two battles early in a long war, our words were meant for all who served in that war. Our goal was to say a heartfelt Thank You to them, and in so doing to help restore their pride in that service.
Q: In your opinion, should Vietnam be described as a "lost" war? Why or why not?
A: Our political leaders, from Dwight Eisenhower to John F. Kennedy to Lyndon B. Johnson to Richard Nixon, all declared that our purpose in taking an ever-growing hand in Vietnam's civil war was to support and defend and ensure the survival of the government of South Vietnam. Obviously we failed to reach and sustain our objective. That government fell at the end of April 1975. There are those who say we didn't lose the war because our last troops departed Vietnam in 1973. In my view there's no question that Vietnam was, for us, a "lost war." It is a painful admission, but a truthful admission. We lost. They won. But we still have the possibility of winning the peace in Vietnam. Those who were our enemies there, and their successors in government, now welcome American diplomats, American businessmen, American tourists.
Q: How has Vietnam factored into subsequent presidents' decision-making when it comes to sending troops to war?
A: For a brief period after the end of the war in Vietnam there was talk of how that outcome had hamstrung American diplomacy overseas, and put a damper on the idea of American military intervention anywhere around the globe. But not for long. Too much was happening in the world. The Berlin Wall was falling; communism in Russia was dying; the Cold War was ending. America the subdued was again America the triumphant. And so followed interventions in Beirut, Grenada, Panama. The Persian Gulf War. The Haiti intervention. By the time a new president, George W. Bush, had gotten settled into his new quarters we had 9/11 and our intervention in Afghanistan. Followed soon enough by the invasion of Iraq. It seemed that no one in the Bush administration had read any history at all, much less any history of the Vietnam War. Those wars would drag on to the end of the administration and beyond; one would sputter to an inconclusive end; the other sputters toward a similar end in 2014. We got out of Iraq with some of our dignity intact but there is increasing fear that we may leave Afghanistan in a hail of gunfire from both our "friends" and our enemies.
Q: Do you think the topic of the Vietnam War is of interest to many Americans born since the end of the war?
A: I travel this country speaking to audiences of active duty military, veterans, and students. It is my impression that many young Americans born since the end of our war have a great interest in that war, as evidenced by the popularity of college courses on the history of the war. School children make up many of the millions who visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the nation's capital each year. It is for them and future generations that the Education Center at the Memorial is being built.
Joseph Galloway reporting from Vietnam in 1966.