War Stories Press

Marc Phillip Yablonka, Military Journalist, Chronicler of the Vietnam War

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Vietnam Bao Chi: Warriors of Word and Film

 Marc Phillip Yablonka. Casemate, $32.95 (312p) ISBN 978-1-61200-687-1 

Release date: 11/01/2018

REVIEW FROM SOLDIER MAGAZINE, Publication of The British Army

  

The combat reporters who covered the Vietnam War for the US Armed Forces have rarely had the exposure of their counterparts in the civilian media – but this collection of biographies redresses the balance. Yablonka presents a vivid snapshot of some 35 military correspondents responsible for telling the soldier’s story, often facing a ruthless and determined enemy. The pen portraits brings the Bao Chi – the Vietnamese phrase for journalist – to life, with the author’s accessible style making this a decent read. With a section for each personality, it is also very easy to pick up and put down. 

Cliff Caswell

Published in the February 2019 Issue


REVIEW FROM PUBLISHERS WEEKLY


Journalist Yablonka (Distant War) fills a void with this valuable collection of profiles of 35 American military journalists of varied sorts who plied their trade during the Vietnam War. Some, including former Marines Dale Dye and Bob Bayer, Green Beret Jim Morris, Army combat correspondent Marvin Wolf, and combat photographer Dick Durrance, went on to notable careers as civilian journalists, writers, and photographers. Others such as Frank Lepore stayed in the military. All of the former military correspondents, photographers, and TV and documentary cameramen and directors go into depth about day-to-day details of their war work. Some offer their opinions about what civilian war correspondents do: Sonny Craven, an Army radio-TV-motion picture officer, for example, is highly critical of “hot dog” civilian reporters trying to make a name for themselves in the war zone, but Lepore, who served in the same position, characterizes his interactions with civilian press members as “congenial,” since both groups of journalists “had to get to the action to record it.” Yablonka pays tribute to three of the civilians—photographers Eddie Adams, Catherine Leroy, and Nick Ut. This work shines light on the all-but-forgotten role of American military báo chí (press in Vietnamese) and fleshes out the history of Vietnam War journalism and journalists. (Dec.) 

 Reviewed on: 10/29/2018 


REVIEW FROM THE VVA VETERAN, Magazine of The Vietnam Veterans of America

  

Most Vietnam War histories on the broadcast media focus on, and critique, civilian coverage of the war. TV television coverage brought the war into America’s living rooms and many believe turned public opinion against the war. President Johnson hated most coverage, at one point saying that it was as if CBS and NBC  were “controlled by the Viet Cong.”

  

 Journalist and author Marc Phillip Yablonka’s Vietnam Bao Chi: Warriors of Word and Film (Casemate, 320 pp., $32.95, hardcover; $11.99, Kindle) provides a different point of view. Yablonka tells the stories of more than thirty Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marine military correspondents, photographers, and TV and documentary cameramen and directors who covered the war for Stars & Stripes and various military media.


Marines, as Yablonka shows, were warriors first and reporters or photographers second. In one case, Yablonka writes of a Marine cameraman, as the next most senior in rank, picking up his M-14 and calling in an airstrike after his lieutenant and sergeant were severely wounded. In another, a Marine journalist captured six Viet Cong. 

  

Loosely translated,“Bao Chi” is Vietnamese for journalist. But the men Yablonka writes about covered the war more viscerally, with emotional perspective cast in terms like bravery, courage, honor, and loyalty. The Marine cameraman who took command declares, for example:


“I was with the finest company of those Marines and Navy corpsman and thank them for giving me the rare privilege to bear witness to their efforts and sacrifices. I wish all the images in my mind could be reproduced because they are far more exceptional than the images I captured on film.”

Each chapter deals with a different person’s experiences in the war. To some degree the chapters are repetitious. At the same time, a reader can pick and choose among chapters, drawn in by titles such as “Rockin’ and Rollin’ with the Montagnards” and “From Hot Rod Comics and Hemingway…to Vietnam.”

  

Military abbreviations and jargon pepper the text; the glossary is seven-pages long. Some veterans may find the terms nostalgic; civilian readers may find themselves regularly referring to that glossary.

Some chapters recount the war’s “surreal” moments.” In one case, ten Marines on a roof watch flashes in the distance as rockets fall on Da Nang’s airbase, excited by “the fireworks show.” They sit in beach chairs and drink beer. Then someone yells out: “Get naked.” So they did. 

Another time, after a firefight, a lieutenant had his unit call out their last names to determine if anyone had been killed. One guy didn’t answer. After a frantic search, he was found behind a boulder—calmly eating C-ration fruit cocktail.


Vietnam Bao Chi isn’t for everyone because of its repetition and level of detail. But that was the mission of military correspondents: to provide context and details that arguably escaped recognition by civilian reporters. The book’s perspective may be unique among the number of books written about the Vietnam War.

Bob Carolla

Posted on 02/19/2019

  

REVIEW FROM THE VHPA AVIATOR, Magazine of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association

  

This is a book about men who, when bullets are flying stick their heads up to take pictures or make notes so they can tell the story when the rest of us want to take cover.  They were there to record history, not make it even though they had to use their rifles. Vietnam Bao Chi is the story of thirty-plus Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard correspondents who were sent to Vietnam to record the war.  Who knew?  They didn’t work for TV networks or major publications, instead they were one of us. Many were officers, most were enlisted men. All were sent to Vietnam to accurately record what they saw – the bravery, the conditions, the humor and what we did without providing commentary.  Many were wounded and some were killed. The book starts with Marine captain Dale Dye, more known for his work in the film industry than as a correspondent. Their stories will make you laugh and cry, sometimes in the same story as they did their level best to record what they saw in Vietnam. This is their story and Yablonka does a great job of telling it. Vietnam Bao Chi is a great read about men who did double duty. I highly recommend it to everyone!

Marc Liebman

Published in May/June 2019 Issue