Letter from Vietnam magazine – August 2011

By Vietnam magazine
8/8/2011 • Drafts, Vietnam Letters

The cost of bringing our wars home

Last April, in Benghazi, Libya, two photographers covering the brutal war boiling over in North Africa were killed in a mortar blast as they followed rebels repelling an attack by government forces. Tim Hetherington was a photographer who had also produced and directed the acclaimed Afghan war documentary Restrepo. Chris Hondros of Getty Images was killed alongside Hetherington. They paid the ultimate price to deliver to the world images of what was happening in Libya. Nearly 46 years ago, German photographer Horst Faas was in Vietnam and nearly met the same fate at a village named Dong Xoai. In what he calls his closest call in the war, Faas spent a harrowing night pinned down during the raging battle there in June 1965. His chilling photos, some of which appeared in Life magazine shortly after, are a testament to why photojournalists like him, Hetherington and Hondros do what they do. Faas’ photos and gripping account, as told to longtime Associated Press photo editor Hal Buell, begins on page 30.

In the fall of 1966, the 196th Light Infantry Brigade was just getting its feet wet in Tay Ninh Province. In our cover story, Rod Paschall draws on his firsthand experience in Operation Attleboro to dissect what happened during three bloody days in November (in which two soldiers earned Medals of Honor). As Paschall reveals, the true dimensions of how and why a near disaster became a decisive victory only came to light some 30 years later.

Long before most Americans had ever heard of Vietnam, the United States saw an opportunity to help bring WWII to a close in the Pacific by investing in a small band of men to harass Japanese forces occupying Indochina. Their leaders were two obscure figures, Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap. The last living member of the secret team sent to train Ho and Giap, 89-year-old Henry Prunier, was recently awarded a long-delayed Bronze Star Medal for the mission. Contributor Claude Berube writes in “Ho, Giap and Me” about Prunier and his unique insights into these two legendary figures.

The incredible final hours of America’s war in Vietnam come vividly to life in the sure-to-be-bestseller Last Men Out, by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin. An excerpt of the thrilling saga of how the last 11 Marines narrowly escaped Saigon begins on page 42. And frequent contributor Don North delves into what may have been the Vietnam War’s most audacious secret mission and single greatest humanitarian miracle—which played out as Saigon fell and until recently has been largely unknown.

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