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War torn: stories of war from the women…
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War torn: stories of war from the women reporters who covered Vietnam (2002)

by Tad Bartimus

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The stories of the women journalists whom were in Vietnam show us their true colors and how human they were during one of the darkest times in U.S. history. I loved reading this book. ( )
  bookalover89 | Feb 14, 2011 |
In 1966, when I graduated from an all-female college, women were just beginning to embrace the concept that opportunities were open to them, that we went to college to get an education-not a husband, although many of us still embraced the "womanly" occupations of school teacher, nurse, and librarian. I joined the Navy, and found myself (after a rigorous Officer Candidate training in Newport RI) serving in a schools command personnel office in Newport where for the next two plus years, I spent 50% of my time, signing orders and travel papers and getting clearances to send graduates of the Navy's various training schools in Newport to duty in Vietnam. None of my Newport classmates (all females) served in country. The only women the Navy sent were nurses. I signed their orders, but I didn't go through training with them and I didn't go to war with them. My war was at home, convincing myself that our country couldn't possibly make the horrible mistake the war protesters screamed we were making.

My husband graduated from the Naval Academy that same year, and many of his classmates did go to Vietnam. Several didn't return. He went in 1972, commanding a large ocean going tug ferrying barges in and out of that dangerous area. We don't talk a lot about the war. To this day, I cannot go to the Vietnam War Memorial (THE WALL) without breaking down in tears. It's not just for the people we know. The tears are for all the people we didn't know, that we'll never have the chance to know, and for the loved ones who never had the chance for a long life together like we have had, for the incredible carnage and anguish our country endured because of what is known as Vietnam.

So........it was with a great deal of trepidation that I took on the reading challenge War Throughout the Generations: Vietnam. I wasn't certain I was ready to tackle what I was sure could only be an extremely politicized and polarizing experience. I don't watch war movies, I can't stand to see anything with blood and guts and guns and grenades. I even have trouble reading some 'thrillers' if they're too graphic. Is it that if I can't picture it, then it didn't happen? I'm especially sure that I'll probably never be able to publicly blog about my still conflicted thoughts.

War Torn, was the perfect book for me to begin my reading, and maybe even to begin to examine my feelings. Written by nine women who served as war correspondents in Vietnam during various periods of the conflict between 1966 and 1975, the diverse perspectives, adventures, and experiences of this group helped me to come to grips with the fact that it's ok not to be able to resolve our feelings. They came from a variety of backgrounds and educations (one had never worked in any journalistic capacity - she got to Vietnam as a pediatrician's girlfriend!), they had an assortment of marching orders (from covering traditional women's items like families and food to going anywhere the military would permit them), and they had a wide range of reactions.

I was struck so strongly by their love of the country and the people. Anyone I've ever spoken to who went there speaks of the beauty of the land, and the gentleness and integrity of the people. The government may have been corrupt, and the land may have been decimated by all participants, but these women were all able to find something positive to bring out of their experiences. I was especially struck by their insistence of getting the word out about what the average GI was really going through, by trying to get to know them, convincing field commanders to let them accompany troops in the field, and then report about soldier's heroism, fears, and battlefield wisdom.

I was also struck by the difference between "the war" as experienced by those who stayed mainly in Saigon, and "the war" out in the valleys, in the mountains, in the villages.

Kate Webb: "...back in Saigon it was different. You got back more often than not stinking, sweat caked, mosquito bitten, and badly in need of a shower, the images of the last week or ten days --the loss, the nerves, the bitterness, the adrenaline, the fear-- to lights, booze, laughter, and martinis on the terrace of the Caravelle (hotel) pg. 68

The courage (some might say recklessness?) exhibited by this group as they schlepped up mountain sides wearing 100 lb packs, burned leeches off their arms and legs, waded across rivers holding their precious cameras and tape recorders over their heads, ducked into trenches to avoid flying mortars was not what was expected of 'little ladies' of our generation. Several were wounded, a couple have debilitating physical issues that will follow them for the rest of their lives. They adopted Vietnamese children, wrote books, and basically did what they were supposed to do--they reported what they saw.

Several admitted however, that they had been unable to think about or reminisce about their time until this project was proposed. It was only in this book, 25 -30 years after they left, that they allowed themselves to confront some of the very emotional issues they had to bury in order to report in an objective manner. Kate Webb was taken prisoner (in Cambodia) at one point. In writing about the experience, her ability to detach and report is impressive.

With the lack of any news or reference point, any reality check, in the grey limbo of 'the prisoner'--where you are not among the living or the dead of the war, but trapped in a gray twilight with no links to the living world--you reach a point inside yourself that you wouldn't reach otherwise. Pg. 78

There are other memorable quotes from several of them:

Anne Bryan Mariano: "Being in the field proved to me that while there are many cases of individual courage and heroism among soldiers, there is nothing about war itself that is heroic." pg. 39)

Tad Bartimus : "In my youth I thought I was invincible, that if I didn't get shot or visibly maimed, I'd get away clean. But surviving a war doesn't mean you escape being its victim. .....my ongoing health problems (from exposure to Agent Orange?) remind me that thousands of veterans still fight the Vietnam War every day in their own bodies." pg. 188, 217.

Laura Walker, who 'hitchhiked' to Vietnam with no press credentials or experience, writes eloquently of the other group of women who served in Vietnam, and about whom as a group not much has been written, the nurses

"The myth is that women weren't in combat. In an official sense, that's true...Nurses saw the war from the inside out, from the rotting wounds infested with maggots to the stink of burned flesh, the mangled limbs, and the sucking chest wounds....The nurses wanted, willed, hoped, believed, prayed, and yearned for their patients to live so much that each death felt like a defeat. Nearly every nurse came home with a debilitating and corrosive sense of failure embedded in her soul. If only she ad been a better nurse, more would have survived. "

These are powerful and empowering stories-- for women and men. If you want to start reading about actual 'in country' experiences, this is a great place to start. ( )
17 vote tututhefirst | Feb 1, 2010 |
Women correspondents in Vietnam were a rarity and frequently discouraged by the military as well as by paternalistic editors who resisted giving them combat assignments. But the nine women reporters whose harrowing war stories are recounted here e.g., Bartimus (Associated Press), Edie Lederer (Associated Press), Anne Merrick (ABC-TV), Laura Palmer (ABC and NBC Radio), and more were determined to go to Vietnam to cover the biggest story of their generation. In the course of their work, one was captured and imprisoned by the enemy and two others were seriously injured. For each woman Vietnam was a life-changing event, her "phantom limb," as Bartimus calls it. These powerful stories of sex, drugs, fear, adventure, horror, and pathos, as well as "the unabashed love" that these reporters observed the men on the battlefield expressing to one another, offer a new perspective on the war and warfare journalism that should be in demand in all public and academic libraries. Highly recommended. Faye Powell, Portland State Univ. Lib., OR
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. ( )
  Elishibai | Feb 6, 2007 |
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We dedicate this book to those who went and those who waited, and to those who did not live long enough to tell their own stories.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375506284, Hardcover)

For the first time, nine women who made journalism history talk candidly about their professional and deeply personal experiences as young reporters who lived, worked, and loved surrounded by war. Their stories span a decade of America’s involvement in Vietnam, from the earliest days of the conflict until the last U.S. helicopters left Saigon in 1975.

They were gutsy risk-takers who saw firsthand what most Americans knew only from their morning newspapers or the evening news. Many had very particular reasons for going to Vietnam—some had to fight and plead to go—but others ended up there by accident. What happened to them was remarkable and important by any standard. Their lives became exciting beyond anything they had ever imagined, and the experience never left them. It was dangerous—one was wounded, and one was captured by the North Vietnamese—but the challenges they faced were uniquely rewarding.

They lived at full tilt, making an impact on all the people around them, from the orphan children in the streets to their fellow journalists and photographers to the soldiers they met and lived with in the field. They experienced anguish and heartbreak—and an abundance
of friendship and love. These stories not only introduce a remarkable group of individuals but give an entirely new perspective on the most controversial conflict in our history. Vietnam changed their lives forever. Here they tell about it with all the candor, commitment, and energy that characterized their courageous reporting during the war.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:00 -0400)

Acclaimed female journalists--including Tad Bartimus, Denby Fawcett, Jurate Kazickas, Edith Lederer, Kate Webb, and Tracy Wood--speak out about their personal and professional experiences as reporters covering the Vietnam War.

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