By William M. Hammond
A paper by William M. Hammond, spring 1999 fellow, investigates the mystery of the Saigon correspondents. Opinions about who the correspondents were have been varied, and often colored by an individual’s view of the Vietnam War. A high percentage of them were messengers, translators, technicians and cameramen, and back up staff members of all sorts, not journalists. Those that were professional journalists were supposedly on the scene for only limited amounts of time. Who, indeed, were the Saigon correspondents? What were their ages and genders? Were they, in fact, mostly young and inexperienced? How did the reporters compare with journalists in the United States and elsewhere? Where did they come from? What about the freelancers? Were they as numerous and as bad as alleged? Have changes in the fighting and reporting of modern war rendered the corps of correspondents who covered Vietnam a mere curiosity, or can it shed some light on journalists and journalism in wartime? This study seeks to answer those questions by resorting to a unique resource, previously unavailable to researchers. The Army’s Center of Military History uncovered a huge collection of correspondent accreditation files amassed between 1965 and 1973 by the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV). Composed of forms reporters filed with the MACV Office of Information in order to gain access to U.S. official support in covering the war, it contained a wealth of information – not only the reporters’ names, but also their ages, nationalities, employers, information about their roles, previous experience in journalism, and additional details.