On Their Own: Women Journalists And The American Experience In Vietnam

Book Reviews | Aug 3rd, 2008

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Publisher: Da Capo Press
Genre: History
Pages: 448
Retail Price: 0.00
Buy on Amazon.com link

Women war correspondents for the US were a rare occurrence up until WWII, which saw over 100 women credited with coverage. Vietnam, however, was the first war that saw a very large number of women on the media-war frontlines. Many of these women won journalism awards, while others were killed or taken prisoner.

This lengthy book features some of the women that both recorded and made history. Chapters are structured to be a full portrait of each correspondent, including Gloria Emerson, who was so affected by her experiences that afterwards she refused to write about them or give interviews up until her death in 2004; and esteemed photojournalism Dickey Chapelle who had covered the battles at Iwo Jima and Okinawa in WWII to be killed by a landmine in Vietnam (she was buried with full U.S. Marine honors, rare for a civilian).

A full autobiography could be written on each of these courageous subjects, but author Joyce Hoffman does a good job in condensing their personal and professional lives in about 40-60 fluid and engaging pages each. At first, I was disappointed by the format that focused more on each person’s life rather than be a straight-forward or chronological account on women correspondents in the Vietnam war in general. But after reading through some chapters, I did end up with a full sense of the time and place and the incredible challenges that not only these women, but all women serving their country at the time, faced.

Sadly, many of these challenges still exist. As I read this book, I couldn’t help but think about the recent reports on widespread sexual assaults and rape of women soldiers in Iraq and in US training camps by their male comrades who are rarely charged. One recent article reported that women soldiers are as likely to be killed in Iraq by their comrades than by the enemy. It goes to show that in the 40 years since Vietnam, the US is still unable to protect its people who are willing to serve and fight for it.

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