Witnessing History: Vietnam War relived through eyes of journalists

| May 12, 2017 | 0 Comments

Vietnam War correspondent Denby Fawcett (right) describes her photo of 25th Infantry Division Soldiers conducting a sweep in search of a fellow Soldier with Allison Ramsey, curator, U.S. Army Museum Hawaii. The ‘Reporting from Vietnam: War Correspondents in the Field’ exhibit runs through the end of July at the Fort DeRussy-based museum. (Photo by Tony Grillo)

Jack Wiers
U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs

FORT DERUSSY — A new U.S. Army Museum Hawaii exhibit offers insights of the humanitarian efforts, comradery and military action during the Vietnam War through the eyes of long-time Hawaii journalists.

Photos, artifacts and insights from Vietnam War journalists Bob Jones and Denby Fawcett are prominently featured in the exhibit. (Photo by Jack Wiers, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii)

The new exhibit, titled “Reporting from Vietnam, War Correspondents in the Field,” features recently discovered photos and insights by journalists Denby Fawcett and Bob Jones. Now married, the pair was on-hand, Tuesday, in Waikiki to view the new exhibit that chronicles Vietnam era military life and combat operations during the turbulent late ‘60s.

Many of the featured photos on display were developed from nearly forgotten negatives stored away by Fawcett.

“I’m so impressed. I didn’t expect anything like this,” said Fawcett, after viewing the exhibit. “And the amazing part is to see pictures for the first time in 50 years, and see pictures I didn’t even remember taking. Some were quite graphic.”

“Largest story of our time”
Jones first began reporting from Vietnam in 1964 for the Honolulu Advertiser. He was wounded while covering action in Chu Chi in 1966, and eventually his work from the Vietnam conflict led to his rise as an NBC network news foreign correspondent, where he covered Vietnam and other world events from 1968 through 1973.

Journalist Denby Fawcett is prominently featured with other female correspondents in the book ‘War Torn.’ (Photo courtesy of Denby Fawcett)

Fawcett had a less traditional route to becoming a trailblazing female war correspondent. It required a professional leap of faith.

As a reporter in 1968 for the women’s section of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, her requests to report on Vietnam were denied, so she quit her job. Joining the competing Honolulu Advertiser, she was given her desired assignment, but was required to pay her travel to Vietnam, along with her own expenses. In return, she was paid $35 per story in 1968.

“This is something I wanted to do and something I thought was important to do at the time,” said veteran journalist Fawcett, who has been a fixture as a working television journalist for much of the past 30 years. “I was 24 years old, and I wanted to go to Vietnam and see for myself.”

A biographic account of female Vietnam correspondents features Denby Fawcett. Her soft hat still features her ‘lucky ribbon.’ (Photo by Jack Wiers, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs)

Her reporting was ultimately recognized with an Associated Press Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. But that wasn’t her goal in 1968.

“It was the largest story of our time,” Fawcett said, “and I’d read about it every day in the papers. … Like a lot of people, I wanted to know more and learn what was really going on there.”

Tell the story
Museum curator Allison Ramsey and the entire staff also wanted to tell the story of what went on in Vietnam, and they expressed appreciation for the “treasure trove” of previously unseen photos offered by Fawcett, and Jones, too. A story emerged from the more than 700 negatives reviewed.

Gen. Dave Bramlett (left) first met journalist Bob Jones (center) during the Vietnam conflict in 1964 when Bramlett was a second lieutenant. Bramlett now serves as president of the Hawaii Army Museum Society. (Photo by Jack Wiers, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs)

“I wanted to tell the story of units from Hawaii (in Vietnam),” said Ramsey. “But I also wanted to make it easy for an international audience to appreciate, as well as for children who don’t have any experience with Vietnam.”

The exhibit, which also features a video short in a viewing room, offers candid looks at a life and time that created bonds, as well as the gratitude of one particular journalist.

Museum visitors will experience war correspondents’ lives, images and insights from the early Vietnam War era. (Photo by Tony Grillo)

“My admiration for the Army is huge,” Fawcett stressed about her time in Vietnam. “They allowed the good, and the bad, to be covered. And they knew, this was history.”





U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii
The museum is located at Fort DeRussy in the heart of Waikiki, next to the Hale Koa Hotel, at 2131 Kalia Road.
The museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
There is no charge for admission. Call 438-2821.

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