Television Coverage of the Vietnam War

The First “Living-Room War”

I entered high school in the middle 60’s when the war in Vietnam was escalating at a rapid pace. Newspapers and magazines were plastered with photos and stories about our involvement in Vietnam. The top stories on the nightly world news were always about the war. Newsmen were often in the middle of the action reporting the horrors of war as it happened.

I enlisted in the Navy shortly after graduating from high school and was on the 120-day delay program before I would become active. The Navy never occurred due to an untimely event in my life. I then became eligible for the draft and I knew Vietnam would be my fate…


John Hlavacek

In early December 1970, I had the privilege of meeting John Hlavacek a reporter/foreign correspondent for a midwest television station. I was no longer with the Charlie Troop Blues due to an injury on the greenline of Phuoc Vinh and was chosen to be our Troop mail clerk for the remainder of my tour.

John’s mission was to film and interview soldiers serving in Vietnam from the TV viewing area around Sioux City, IA and Omaha, NE. He was putting together a program to be viewed as a TV Special during the 1970 Christmas Holidays. The families of the soldiers were notified by the TV stations ahead of times they could watch their loved ones when the program aired.


Walter Cronkite


Dan Rather

“I always want to emphasize, I felt honored — and I use the word measuredly — to cover American men and women in combat in Vietnam. Because, what everyone may think of the war — it may have been the wrong war and the wrong place at the wrong time for the wrong reasons — but the Americans who went there, went there for the right reason. They went there because they loved their country, and their county had asked them to go.”

-Dan Rather


Photographer Dickey Chapelle

Chaplain John McNamara of Boston makes the sign of the cross as he administers the last rites to photographer Dickey Chapelle in South Vietnam Nov. 4, 1965. Chapelle was covering a U.S. Marine unit on a combat operation near Chu Lai for the National Observer when she was seriously wounded, along with four Marines, by an exploding mine. She died in a helicopter en route to a hospital. She became the first female war correspondent to be killed in Vietnam, as well as the first American female reporter to be killed in action. Her body was repatriated with an honor guard consisting of six Marines and she was given full Marine burial.

There were more images of conflict and battles in Vietnam than any previous war. Many scholars consider Vietnam to be one of the most well documented wars in modern times. War reporters began to report on the bloody battles of the Vietnam War and the Washington politics surrounding it. The American people began losing faith in the war effort and the government. “Reports during the Vietnam War and images from the front line on television were crucial factors in turning public opinion against the war.


Filed under Vietnam War

8 responses to “Television Coverage of the Vietnam War


    I was like so many other Vietnam Vets who came home and put it all in the past. I’m 68 years old now and now know that my Vietnam experience was always there. How i managed to raise two wonderful kids, be married for 40+ years and have a successful career after the Vietnam experience is quite an achievement. But i look back on it now in my old age and wonder how much fuller my life would have been if i had chosen to follow my beliefs and not answered the draft in 1967…… I did the right thing and served my country. My MOS was Military Intelligence, S2 POW Interrogation. Off i went to Vietnamese language school and then became a military advisor in Chau Doc which was on the Cambodian border in IV Corps ( MACV TM64 ). I worked under a Major Stravinsky. I was too open with him expressing my true feelings for the war and my tour there took on a turn for the worse. We were supposed to be in a rotation going out on operations but he made sure when there was any opening that i was chosen. One of my jobs in the S2 office was burning confidential intel we received daily. Now there was usually just the two of us in that office and the day he told me to burn the docs in the barrel out back, and make sure i rotate the bin is when it officially got worse. To this day i know in my heart it was him who put the bullets in with the docs for me to burn. Good thing i walk away for a smoke because the bullets started going off. I not only had to go out on operations looking for VC, i now had to worry about Stravinsky. It was difficult, trust issues i’d carry the rest of my life because of him. So for me Vietnam, doing the right thing and serving has had mixed emotions. >

  2. I was in phouc vinh in 1966 lot different then…….1st / 28th inf black lions

  3. Jerry Hassler

    Long after the war in one of those “what if” conferences of leading journalists, the question was if you were embedded with the VC or North Vietnamese and you saw a U.S. patrol walking into their ambush, would you warn them. Dan Rather said as a journalist he would stay impartial and let Americans be killed.

  4. Hugh Giblin

    The failure of documentarian Ken Burns and historian Geoffrey Ward to include the role of the
    Montagnards in their Vietnam War series is an egregious one by any historical standards. These
    people provided 40,000 troops and were of critical help to the Green Berets in fighting the Viet Cong
    especially along the vital Ho Chi Minh trail. They provided invaluable fighting skills in a jungle environment along with intelligence for the CIA. They suffered 200,000 army and civilian deaths roughly the same as the Americans and genocide after the end of the war. The Green Berets honor them to this day. Not so these filmmakers who demonstrate how the Montagnards have been abandoned and forgotten by the American government who freely trade with the Vietnamese Communists who daily violate the human rights of the Montagnards with religious persecution, beatings, imprisonment and economic suppression. The PBS series is a selective failure in telling the complete truth of the Vietnam War.

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