In honor of the panel discussion on war correspondents and PTSD taking place at the National Press Club in Washington, DC today, some brief remarks by noted war correspondent David Halberstam, in the introduction to the coffee table book, Requiem, about the war photographers who died in Vietnam and Indochina:
"Our memories of Vietnam are too mixed, and there is altogether too much sadness in most of them; we have spent much of the last twenty to twenty-five year learning to forget or at least learning to soften those chapters in our lives. Saigon is mercifully distant, a place that belonged to the younger men and women we once were, the young, eager, scared journalists clad in Catinat fatigues, scrambling to get to Tan Son Nhut to get aboard the Hueys going into battle, terrified we might get there too late to get aboard, terrified we might get there in time to get aboard.
We are all older now, sedate men and women in our fifties and sixties living in civilized settings, leading ordinary, rather mundane lives. Yet for most of us, the memory is always there, just beneath the surface; when we open a book like Requiem and read it now in our handsome apartments in the Western cities in which we live, the past still lurks. And as we read, we are at first flooded by these images of the past, and then we are surrounded by a terrible stillness, a special silence produced by the most relentless of all forces, the power of memory. We are quiet as we turn the pages of this book, as befits a special act of homage to those we knew so well.
The silence stands in sharp contrast to the terrible noise that was a defining part of those days and accompanied so many of these very scenes: the racket of infantry weapons and artillery, the harsh clamor of the helicopters. We read it, of course, now safely distanced from our own terrible fear that was the constant of those days. But in some ways the remembrance of another time is more powerful than ever, not just because of the photos but, more important, because of the memory of the young men and women who women who took them, since they themselves, in the most final and terrible way, became part of what lay before them. Looking through Requiem, we remember not just what they did, but now we know, as well, the price they paid."