The Battle for Hill 875

(This chapter was cut down severely in the second draft of Yasutsune “Tony” Hirashiki’s “On the Frontlines of the Television War.” Here is the first draft.)

In early November of 1967, the US military command became aware of an enemy plan to launch a major assault in the Dak To region and sent over 16,000 troops from the Fourth Division, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and the 1st Cavalry along with several South Vietnamese battalions. More Americans would die taking Hill 875 than any other specific piece of land in the entire war.

The bloodiest battle occurred from November 19th to the 23rd. Several hundred soldiers from the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Airborne Infantry moved up the slopes of Hill 875. Just as the lead elements were hit with rockets, recoilless rifles, grenades, and small arms from the North Vietnamese who were hidden in well-built bunkers and trenches at the top of the hill, the company at the rear of the column was attacked by a battalion of the enemy—the American soldiers were caught in a trap. They retreated up the mountain with the enemy in close pursuit and, according to reports, only managed to avoid being overrun by soldiers who stayed behind and died holding off the North Vietnamese. They managed to link up but were still trapped on the mountain slopes with no water and no hope of resupply: six helicopters were shot down on the first afternoon as they tried to reach the beleaguered soldiers.

Air support was called in to bombard the top of Hill 875 but two bombs went astray and landed in the middle of the American position, right on the commanders, the wounded and the medics. The scene commander was killed along with 42 other soldiers. The next day, November 20th, three companies of the 4th Battalion of the 503rd were sent in to reinforce their comrades but it took most of the day for them to fight their way through heavy sniper and mortar fire from the North Vietnamese.

On the 21st, both battalions assaulted the crest of the hill but were forced to retreat with serious losses. At midnight, the 1st Battalion of the 4th Division redeployed to Dak To and on the 23rd of November, all three forces assaulted the mountain and took the crest, only to find that the enemy had abandoned the position. It was five days of horrific hand-to-hand combat, artillery, and air strikes. and in the end, the Vietnamese withdrew into Cambodia, leaving the Americans with almost 400 dead and over 1400 wounded. General William Westmoreland in Saigon declared the battle a victory but, if it was a victory, it was a certainly a bitter one for the soldiers on the front lines.

ABC News had gotten news of the battle late and so I flew with Dick Harris and correspondent Ed Needham into Dak To on the evening of the 24th. My competitive spirit made me hate arriving at a story late but sometimes it was simply beyond our control. On the day we arrived to cover the battle, there was already a large group of press standing not far from the runway of Dak To airfield near the special forces camp that was now a Press Center.

Once again, my soundman was Dick Harris but my correspondent was a new guy named Edward Needham, a veteran print reporter who had worked for several magazines but had only recently joined ABC. He was older and appeared to be a calm, gentle, and experienced reporter but it was the first time we had worked together. What we were told was that only Peter Arnett of Associated Press and two others had made it to the top of the hill and they had made it by winning seats in a chopper through a lottery. The military authorities thought it was still too dangerous to bring in the media. I could only comfort myself with the thought that the other two networks were stuck down in Dak To with me.

We were waiting for a helicopter which could take us to the top of Hill 875 when the soldiers began to come down from the battle. The Press Officer put up a rope along the edge of the path and told us not to badger the troops with questions. Some people think that the press is just a ruthless mob but that’s really not true, especially when the story is as tragic and serious as Hill 875. The network crews, reporters, and photographers all agreed to go along and we stood in a line along the rope. My camera was loaded with a full roll of film and I’d checked the microphone with Dick Harris.

When the first wave of helicopters landed about a hundred yards away, there was silence in the press corps as dozens of black plastic body bags were unloaded along with others who were only wrapped in their own green ponchos. As the choppers continued to shuttle between the hilltop and the base, we saw the wounded come in and then the first Airborne survivors. They were walking past only fifty feet away and no one in the press said a word. We all filmed and took pictures but after a look at their faces, the reporters were silent.

4-7 112868 Hill 875, wounded1

Their faces were filthy and unshaven, their uniforms stiff with a mixture of mud and blood and, in their eyes, you could see their anger and frustration. The walking wounded were covered with blood-soaked bandages that had turned a dark red that was almost brown. Their feet were dragging, and they walk past in complete silence. It was anything but a victory march by these brave, elite American soldiers.

When the second group came past, a reporter finally called out, “What happened at the front?” and another asked, “Tell us what happened on Hill 875.”

The soldiers just kept walking past without the slightest reaction and didn’t say a word. We were surprised when a few turned around and walked back to where we were standing. They faced the cameras and the massed microphones and began to tell us what had happened.

It was an eruption of anger, frustration, and sorrow at the hell they had gone through for the past days. In the beginning, the soldiers spoke one by one but soon they began to talk over each other, shouting and even weeping as the terrible memories poured out. I had covered these units before and I knew that they were some of the toughest troops the Americans had. It was a scene of raw emotion.

The military press officials tried to stop the men from speaking by pulling them away from the press but the soldiers ignored them and continued to tell us their stories of hell. We all stayed behind the rope but the soldiers came closer and their stories became more intimate. Everything they said was a testimony to the shocking, brutal, bitter and cruel nature of the fighting on that hill. They were so angry that curse words and slang came pouring out; i knew we couldn’t broadcast that sort of language back in those days but they were speaking from the heart and they were probably the only words that could begin to express their feeling. It was the reality of war being told in a truer way than I had seen in all the time I’d been in Vietnam.

4-11 112868 wounded hill 875

It was not victory. Yes, they had taken the hill on Thanksgiving Day but, even with my imperfect English, I could understand how rough it had been up there. The tunnels and trenches that the North Vietnamese had built all across the battlefield had made a single, almost unbreakable fortress. The soldiers said that when they got close, the enemy set off smoke grenades that confused the Marine and Air Force bombers and led to the catastrophic bombing. If anything, they were angriest about the “friendly fire,” which had slammed high explosives and even napalm into the medics as they frantically worked to save the wounded.

This was going to be our first report and we had to ship it to Saigon as soon as possible. We knew that the next vital scenes would be from the wreckage on top of Hill 875. The other networks had two crews but ABC, as usual, only could send one so we decided to split up. Dick took one sound camera and went with Ed to finish the story at the bottom of the hill while I took my faithful Bell & Howell silent camera and followed the reinforcements from the 4th Infantry as they moved up to replace the battered remnants of the 503rd Airborne.

All three of us would then meet at the top of the hill when the press was allowed to be taken there. Although it would be a pretty serious march, I figured I could reach the top of the hill faster by following these replacements than by waiting what I was told would be hours for helicopters to be available.

While Ed was busy somewhere else, Dick told me to wait with the other crews—it was still too dangerous to climb through that hellish battlefield.

“I’ll be OK.” I answered, “Now, after you record the narration and ship the film, just make sure you guys get to the top to pick me up. I’ll wait there until you come. If you arrive before me, please wait for me.”

Of course, I actually was a little scared to go alone, but ABC was behind our competitors so we absolutely needed these pictures of the hill where all the action had taken place. As I’ve said before, I had a very competitive spirit.

We split up and I followed the reinforcements. These soldiers were fresh and strong so they moved at a fast pace. I was lucky I was carrying the small camera and not the heavy Auricon because it made it possible to keep up with them. The troops moved in a single column as we went up the mountain trails, but split up when we reached the edge of the fortifications at the top. Then they very slowly and carefully climbed towards the top of the hill. Just days ago, North Vietnamese soldiers had charged down on the struggling Airborne troops in a human wave attack and completely wiped out a whole platoon.

I filmed the soldiers but since they were trying to maintain silence, I worried that the sound of my camera was too loud. The soundproof case is what adds all the weight to the Auricon camera and the Bell & Howell didn’t have it so I tried to keep my filming to the minimum. As we got closer to the top, I could see the fierceness of the battle in the blasted and uprooted trees and the smoke that was still rising from those that had burned.

Once in a while, US Air Force jets passed overhead and each time, the men on the ground looked up nervously and swore at the pilot who had killed so many of the Airborne troops. In the end, the last yards to the top of the hill was bare earth from the constant bombardment: enormous pits in the red earth and all the trees and bushes torn away and burned.

When we finally reached the top, I could see the deep bunkers and sandbagged trenches that the enemy had built. Some of them were ten feet deep and had tunnels so soldiers could fire from one spot and reappear at another. While I was filming, an Airborne soldier who was standing next to me said emotionally, “When we took those bunkers, the US. Air Force jet dropped bombs. It was Napalm! Look how the bodies of American and Vietnamese soldiers are all together. They died in the same bunkers when the bombs hit.”

The view from the top of the hill was stunning. I could see for miles in all directions and picked out the low ground where Dak To stood. Militarily, I guess this view was the goal that to many soldiers fought and died to hole. For a hilltop base, 875 was quite spacious, about as big as two tennis courts. Helicopters were coming in and out with dead and wounded. In one corner of the base, there was a pile of canteens, knapsacks, helmets, boots and all the other personal items that had been collected from the slopes where so many had died. From the sheer size of the pile, you could guess how many had fallen.

It was about 3 pm when I reached the base after three hours of marching. I filmed all around the battered fortifications and was finished in about an hour. I was a bit concerned that a press helicopter hadn’t arrived because I really wasn’t all that interested in spending a night where so many night assaults had happened. Now, I know that the North Vietnamese, who had been badly hurt as well, were already across the border in Cambodia, but at the time, I had no idea if we’d simply be attacked again.

Just after 4, helicopters landed with a general and other command-level officers and, to my relief, Ed Needham and Dick Harris. There was going to be a memorial service for the soldiers who given their lives for this scrap of land. I was told that it would be a tradition.

The rifles of the dead soldiers had their bayonets attached and rammed point first into the ground and the men’s helmets placed on top. In front of each rifle, a pair of newly-shined boots were carefully placed. It struck me that the long line of rifles, helmets, and boots looked as lot as if the soldiers themselves were lined up at attention. w

Behind this sad formation, the surviving Airborne soldiers lined up to honor the fallen. There were no flowers, no candles, no photos, and no eulogies—it was a simple and short ceremony, but a very emotional one all the same. A chaplain gave a short prayer and a soldier played Taps on his trumpet. The sad tune of the trumpet echoed across the mountain and down to the valley below. The Airborne soldiers stood motionless but I could see tears flowing down their cheeks. I had trouble focusing because I was crying as well.

I didn’t know why I was crying, it wasn’t my war. These weren’t my people.

Perhaps Taps, which is played at the end of every day in an Army camp, was simply too sad.

Perhaps. But even I don’t believe that.

In A Companion to the Vietnam War (2008), Chester Pach described Ed’s report:

“ABC Correspondent Ed Needham’s wrap-up report after the North Vietnamese had abandoned Hill 875 was filled with “unhappy scenes,” since Dak To had claimed more US lives than any previous battle in the war. “It was a hard fight,” Needham concluded as the film showed a helmet on the ground with a hole ripped through it. “It hardly seems worth it.”

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In Rare Reversal, Vietnam Lifts Days-old Ban on Beloved Songwriter’s Work

April 18, 2017

In Rare Reversal, Vietnam Lifts Days-old

Ban on Beloved Songwriter’s Work

(This singer was featured in news pieces by Craig Spence back in 1968. It’s in Tony Hirashiki’s new memoir, “On the Frontlines of the Television War.”)

Trinh Con Son wrote, "The Great Circle of Vietnam," which envisions people holding hands in a circle large enough to encompass his nation.

Trinh Con Son wrote, “The Great Circle of Vietnam,” which envisions people
holding hands in a circle large enough to encompass his nation.

By Khanh An

Over the weekend, news filtered out that Vietnam had lifted a days-old ban on a beloved song by Trinh Con Son, who irritated the South and infuriated the North during years of fighting.

On April 11, Vietnam’s ruling Communist government decreed that “Noi vong tay lon” (“The Great Circle of Vietnam”) could no longer be broadcast or played in public.

The decision came in response to a request from Trinh’s family, who wanted to mount a tribute on April 21 at the Huế College of Medicine and Pharmacy.

Trinh wrote anti-war songs that each side felt sapped the fighting will of their soldiers, who, with their civilian counterparts, memorized the lyrics of his love songs as soon as they were released.

Song envisions people holding hands

The ruling Communist Party in the North banned Trinh’s music, which nonetheless provided the soundtrack to years of tumult.

Of all the hundreds of songs Trinh wrote, “The Great Circle of Vietnam,” which envisions people holding hands in a circle large enough to encompass his nation, may be the most significant. Within hours of the fall of Saigon in 1975, he sang it live from the city on the official radio station of the victorious north.

Popular during the war, the anti-war song overnight became a call for both sides to unite, a transformation engineered, in part by the Communist Party head in Ho Chi Minh City, Vo Van Kiet, who went on to become prime minister from 1991 to 1997, and then an outspoken critic of the party.

“Even though “Noi vong tay lon” is very popular, and has been played in many meetings and entertainment programs, in fact everyone sings it without permission,” Nguyen Dang Chuong, head of the Department of Performance Arts, told local media when issuing the ban.

Five other love songs banned

Pham Cong Ut, a Saigon lawyer, told VOA he found the government’s “without permission” argument disingenuous. “I think they’re more concerned with the song’s point of view more than the law.”

The ban came soon after the government had squelched five other love songs popular in the South during the war. But banning “The Great Circle of Vietnam” may have been a step too far.

Trinh’s sister, the singer Trinh Vinh Trinh, told local media the family was surprised at the government’s response. So were his fans, judging from the outcry on social media.

Although Trinh died on April 1, 2001, he remains huge throughout the Vietnamese diaspora as well as in Vietnam, which served as his muse.

Vietnam’s Bob Dylan

Trinh’s lyrics and attitude earned the title of “Vietnam’s Bob Dylan.” They also earned him several years of post-unification “re-education” despite Hanoi’s embrace of “Noi vong tay lon.”

“This song, I see nothing to be banned,” Phu Quang, a songwriter whose music is closely identified with Hanoi — the city, not the government — told VOA. “This is one of the anti-war songs of Trinh Con Son, and it is a good song. For a long time, we’ve talked about reconciliation, so why is this song seen as a song of the opposition?”

The reconciliation Phu Quang mentions refers to rapprochement between the North and South, and the people of Vietnam with those who have left the country.

People proved stronger than law

“Vo Van Kiet, he allowed this song to be popular,” Bui Chi VInh, a Ho Chi Minh City poet, told VOA when the song was banned. “So now, there’s a review of the song, which shows the inconsistency of the government and the different factions.”

“There is a power stronger than the law — the people,” said Phu Quang at the time of the ban. “Anything [the government does] that is unreasonable, they will not let it stand.”

And on April 12, Vietnamese media reported that Nguyen of the Department for Performing Arts said the ban was lifted because the song has “good content.

Screaming Eagles and The Battle for Mother’s Day Hill

[This battle is Chapter One in Yasutsune “Tony” Hirashiki’s book, “On the Frontlines of the Television War.” Tony’s version doesn’t link up exactly with the soldiers who fought on May 12 through 14, 1967 but I think that’s expected in the “fog of war” and Tony’s lack of English.]


“At CARENTAN on the morning of May 11, 1967, the men of the 1st Battalion each weighed down by their individual combat load, waddled to and mounted up the 176th Helicopter Assault Company slick-ships to kick-off the beginning phase of Operation MALHEUR.  Air-lifted in a matter of minutes and deposited at their arty-prepped and gunship-saturated LZ at the bottom of Song Ve Valley river basin, the companies began to spread-out like groping fingers to locate their designated search-and-destroy coordinates.  Accompanied by a three-man ABC reporter and camera crew, Alpha was further augmented by a scout dog handler from 42nd Infantry Platoon and a 320th Artillery forward observer (FO) team.  Operating well within the arc of the artillery fan, the 2nd BN (ABN), 320th Artillery employed in a direct support role for the entire brigade, was prepared to deliver 105mm fire upon immediate request.

Although only 10 kilometers from the coast, the targeted vicinity still touched upon the Central Highlands mountainous terrain of steeply plunging and rolling hills covered by a dense jungle canopy and heavy vegetation.  Both the Song Ve and Song Tra Cau Valleys featured a hostile local populace and a deeply embedded VC infrastructure.  According to brigade S-2 intelligence, the enemy facing the ABU troopers during this opening phase of the operation was the 2nd VC Regiment.  Characterized by one participant as ‘hard-core Viet-Cong’, all three VC battalions were active in Base Area 124, Alpha’s operating sector.  Both valleys, a major food source for the local Viet Cong forces had several of its rice fields under defoliation consideration once the indigenous population was evacuated and resettled at the nearby detainee and relocation center during Phase-II.  The gradual absence of local inhabitants also had the additional effect of permitting large four by six mile area swathes declared as free-fire zones throughout the lower valley regions.  Daytime highs in the blistering upper 90’s with a punishing relative humidity pushing 60 to 90%, this was the malevolent slice of Vietnam Michael Peterson and the men of Alpha Company entered.


Mother’s Day in 1967 Vietnam fell on May 14th.  The bone-weary men pulled themselves off the jungle floor and reluctantly greeted the morning with a palpable tingling of doom and danger.  They tried to shake off the nervous stiffness by focusing their mental effort and energy on readying themselves and their gear for the day’s final push.  The men popped malaria pills, policed the immediate area, readjusted rucksack loads, locked and loaded weapons, and shared a last cigarette or swig of precious water with their squad-mates.  While the captain reviewed plans for the day’s track with his inner command circle, both the acting 4th platoon leader, a senior NCO, and the 2nd platoon lieutenant vociferously ‘suggested’ to the Old Man the inadvisability of continuing the route’s direction.  The NCO, a seasoned infantryman with plenty of ‘field-time’, realized they could only walk into an inevitable ‘world of hurt’ the closer the hilltop.  Ignoring the advice, the Captain’s only concern was meeting the projected supply drop as he once again set the order of the march.  The 4th platoon point squad with anxiety and tension clearly etched on their faces, started-off the column into the thick jungle gloom.

It was not even mid-morning when a fork in the trail was reached.  After being advised of this, the Captain split the column ordering 2nd platoon to take the right branch while keeping his command element intact with 4th platoon, veered off to the left angle.  It was perhaps within a few minutes as both platoons moving somewhat abreast entered the kill zone.  The point squad of 2nd platoon had stumbled onto a bunker complex off the side of their trail and while the platoon LT was radioing the Captain of this new development, the jaws of ambush snapped shut.

The enemy’s opening salvo was a tremendous fusillade of automatic weapons fire unleashed simultaneously at both platoons.  Within seconds, the air was filled with flying lead, shredding and chopping the surrounding jungle foliage into bits of green confetti.  A shower of Chicom grenades soon followed, peppering the men with hot metal fragments and blowing several of the troopers back down the hill.  The initial contact killed the 4th platoon point-man, SP4 Pat Phillips and the scout dog handler, CPL. Michael Bost, and wounded several others.  Reacting like muscle memory, the troopers shed their rucks, unlimbered weapons and began to lay down a base of return fire adding to the incredible noise and exploding violence.  Snapping small arms fire whipped inches off the ground, muzzle flashes blazed in the dark undergrowth, endless bursts of enemy machine-gun fire hosed down the area as the incoming rounds found, smacked and thudded into the bodies of the troopers desperately clawing for available cover.  When the call went out for ‘guns up’, 4th platoon M-60 gunner, CPL. Benito Gonzalez, a Mexican-American from Texas, charged forward like a linebacker carrying the ‘Pig’ with its needed suppressive firepower, caught a bullet to his head killing him immediately.  Without hesitation, the platoon medics along with the senior company aid-man, scuttled forward like land crabs low-crawling directly into the firestorm to retrieve and assist the wounded.



At the time we had an ABC news man and a two man crew of Koreans carrying the large film camera they used. Most of the time that group was attached to the command group, the CO, his RTO, an FO and his RTO.

After about the third day I think, we got orders to start up a high hill with the plan to rendezvous with the choppers for resupply on the other side. My squad Sgt., I can’t remember his name, but he was a great guy, was to get on the chopper to go to the rear. He was going to go to Hawaii to meet his fianc and get married. She was already there, expecting to meet him in a couple of days.

As we started up the trail leading up the hill, it was clear it would be a hard climb. The trail was very steep, windy and narrow, with heavy jungle on all sides and above. I was in the last squad in my platoon. There were two platoons, 4th and 2nd, and the command group in between.

With a total number of about 55 or so men, spaced 5 meters apart, the entire column was perhaps 250-300 meters long. Those of us in the rear were nearly the length of a foot ball field away from the lead elements. With the jungle as it was, the only people we could see were all within about 15 meters forward and back. As a consequence, those of us in the rear really had no idea what was going on at the lead, other then what we could hear.

On the 13th of May, about noon we stopped for lunch break, each one of us sitting on the trail facing in opposite directions, leaning back on our rucks and eating C’s, smoking and talking quietly. All of a sudden, the guy sitting next to me, ( can’t remember who) jumped up and opened fire into the foliage just to our right. He fired one round then his 16 jammed. (not uncommon no matter how often you cleaned it). We went into the woods where he had fired and found a VC in his black pjs with a grenade in his hand. The one shot had hit him right in the heart. We had been seeing signs of enemy emplacements, commo wire and phones, ammo bags etc. as we had been going up the hill and this made it clear that we were entering Indian territory.

My memory gets hazy here but I think our CO decided to cap up and head up the hill right then.



“For My Friend Snow”

Airborne and ABU,
Mike “Doc” Ainsworth
9/66 to 5/14/67

Early in the morning we started up the trail,
Pat was point man in this green hell of hells.

As we headed towards the ridge line everything
was quite and still…

In a few minutes men would be laying all over the hill…

Most of them wounded and some would be dead…

I can still the cries for medic and the
muzzle blast that rang in my head.

As I moved from man to man, not one did cry…

I remember Michael, Pat and Snow with death in their eyes…

We fought like hell to get out of that mess…

Now, for you in the street and behind that big desk…
In Vietnam we gave Americas best!

From Vietnam!
How many returned to face a life of ruin…?

Those of us that made it, a new life begins, dealing with bigots
and people we used to call a friend.


I’ve heard some of those people laugh…
Most of the time behind my back.

But, if they went to war today, tomorrow there would
be no last laugh.

(I first wrote this in 1968. Crawford Snow one of my very best friends
died on this day May 14, 1967, I trained in jump school with him. He
was 100% American Indian, a warrior and a brother and son.)

Mike “Doc” Ainsworth







A Brief Note From Sam Donaldson

(It seems a bit vain to post this but, frankly, I don’t think I’ve received higher praise in my entire career.  So, there you go and here it is.


Tony & Terry – I have read the book from cover to cover and tell you that the collaboration has produced the most extraordinary, factual and interesting story of what it was like for all sides in the dark time in Vietnam.

Tony’s matter of fact but still quietly emotional recollections of life there then, of doing his job but with feelings, of hardships suffered but endured from the early deadly operation with Ken Gale to the terrible circumstances of Terry Khoo and Sam Kai Faye’s deaths has really brought home in one brief book the true story of Vietnam for Americans.

A special word for Terry Irving. The story is Tony’s but the telling of the story for an English audience in such a powerful way, a way that drives home to the heart not just the head is yours.  Terry, you have done Tony and the rest of us a great service; my thanks

Sam Donaldson

REVIEW: On the Frontlines of the Television War by Yasutsune Hirashiki

March 14, 2017

(From JayneB at

REVIEW: On the Frontlines of the Television War by Yasutsune Hirashiki

JayneB REVIEWS / BOOK REVIEWS20th century / Japanese / non-fiction / Photographer / Vietnam / War / Military2 Comments

On The Frontlines of the Television War is the story of Yasutsune “Tony” Hirashiki’s ten years in Vietnam—beginning when he arrived in 1966 as a young freelancer with a 16mm camera but without a job or the slightest grasp of English and ending in the hectic fall of Saigon in 1975 when he was literally thrown on one of the last flights out.

His memoir has all the exciting tales of peril, hardship, and close calls as the best of battle memoirs but it is primarily a story of very real and yet remarkable people: the soldiers who fought, bled, and died, and the reporters and photographers who went right to the frontlines to record their stories and memorialize their sacrifice. The great books about Vietnam journalism have been about print reporters, still photographers, and television correspondents but if this was truly the first “television war,” then it is time to hear the story of the cameramen who shot the pictures and the reporters who wrote the stories that the average American witnessed daily in their living rooms.


“The basic essence of war is death.” – David Snell

ABC News David Snell after Landmine explosion

David Snell (1967) after landmine. Recovered well.

I grew up watching this war and when, in the forward, it’s described as the Television War, I said “yes, that’s it exactly.” Every night my parents had the 6 pm nightly news with Uncle Walter (Cronkite) on. I remember the video footage and the body counts even though I wasn’t even 7 years old. When the last helicopters lifted off the embassy roof, I wasn’t even a teenager but I recall those images vividly, too. I’ve read plenty of memoirs of the war from military sources but until I saw this book, it hadn’t dawned on me that I’d never read any by the journalists who covered it and produced what I saw on the nightly news. Here is the story of a man behind the camera who gives the journalistic experience told from the POV of a SE Asian photographer.

Continue reading →

On the Frontlines of the Television War

Peter Jennings in the Field

This is another of the chapters we had to cut out of 

Yasutsune “Tony” Hirashiki’s 

“On the Frontlines of the Television War”


I suppose that it would be more accurate to refer to Peter Jennings as a colleague rather than one of my bosses but, when I joined the Saigon Bureau, he was the anchor of the Evening News and a strong voice in what made it to air. Since he was always knowledgeable and decisive, I’m going to add him to this chapter as one of the people I worked for. I certainly cared about his opinion and wanted to impress him.

Peter was born in 1938, the same year I was born, and when he took over the anchorman job in 1965, he was only 25 years old. For two and a half years, Peter was ABC’s leader as we went up against Walter Cronkite and the team of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.

(Peter Jennings, Edward P. Morgan, Lou Cioffi and crew at 

Caravelle Hotel in 1966 ) 


Peter was the first anchorman to cover the Vietnam war in person. He came over with a team of cameramen and producers in the spring of 1966, just before I arrived. I remember a big black and white photo that used to hang in the newsroom at ABC in New York. It showed Peter and his crews posing on the roof of the Caravelle Hotel. He was the sort of anchor who would wear Lou Cioffi’s famous “correspondent suits” rather than a coat and tie. Peter wasn’t just a “pretty-boy” anchor, he was a good TV correspondent. All of the camera crews knew that he could talk off the top of his head about a story and get everything right. He was natural and comfortable in front of a camera, never stiff or worried.

In 1966, ABC was still only doing 15 minutes of news in black and white. I would watch the program when it would be sent back to us on kinescope with all of our news stories. There were clear differences between our program. Peter was still anchoring a fifteen minute, black and white ABC Evening News Show. Once every week at MACV briefing room, we can watch previous week’s our work that printed on kinescope. When I had the chance, I went to see feed back of all the Network’s reports. There were obvious differences between us and the other two shows: having only 15 minutes made covering a story extremely hard and the quality of the stories wasn’t as good as the competition. I heard that our nickname was the Almost Broadcasting Cooperation. Those of us in the field weren’t all that affected. I think that most of us, young, brash, and hard-working, thought that we could catch up and beat the others—it was just a matter of time. Anyway, what did we have to lose?

(Open and Close of Peter Jennings’ First Script from Vietnam) 


Former ABC Saigon bureau secretary Mrs. Hien Boase recalled her first impressions of Peter

I met Peter for the first time in 1966 in the ABC Saigon Bureau. He was a very good looking, charming and easy to get to know. Patrick Lett, a sound man, took a photo of a little girl who sold chewing gum in Catinat Street (Tu Do, now called Dong Khoi) . The child was skinny but she had a special pretty face. The first time Peter saw the photo he was so impressed and feeling sorry for the girl and wanted to help her and asked me to help find the girl. I had to enlist the Caravelle doorman and our drivers to look for her. It took me two weeks before Peter was to return to the States I was able to find the girl and take her to see Peter. Later, Peter sent money to help her go to school.

Miss Hien e-mail dated 2008/7/19

Many years later, whenever he covered wars and internal conflicts, Peter continued to get emotionally involved and never forgot the children who suffered the most in war. After Peter had left the anchorman’s seat, he became a foreign correspondent based in Rome and then the Middle East bureau chief based out of Lebanon. That, and his long-term stint as ABC’s anchor in London firmly established his credentials as one of the best broadcast journalists. Back in 1967, he was just another bright young reporter.

In the fall of 1971, the war between East Pakistan and West Pakistan was exploding and would eventually lead to the breakaway nation of Bangladesh. As the story heated up, Ron Miller, J.C. Malet and I were sent in to Calcutta to join Peter and his crew from Rome and Howard Tuckner and the Terry Khoo team. Peter flew in from Dacca, East Pakistan with good material but they were so exhausted that Ron Miller had to help type the scripts and Malet and I filmed Peter’s narration. It was fine on the first day but when we had to do the same thing the next day, it got a bit old. I had come to cover stories, not record sound tracks for some other crew.

(Peter in Vietnam circa 1966)


The third day, Malet and I were on a plane headed for Dacca with Peter. We’d been told that there would be a military ceremony to mark the end of the war and the formation of the new nation of Bangladesh. The Pakistani army officers and soldiers would have to lay down their arms and officially surrender to the Indian military, who had been supporting the Bangladeshis. It was a strange scene as the Indian general and his Pakistani counterpart had been classmates at the same military academy before Pakistan was partitioned off from India. Now, they’d fought each other. During the ceremony, the victorious Indian general treated the Pakistani with compassion and respect—especially when all his troops had to lay their weapons on the ground.

Peter was nearby and, after the ceremony was over, got the story from the Pakistani officers. I was going to roll on this but the Pakistanis wouldn’t speak on camera despite Peters best efforts. Finally, Peter felt sorry for them and told me to put my camera on the ground. Now that the story was over, he still had something to say to the losing general. “Next time, on a good occasion, please talk to me again. You fought well too. Good luck, sir.”

Peter said this in such a comforting and respectful tone that one of the officer’s tears came floating down his cheeks as a response. I thought it was a great scene, but my camera was on the ground. It was such a classy act of Peter. particularly since it wasn’t done for the camera.

It’s hard to ask questions of people who are suffering in a war or disaster. In Vietnam, I had had to do this on many occasions and the correspondents or reporters always asked the rather cruel question, “How do you feel?”

I knew it was a basic and necessary question, but I was always uncomfortable when I heard it being asked of people who were clearly suffering. It reminded me of how cold-blooded our business could be. However, regardless of how much I hated to hear these questions, I never took my lens out of the faces and made sure I caught the tears as they fell. In many ways, I was much more cruel than the reporters. I often wanted to leave people alone, like Peter had, but I very seldom did.

(Peter in Vietnam circa 1966)


The next day we were out on the war-torn streets of Dacca where, in the aftermath of a bloody war, ugly things were happening as the victorious militias took revenge on anyone who had supported Pakistan. There were beatings and torture and bodies could be seen everywhere—some with their hands tied behind their backs.

My soundman was a young man named Bill Blakemore who worked for ABC Radio out of Beirut. He had been a student at the American University of Beirut and later came back to teach there. He told me another story about how Peter handled himself in the Bangladesh war. On the street, Peter and the crew came upon a militia ground with a prisoner. The leader said, ”If you want take picture, I can kill him for you now”

Peter was very upset and immediately told his crew, “Put camera down, Don’t take any pictures! Let’s get out of here”

They turned around and left immediately. Peter was well aware of how cameras could provoke people into crazy, ugly, and cruel acts. Bill Blakemore was quite impressed at how Peter reacted and felt that he was not only a good journalist but a decent human being as well. Peter’s morals were high and he wouldn’t back down from them. AP photographers did shoot the carnage in Dacca and won a Pulitzer Prize for it.

(Peter and Tony work on a shot)


It was while we were in Dacca that Peter first asked me if he could be involved in what I filmed, looking through the viewfinder when the camera was on a tripod. I said that I would actually prefer it because I always shot with one eye closed so I needed many other eyes to let me know what was happening outside of the small picture in my lens. He told me that it was fun to work with me and ever since Bangladesh, it was like I had a Director of Photography when I was assigned to Peter since he would tell me when to zoom and when to get a wide shot. Some cameramen hate this and think it’s interference and micro-management but I enjoyed a team effort.

Of course, he was only allowed to look through the viewfinder. In those days, the union was very strict and no one but a cameraman could operate a camera.

Even though, it was only a two day trip, this young reporter made a huge impression on me. Years later, I was transferred to Europe and worked with Peter in trouble spots like Teheran, Beirut, Belfast, and many others.

Covering the war or conflict was often difficult and delicate and Peter managed to do it well. When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, Peter and part of the crew stayed at a kibbutz on the Israel side. Every day, we would drive across the border to East Beirut for a few hours while Peter did his reports. I asked him why he didn’t just stay in Beirut like the other correspondents and he told me that he was unpopular in both countries—the Israelis and the Lebanese would complain about his reports.

He asked me my opinion, and I said, “It’s a good sign that you’re reporting from the right position. You’re fair and not leaning towards either side. People are watching your report seriously. That’s why you were criticized by both side. It was a rather good remark that you’re a great journalist, I think.”

(Peter near Bien Hoa circa 1966 – courtesy Don North)


I was not completely sure he understood what I was trying to say to him.

When Peter was based in London as the chief foreign correspondent and overseas anchorman, he was still a heavy smoker but was always trying to stop or at least cut back. He would do this by not buying any cigarettes but then he usually ended up bumming smokes from other reporters or the crews. He finally did stop smoking but, during the emotional coverage of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, he began again. When he developed lung cancer, it took his life very quickly. I wrote him a “get well” note and said I regretted giving him cigarettes for so many years but he had already passed away before he received it.

I regret that I wasn’t able to get Peter’s thoughts and memories about Vietnam for this book. We were both working in New York so I always thought there would be plenty of time.

Sadly, there wasn’t.

The Vietnamese

  1. Yasutsune “Tony” Hirashiki’s book, 

    “On the Frontlines of the Television War” 

    that had to be cut out at the last minute.)

    One day, I was in a taxi in Saigon and the young driver started to talk to me in what turned out to be quite good English. He explained that he was only driving a cab temporarily while he prepared to go to college. After he learned that I was from Japan, he said, “If there were three people in a competition, an American, a Japanese, and a Vietnamese, the Vietnamese would have an equal chance of winning. Now, if the competition was between teams: three Japanese, three Americans, and three Vietnamese, the Vietnamese wouldn’t have a chance.”

    I asked “Why?”

    He explained that his personal opinion was that the basic nature of the Vietnamese people will always prevent them from success. The country is essentially divided into three parts, inhabited by three very different types of people, and they have never gotten along. Even without the Americans or the Chinese or the French, the Vietnamese would fight among themselves, and it was impossible for them to cooperate.

    Other Vietnamese friends said that it was the French who understood this essential division of the Vietnamese and used it in a “divide and conquer” strategy to keep them a colony. They’d run the nation as three provinces: Tonkin in the North, Annam in the Center, and Cochinchina in the South. There was continuous competition and feuding between the regions, different religions, and different customs. So long as the Vietnamese continued to quarrel among themselves, the French didn’t have to worry about them uniting to throw them out. It worked for about 100 years until Ho Chi Minh created a united front after the Second World War.

    (Dang Van Minh in Front, Tony Hirashiki in back)

    However, the Vietnamese have kept these divisions alive long after the French departed. The people in the North saw the Southerners as lazy and too easy-going and in turn, the people around Saigon thought those ruled by Hanoi were smart but greedy. The people of the Center thought they were clearly the smartest and, if not, the beautiful city of Huế, for a long time the imperial capital of Vietnam, had the most beautiful women. In private—or in anger—they called each other names based on the food they consumed which made sense since the entire nation loved food and were known as the gourmet people. Northerners loved to eat a particular vegetable, a type of spinach named Rau mồng tơi, and so, that’s what they were called. Of course, it was also one of the few things that very poor Vietnamese could buy so it also meant “dirt poor.” People from the Central region cooked with a very hot pepper called “ớt hiếm” which means “dangerous” or “rare” chili so the were known as “ớt,” and in the Southern Delta, people love bean sprouts or “giá đậu” so they are known as “giá.” This can also mean “price” or “haggle.” Most of these names weren’t serious insults, just the sort of thing you’d say in jest like an American might call someone a “city slicker.” In Saigon, there were so many people that all types ended up mixed together.

    No one who has ever been in Vietnam, or at least in Vietnam and not on a frontline, can forget the wonderful rice noodle soup from the North that’s called “Phở Bo” when it’s made with beef and “Phở Ga” when it has chunks of chicken. Interestingly, it’s a street food that was only invented around 1925 but the Vietnamese have now spread it around the world. In the Central region, people make a spicy and yeasty rice vermicelli soup with beef & pork together and named after the old capital “bún bò Huế. ” The Southerner have their own noodle dishes, some with lots of seafood, another called “hủ tiếu” which has different types of meat all mixed on top of flat noodles and has spread to Cambodia, Singapore and even Thailand. Even if they might not like each other all that much, Vietnamese all enjoy food, no matter where it came from originally

    The Vietnamese might all look and sound alike to foreigners but they can easily recognize each other by the way they talk because each area has a different dialect and accents. Oddly, no matter where they are, singers always perform with a Northern accent unless they are doing traditional folk songs. I asked my friends why but they just shrugged and said it had always been that way. I guess the Northern accent just is better for singing and broadcasting much like in America where I’ve noticed that very few reporters or anchors have a strong Southern accent.

Perceived Value and The Book Editor

Once upon a time (1993), I was a middling Television Producer with a quartet of Emmys and I earned about $100,000 a year. Taking out this and that and adding in that and this, it comes to about $400 a day on a Freelance basis. If you add in the cost of medical insurance, the 7.5% increase in Social Security, the lack of Workman’s Comp,  the lack of disability insurance, the necessity of life insurance, and other sundries, a valid freelance equivalent would be $500 a day or, figuring a 10-hour day, $50 an hour.

1980 37477_411953891454_8262337_n

In the past 25 years of freelancing, I can’t remember making $50 an hour ONCE.

And so we reach the subject of Perceived Value or how the value of work diminishes the instant that the client isn’t actually doing it.


Take a dog-walker. He or she takes on a contract to walk a dog twice a day and charges $40 a day. At this point, the client usually sees that as outrageous–after all, it’s something he or she does for free. However, figure 2 hours per walk with travel, twice a day, a good cardio exercise for about a mile, and you’re under minimum wage. Let’s not even discuss taxes, bonding insurance needed to even enter a client’s house, and business insurance (if you’re smart) for when that puppy bites someone, and you’re practically in debt.

Much more telling is the reaction to the payment on both sides”

  • The client sees a weekly charge of an outrageous $250 and a monstrous monthly charge of $1000. Time to fire this thief and hire the guy walking 10 dogs at once looking like a Chinese prison camp.

  • On the receiving end, the walker does a good half-day of work and gets less than the illegal immigrant who cleans the client’s house or the mechanic who fixes the Mercedes. Remove the third that goes to taxes,  benefits, and insurance and Greeting at Walmart begins to look good.

The Perception of Value is the key. The client is, for the sake of argument, making $300 an hour as a PR flack which is why they can’t walk their own damn dog. They see that remuneration as perfectly reasonable and, probably, insufficient when they compare it to others in the company. In any case, their compensation goes directly into a bank and never seems enough to meet their reasonable costs of living. It’s invisible and theoretical.

However, the cost of Fluffy’s care consists of extremely real green paper that has to come out of their wallet and it simply seems far too high. Highway Robbery! Where does this scruffy person come off charging such an unbelievable fee. Isn’t the warmth and companionship of the aforesaid Fluffy enough?

Well, no, it isn’t.
Which brings me to book editing.

The Editorial Freelancers Association ( puts out a range of prices for various types of editing;  I generally do “developmental editing” which translates as really having to dig in and fix a book. Sometimes, it means re-writing or ghost-writing. It’s listed at $30 to $50 an hour.

Now let’s take an imaginary PR executive . They’ve written the next “American Psycho,” it’s a brilliant 100,000-words, and he or she asks what it will cost to brush it up. For one reason or another, ranging from a difficulty with dialog to complete illiteracy, it never needs a “brush-up,” it requires real effort.

I know my limits and, while I can only write 2,500 words a day on my own books, I can generally grind out 5,000 words a day on the first pass through someone else’s. (I’ve been told that that’s Stephen King speed if far from Stephen King quality.)

So, it just takes a bit of simple math. A 100,000 page manuscript is going to take 20 full 10 hour days. (I usually add up half-days to full days and I can’t work 7 days a week so it would take a month.)

Excuse me for being over-weening, but I would like to make a reasonable fraction of the money I made 25 years ago and that means $400 a day (let’s not worry about inflation and the full third that gets sent to Uncle Sam.)

20 days at $400 = $8000. 

At this point, Perceived Value hits.

Eight Thousand Dollars?!

That would be a week in Europe or new deck on the house! They’ll just find another Editor. Sadly, because of the economy of the publishing industry, there will always be an Editor willing to undercut the bid.

Remember how much our putative Author is making. In one hour, they clear what it takes the editor 8 hours to earn, add in the one-third in hidden benefits and you get about an hour of their time to an Editor’s 10-hour day.

Any Editor knows that EVERY book needs editing and 5,000 words a day is a real bitch so it’s inevitable that there will be a couple of pro bono days. The fact that the book is going to need a second edit and a proof is kept a secret as is the cost of decent art on a front-and-back cover and laying out the type on InDesign.


The problem is the societal perception of value between a PR executive, an attorney, an accountant, etc, versus a freelance word-wrangler. Sure, $12,000 a week is the appropriate market value of a junior executive or a first year attorney at a low-rent law firm.

Is $2000 a week really unreasonable for an Editor good enough to bother hiring?

That’s a 6 to 1 ratio!

You DO get what you pay for.

The Conundrum for Editors:

  • Do you hold to a living wage and lose every client?
  • Do you buckle under and take half plus a meaningless promise of fuiure revenues?
  • Do you just say the hell with it and go back to your own books?

Note that I have been more than fair in my examples–one client without a thought suggested seriously that a single day of his time was worth 100 days of mine. (I may still take that job, I like the guy. What can I say?)

What really hurts is the unanimous acceptance of Perceived Value. After 40 yeas in television and 25 as a writer, I no longer suggest to college students that they even consider Journalism. Banking, Business Administration, Law: those are the fields where the same amount of effort will bring in a multiple of the remuneration given to others.

Those guys are simply in a higher gear.

Doing Something I Swore I’d Never Do

About the first thing a writer learns, after the tiny amount of money there really can be made by writing, is to never, ever, ever, respond to comments and reviews. The fact is, I simply can’t help but point this one out.

I have edited out the name and the online book store where this appeared, but I do hope that someone who knows this person recognizes the writing style (Idiotic) and has a nice long chat with him and or her.

OK, This is a review on my book Courier, which is a historical thriller about a motorcycle courier in 1972 who finds a secret he shouldn’t have found and people try to kill him. (I am still annoyed that events in MY lifetime are now “historical” but I’m getting used to it.)  It also didn’t touch on the number one criticism of the book, which is the amount of time the protagonist spends on a motorcycle. Do people complain about the amount of time a horse appears in a Western?
Never mind, Press On.
The reviewer did give me a three-star rating, which I appreciate. I’m sorry I can’t reciprocate because apparently the reviewer lives on Mars.
It’s set in a time (1972) which is kind of new but doesn’t reflect the impact of computers or cell phones. Ok, not so bad and I did it with a book of my own. But it’s still a bit awkward.
Well, they didn’t have cell phones in 1972 (the first was tested in 1974) and there were computers–enormous mainframes. Why write a book about 1972 which isn’t about 1972?
One of the villains is this aged woman who has the ability to materialize right behind someone who is standing at high alert with numerous people surrounding him. It’s just not credible, plus, she should have been dealt with properly earlier and wasn’t.
This is actually a reasonable criticism which I can only answer by saying that, being Korean, she was wearing very light embroidered slippers and often showed up right after a shotgun had been fired. I’m still wondering what “dealing with her properly ” would entail. 
But my major issue has to do with the main characters habit of flipping his Zippo lighter down his pants to open it and then up them to spark the wheel and light it. I bet he did that, by description, at least thirty times in the book. As a nonsmoker, I find it unpleasant enough that pretty much everybody smokes in this book, but this stupid “trick” became as unwelcome as a turd in the punch bowl after the third or fourth time and then entered the realm of the hyperannoying.
57e8349ab968c7497a165b8915e665dcOK, first, everyone in 1972 smoked everywhere all the time. I used to put away 3 packs a day of Winston’s on a good day and as many as 7 packs when it was stressful. Please note that I haven’t smoked in 30 years and would not recommend it to young people because quitting is Boring. EVERYONE in Vietnam smoke just as everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan smoked. War is stressful
Second, the Zippo trick, which I used to be pretty good at, is an essential part of the main character’s personality. The fact that the critic finds it “unpleasant” that everyone smoked in 1972 doesn’t  change the reality of 1972. I absolutely loved smoking back then.  However, I’m sure he or she has a clever way to eliminate smoking as well–probably time-travel, which always works so well in a historical novel. 
Just have the guy learn a few more tricks.
OK, I guess he could have meant Rick Putnam, the courier. I originally thought he meant that I should learn new tricks. Old dogs, you know.
For those of you who now want to learn the Zippo trick…

Reality of Self-Publishing

Many years ago,  I found myself driving to Miami at 95 mph with Hunter Thompson in the passenger seat putting away a bottle of Pinch, 12 iced bottles of Heineken, and a fair amount of Peruvian Marching Powder. I had been told to place guests for this program in locations where they would feel comfortable so I had ordered a 6 man crew to set Hunter up in a bar. Ten minutes before we hit air, I was told by New York that it looked too much like a bar, so we changed everything. As soon as Gonzo had done his live shot, I ordered a limo to take him wherever he wanted to go, carefully cleaned my rental car, and disappeared.  Mr. Thompson took the limo to Atlanta at a cost of $500 where someone else, I guess, wasn’t a “gutless weasel” and would restock his supply of nose candy.

    The point is that, for 40 years, I worked in network TV news where our mantra was “failure is death.” No matter how strange, expensive, or difficult; there was always a way to get the job done.

    When I wrote my first novel, I played the game—wrote perfect letters to agents, waited 2 years for my agent to find a publisher, waited 18 months to be published, wrote the sequel two years ahead of schedule, and created a massive social media marketing machine. Six weeks after my book “Courier” was published, the publisher, Exhibit A, was wiped out in a drive-by acquisition.

    On New Years Day 2015, I did a self-evaluation:  my name was gone from my agent’s website (which I took as a sign,) the company that now owned my book was planning to mulch the paperbacks, my eBook had simply vanished, two PR companies had provided very little at great expense, social media was less expensive but equally worthless, and I was staring into the abyss of the “self-published author.”

    Oh, and I didn’t have a “day job.”

    So, I became a publisher.

    Learning was a familiar process from my TV days, one I used to describe as “figuring out the dimensions of a room by running around blindfolded and smashing into the walls.” I got a Kindle version of “Courier” up in 3 hours and replaced it with a readable version two days later. I bartered t-shirts for the rights to the cover art from the wonderful Brit who’d done the original. I slugged away at IngramSpark’s format requirements with the help of a friend from high school and had a paperback up in two weeks. I completed and published a fantasy/satire titled “Day of the Dragonking” by April Fools Day (which seemed appropriate,) and rewrote, re-edited and published “Warrior,” the sequel to Courier, on July first.

    What I do best is write, so I’m writing as fast as I can: editing a wonderful non-fiction book by a Japanese film cameraman who was the best news shooter in Vietnam and have both a private eye series set in 1930’s Manila and a YA dystopian in the works.

    I learned that most of what I knew about marketing was wrong. Advertising seldom works, mechanically plugging books on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs doesn’t work, and radio and online podcasts are fun but that’s about it. What works is getting readers to learn about an author, like the author, and tell their friends about the author so that means book giveaways, honest reviews, and real blogs. The Starred Review that PW gave my second book was fantastic because it not only bolstered my personal sense of worth as a writer but also raised our visibility in the eyes of other reviewers. On the other hand, I still need to learn the equivalent of an entire MBA about distribution and wholesale marketing.

   To my surprise, my British PR guru has discovered that Westerns are a consistent seller so we have quite a few of those and are very excited about A. R. Arrington, our new-fangled old-fashioned success story.  Along with A.R., we have a group of promising new authors whose work ranges from children’s books to Texas Romance, a global team of freelancers who can do just about anything, and Great Expectations of going into the black by New Year’s Day 2016.

Lessons Learned:

–Don’t spend money you don’t have unless you really have to—like getting a great cover, for instance.

–Hire a bookkeeper. FAST. Fiverr has great people from all over the world

–Listen to readers and don’t mistake your own preferences for the desires of the market.

–Pay your subcontractors quickly and completely—the same goes for your authors’ royalties.

–Realize and remember that publishing right now is like William Goldman’s description of Hollywood,

“Nobody knows nothing.” 

The Justice Department just restarted a controversial asset forfeiture program—in part to fund local police departments—which critics say unfairly targets poor people and minorities. Source: Justice Department Restarts Program That Allows Cops To Seize Assets From The Poor – The Daily Beast CJ CIARAMELLA SHERIFFS OF NOTTINGHAM 04.01.16 11:00 AM ET Justice Department Restarts Program […]

via #Justice #Department Restarts Program That #Allows #Cops To #Seize #Assets From The #Poor – The #Daily #Beast :: #USA #America — Christian Spook >> KJV Only / AV 1611

Something About Mary



300 Words by Charlotte Chere Graham 

All the news about school bullying got me to thinking about Mary. She sat behind me in second grade, and there was something about Mary that’s stayed with me for sixty years.

Back then you were on your own when it came to being bullied. No day in court to face your oppressors. No movie or book deal or Oprah interview as reward for abuse taken and overcome. You see, my classmates didn’t like Mary. “You have dirty blood, Mary. Stay away from us Dirty Blood.”

Mary was the picture of neglect. Every day she wore the same dress – stained and rumpled. Shoes bound to her feet with rubber bands. Even in the cold of January, Mary had no coat. No mother ever lovingly ran a brush through Mary’s ratted, drab hair. Instead, a pair of blunt scissors chopped into her matted and tangled curls to chase out the lice. At seven years old, Mary already had the haggard look of someone coming to the end of her days. Just living was an act of courage.

I admired Mary and envied her strength. She never complained about life at home or the abuse and shunning she took at school. Mary was as gentle and kind as she was neglected and bullied. When  “Dirty Blood” was hurled at her,  Mary silently stood and waited for her tormentors   to stop.

I’m ashamed to say the ugliness hurled at Mary sometimes got to me, and I would cry and beg not to go to school because it was too hard to watch. But Mary was made of stronger stuff. She never missed a day of school.

Remembering Mary now, I can only think she was held close by the words of Psalm 121: My help comes from the Lord…

What’s Next in Computing? — Medium

The computing industry progresses in two mostly independent cycles: financial and product cycles. There has been a lot of handwringing…

Source: What’s Next in Computing? — Medium

Do You Think My Stats Page is Trying to Tell Me Something?


If A Tree Falls In The Forest Does Anybody Hear?



“I cannot remember much, I cannot feel much. Maybe erasure is necessary. Maybe the human spirit defends itself as the body does, attacking infection, enveloping and destroying those malignancies that would otherwise consume us.”

From a professional standpoint John Wade has hit rock bottom. His once promising political career is all but dead a mere six weeks after he was pretty much guaranteed to be elected as his party’s representative for the United States Senate. How could this happen? He had paid his dues and done everything right. He had gone to church once a week as per instructions, married a beautiful and charming woman named Kathleen, hired the best campaign manager money could buy and made his political platform truly about the people and built on making a difference. No lip service, only truth and honesty. How could they desert him like this?


The loss had crushed him, enraged…

View original post 1,230 more words

Review of Courier by Alma Kadragic

Terry Irving knows how to write a story so fast moving and gripping that the reader can’t stop. His first novel Courier is first of all a chase story featuring motorcycle rider Rick Putnam who repeatedly escapes the bad guys on a big bruising BMW or a sleek fast Kawasaki. But Courier is much more than that.

Irving recreates Washington D.C. in late 1972 when American B-52s were bombing Hanoi, the peace process to end the Vietnam War seemed stuck, and a robbery at a Washington D.C. apartment complex called the Watergate was something that no one seemed to care much about.

via Terry Irving.

Poem: Seconds within Moments

Christy is the best.

Poetic Parfait

Life moves fast, doesn’t it? It is a selection of seconds, moments, hours, days, and… You get the point. It is a blur some days and then suddenly a moment comes that makes you go, “Aha, I realize how short life is.” And then you breathe deeply and plant a foot in a world that brings you comfort. For me, today, it is the blogging world.

Thank you to everyone who has emailed me, left a comment on my blog (here or on When Women Inspire), sent me a note on a social media network or contacted me another way. I appreciate you all. I am grateful for you all.

View original post 250 more words

The McLaren 650S Spider becomes your favorite car—and hits 100mph—in 6.3 seconds | Ars Technica

A supercar so clever it should have a PhD.

Source: The McLaren 650S Spider becomes your favorite car—and hits 100mph—in 6.3 seconds | Ars Technica

Another way to keep from writing — Match Stick Rocket


Match Stick Rocket

SUBJECT: Rocketry

TOPIC: Propulsion

DESCRIPTION: A small solid propellant rocket is made from a match and a piece of aluminum foil.


EDITED BY: Roger Storm, NASA Glenn Research Center


  • 2 match book matches or wooden stick matches
  • Small square of aluminum foil
  • Paper clip
  • Safety pin


  1. Take one match and wrap a small piece of aluminum foil around the match-head. Wrap the foil tightly.
  2. Make a small opening in the foil wrapped around the match head by inserting the point of a safety pin and bending upward slightly.
  3. Bend the paper clip to form a launch pad as shown in the diagrams. Erect the match stick rocket on the pad. Make sure the pad is set up on a surface that will not be damaged by the rocket’s exhaust such as a lab table. Several layers of foil on the lab table work well.
  4. Ignite the match by holding a second lighted match under the foil until its combustion temperature is reached.

Caution: Be sure the match rocket is pointed away from people or burnable materials. it is recommended to have water or some other fire extinguishant available. The foil head of the rocket will be very hot!

DISCUSSION: The match stick rocket demonstrates Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion as they relate to rocketry. Newton’s third law states that for every action, there is an opposite and

English: Low-res simulation of c-slot propella...

equal reaction. The exhaust of the fire products from the burning match (smoke and gas) is the “action” and the movement of the rocket in the other direction is the ‘reaction.’ The action thrust is produced when the match burns in an enclosed environment. The aluminum foil acts as a rocket combustion chamber. Because the opening in the foil is small, pressure builds up in the chamber that eventually escapes as a rapid stream of smoke and gas.

English: Schematic diagram of a V-2 rocket des...

English: Force diagram for rocket engine thrust.

In an interesting variation of the experiment, try making holes of different diameters to let the combustion products out at different rates. A larger opening permits the smoke and gas to escape before it has time to build up much pressure. The escape of the products will be slower than produced by a match stick rocket with a smaller opening. Isaac Newton’s second law states that the force or thrust of a rocket is equal to the mass of the smoke and gas escaping the rocket times how fast it escapes. In this experiment, the mass of the smoke and gas is the same for both cases. The difference is in how fast it escapes. Compare the distance traveled with the two match stick rockets.

via Match Stick Rocket.

English: Isaac Newton: Principia Mathematica E...

Researchers confirm the best way to alienate everyone you text

Source: Researchers confirm the best way to alienate everyone you text

Walking With Intention Day 15 by Gunamayi


The child walks or skips, happily and with joy. With no particular intention, reveling in his own spring of inner joy. Where is this child going? Who will he become? When ignorantly he wanders away from that inner peace and joy and forgets the way he came, how will he try to return? How many paths will he try before he breaths a sigh of relief in returning home?

Source: Walking With Intention Day 15 by Gunamayi

The Most Important Job

I am an insurance agent.  You are a writer.  She is a physical therapist.  He is a stay-at-home dad.

We have jobs to perform.  We have careers to build.  We have schedules to adhere to and meetings to attend.  We meet deadlines, make appointments, and multitask our way through the days.

We navigate the hustle and bustle of society.  We ride out the ebbs and flows of the economic system.  We create trends, and then we buck them in favor of the next latest, greatest thing.

Some struggle to wade through the mundane hours of their workday.  Others strive to climb the ladder and achieve new heights of career elevation.  The luckiest of us grab ahold of that thing that sparks our passion and find a way to make both a living and a life with it.

Source: The Most Important Job

 MWA Names Major Edgar Award Winners

Classic Mysteries · by Les Blatt · November 24, 2015

The Mystery Writers of America has announced the names of the recipients of three of the organization’s top Edgar Awards for 2016.  Walter Mosley will be named a Grand Master, for his lifetime achievements as a mystery writer. Editor Margaret Kinsman and the national organization Sisters in Crime will each be receiving the Raven Award, which “recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing.”  And Janet Rudolph, the director of Mystery Readers International and editor of the Mystery Readers Journal, will receive The Ellery Queen Award, which honors “outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry.”

(Darn! They overlooked me again. But I’ll get them…..)

Source: News Reader | NetworkedBlogs by Ninua

A Preview of “On the Frontlines of the Television War” by Tony Hirashiki

Hirashiki 1

Time: 10am

Date: April 27, 1966

Place: ABC News bureau on the 6th floor of the Caravelle Hotel in Saigon.

“How do you do, sir? I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Yasutsune Hirashiki—just arrived from Japan.”

Well, my initial greeting went very well. I shouldn’t have been surprised–after all I’d been practicing it for days.

The man with the mustache gave me a smile and a handshake. His name was Jack O’Grady, the bureau chief for ABC News Saigon. He wasn’t all that tall, just a bit taller than an average Japanese.

“Welcome to Vietnam! New York told me you were coming. They said you were a damn good cameraman.”

He went on to tell me that he’d screened the demo reel of film clips that I’d sent to New York weeks ago and that he was struck by the creativeness of my photography.

That sounded good.

“I’m ready to work, sir. When shall I start?” I said.

“Well, this week is very quiet, so why don’t you check with us next week?” He replied.

What? I hadn’t expected that. Did he just say that I didn’t have a job this week but I might have a job next week. But only if it was busy?

I was sure he was mistaken. I had a letter from Jack Bush, the executive in New York who hired camera crews around the world for ABC. He had very clearly said that I should quit my job at a Japanese local TV station and fly to Vietnam where a job was waiting for me.

This is what I’d wanted for years. I quit the news cameraman job where I’d spent the past ten years, packed up everything I owned, and came to Saigon to join ABC News–one of the mighty American News Networks.

Clearly, this O’Grady fellow hadn’t gotten the message.

I hadn’t practiced this speech but I believe my English was very clear. “Mr. O’ Grady, I was hired by New York as Saigon bureau cameraman. According to New York’s instructions, I quit my job at a Japanese TV station, and come here to work.” I said.

Mr. O’Grady patiently listened to my terrible English and said, “Show me the letter.”

I gave it to him. He read it, smiled, and said, “Look at this line.”

He then ran his finger along the line of incomprehensible English words as he carefully read them to me. “It says that you will have a chance if you go to Saigon but there the word ‘hired’ isn’t in here. We will give you a chance. Come back and check next week. If it’s busy and we need a cameraman, we’ll send you on an assignment and you’ll have a chance to show us your work.”

I was in shock. He was right! Being Japanese, I had translated the letter with a dictionary and only paid attention to what I thought was the important parts of the letter.

Quit. Go to Saigon. Have a chance.

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