Conflict & Justice

Stanley Karnow, Vietnam War reporter and historian, dies at 87


A 30 April 1975 photo shows a North Vietnamese military truck pulling a canon pass the abandoned US Embassy in Saigon after the city fell into the hands of communist troops on the same day, marking the end of the Vietnam War.


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Stanley Karnow, a reporter and historian who was the author of “Vietnam: A History,” a definitive book about the Vietnam War, died today at age 87, the Associated Press reported.

Karnow also won a Pulitzer Prize for “In Our Image,” his history of the Philippines.

Karnow, Time Magazine’s bureau chief for Southeast Asia, wrote about the first two American deaths in Vietnam in 1959, then covered the war into the 1970s for Time, the Washington Post and other news organizations, the AP reported.

According to the AP:

He was a critic of the Vietnam War (and a name on President Nixon's enemies list) who still found cruelty and incompetence among the North Vietnamese.

In an article in the Washington Post in 1998, Karnow explained why he left journalism for writing books: “Good reporters are perennial adolescents — restless, skeptical, petulant, compulsively inquisitive. I adored every minute of it until I reached my mid-40s. By that point, I had been rushing around Europe, Africa and Asia on suitcase assignments for years. My legs were giving out. Rather than retire to a university or a golf course, I began to ponder the idea of shifting to a career in books.”

“Vietnam: A History,” which came out in 1983, was a companion book to Karnow’s Emmy-winning 13-part PBS documentary series on the war that was one of the most-watched documentaries ever at the time, the Washington Post reported.

“It is hard to think of anyone in journalism who has done more, over a longer period, to help Americans understand East Asia,” Donald Emmerson, a senior fellow at Stanford’s Institute for International Studies, told the Washington Post.

Karnow, who had congestive heart failure, died at his home in Potomac, Md., his son Michael Karnow told the Washington Post.

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