Ghosts of war: My journalist father’s Vietnam odyssey, revisited

Duc Co Special Forces camp, 1965: Wounded soldiers crouch in the dust as a U.S. helicopter takes off from a clearing. This was one of many images taken by photojournalist Tim Page that chronicled the Vietnam conflict.

Chevy Chase, Md., summer 1967. It’s early one morning in late July or early August. I am a nine-year-old excited to see my father, who has just returned from almost three months in Vietnam. I creep into the bedroom and leap onto his chest, expecting him to hug me, laughing. In an instant, I am flying backward gasping, clutching my chest. He didn’t mean to punch me. He was still in his foxhole. Rome, January, 2018. Finally, I am packing for my flight to Ho Chi Minh City, still better known as Saigon. Even before the death of my father, Robert Reguly, in 2011, at age 80, I had dreamt of retracing his steps during the war, which he covered for the Toronto Star when he was 36, in the peak years of his career. At the time, he was the Star’s Washington bureau chief and Canada’s most famous print journalist. Three precious objects in my home office in Rome demand my attention as my bags fill up – yea or nay. The first is the German-built Olympia portable typewriter that Dad – known as Bob to his family and friends – lugged around Vietnam. It has a couple of dents, but works perfectly. The second is a brick-heavy Nikkormat camera, black, one of two he used as a foreign correspondent in the United States, Indochina, the Middle East and Africa. It, too, works perfectly. The third is the U.S Army knapsack, complete with insulated green plastic water bottles, that he bought on the black market the day after he arrived in Saigon in May, 1967, and carried into war. How romantic. Why not take pictures in Vietnam with his camera, write on his Olympia, and traipse across former battle zones with his knapsack. In the end, none of the three makes the cut. Looking at my map of Vietnam, now splattered with pink dots, each marking a spot he had visited (or close enough), I realize I will be on the move constantly, without the benefit of a Huey helicopter. Best to travel light. What does make it into my bags, other than the requisite Dispatches, Michael Herr’s hallucinogenic book on the war, are copies of the original stories Dad banged out in Vietnam, retrieved from a musty filing cabinet in my mother’s Toronto basement. Their place lines – Saigon, Pleiku, Hue, DMZ, Plei Beng and others – will be my compass. …”
The Globe and Mail (Video)

Robert Reguly’s visa for entering Vietnam, stamped by the Vietnamese embassy in Washington, D.C., where he had been based as a Star bureau chief.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Michael Herr, Saigon, Tet 1968, Vietnam War and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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