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Burbank author shares stories of Vietnam War through military reporters

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Marc Yablonka’s latest book, “Vietnam Bao Chi: Warriors of Word and Film,” contains stories and interviews from military correspondents — not civilian reporters but rather the servicemen who were enlisted in the U.S. military branches — during the Vietnam War.
(Courtesy of Marc Yablanko)

There have been many books documenting the events that occurred during the Vietnam War, but Burbank author Marc Yablonka wanted to tell stories about the war through a different lens.

Yablonka’s latest book, “Vietnam Bao Chi: Warriors of Word and Film,” is a collection of stories and interviews from military correspondents — not civilian reporters but rather the servicemen who were enlisted in U.S. military branches — during the war.

Yablonka, a journalist who has written for several military and traditional publications, said there has been a plethora of books written by traditional reporters who covered the Vietnam War.

However, he slowly learned about the dozens of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who had to report on what was happening, as well as fight in the war.

“Yes, they covered the horrors of the war — they were in the midst of it — but I think the ultimate mission was to show the good that our troops were doing and the braveness [with] which they did it,” Yablonka said. “They were right in the thick of it [at] the same time they were writing the stories or taking the photographs in the midst of it. They had many points where they had to make a decision on whether to shoot with their camera or shoot with their gun.”

One military correspondent he interviewed for his book was Marvin Wolf, a public information officer for the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade of the U.S. Army.

Yablonka said Wolf was traveling with his unit through An Khe and was left behind for a day after a battle.

Wolf sought refuge in the surrounding jungle and stayed up in the trees. During the night, Wolf heard the footsteps of Viet Cong guerrillas moving through the area.

When Wolf returned home, many people asked him what it was like in Vietnam and the battles in which he fought.

“Many of the guys who came back from Vietnam were often prodded, and what Marv told me was ‘I shot hundreds, usually at F11 [1/]250,’” Yablonka said, referring to Wolf’s camera settings.

Similar to civilian reporters, Yablonka said the military reporters had to earn the trust of their fellow servicemen. Once they did, they were open to talking about their thoughts about the war.

“These guys were humping the boonies, and they didn’t know what tomorrow would bring,” Yablonka said. “So when the combat correspondent took out their pad and pen to write a [story], I think many of these guys, not knowing what tomorrow would bring, were happy to submit to an interview.”

He added, “They felt special and hoped that their family would be able to read about them in the newspaper. The thought of being immortalized was an enticement to them.”

Yablonka is scheduled to attend a Memorial Day service at 11 a.m. on May 27 at McCambridge Park, 1515 N Glenoaks Blvd, Burbank, where he will be selling and signing copies of his book. Portions of his proceeds will be donated to the Burbank Veterans Committee.

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