Least We Forget.....
Ever been scared...I have, a few times.
I mentioned earlier in this blog about Cambodia...being driven south out of the capital of Phnom Penh and wondering who the soldiers were walking along the highway with really big guns.
I said to my driver "I didn't think Cambodia had an army."
"Oh those not Cambodia soldiers....those NVA!"
North Vietnamese walking to kill Americans.
"I hope you don't have a flat tire".
" Oh you just tell 'em you Canadian!".
Yeh....sure. with an American passport in my pocket.
It's strange...I wasn't at all scared as we passed another small group. This continued for awhile...just small groups of five or six NVA soldiers and then we saw no more.
Some 87 members of the worldwide press were killed in that southeast asian conflict...including NBC's famed correspondent Wells Hangen along with his cameraman German born Peter Bellendorf. (see link below)
Peter was quite a guy...he kept a boa constrictor in his Saigon apartment as he was on long assignments and needed some kind of surety against break-ins!
I chatted with him over coffee one morning and ask him if he was ever afraid out in the field.
He whipped out his wallet and slipped a picture of Ho Chi Minh out and showed it to me.
"My insurance out there. They won't kill a guy carrying this!"
Sad to say...it didn't work.
Regarding Wells Hangen...he came into the Saigon building that housed NBC, AP and several other news organizations on special assignment and made the mistake of taking the elevator which everyone knew didn't work well. It took some time to get him out. Moral to this...beware of French made elevators...or plumbing or telephones!
As I said I wasn't really scared when passing the enemy solders on the road...in fact it is strange that years later as I think and write about this I am more tense about it now...knowing now that a lot of press folks and friends...did not come out of Cambodia alive.
Least we forget...click on this link:
Here’s more on cameraman Peter Bellendorf.
When I was scheduled to leave Saigon to return home I grabbed Pete and his big NBC camera and we went out of the building onto the sidewalk...and I simulated a report so he could film it and I’d have the footage for my resume.
While we were doing this...Peter Arnett CNN, and Horst Faas (Pulitzer War photog) walked past and Arnett did a double take as my mic cord was not connected but just hanging here.
He yelled...”hey Major you forgot something!”
Both Peter and I broke up laughing.
Peter Bellendorf was tough...living with a boa...and carrying a pic of Ho Che Minh in his wallet....to thwart any chance of being killed in the field by the enemy. Sad to say....a bomb went off...he didn't have a chance to show that pic to anyone.