USARV Colonel Attacks Pacific Stars and Stripes



SAIGON, Sept. 8, 1969 (AP) -- The U.S. High Command in South Vietnam is so incensed with news reports appearing in the Pacific Stars and Stripes, the U.S. armed forces newspaper in Asia, that it has started calling it the “Hanoi Herald.”
            This view of the 250,000-circulation daily has been conveyed to all U.S. military information officers in the Pacific Area by Col. James Campbell, chief spokesman for the U.S. Army command in Vietnam.
            In a speech he wrote for an information officers’ meeting this month, Campbell described as “treason” one battle eyewitness report by a Stars and Stripes reporter. He pinned a similar label on an Associated Press story about an Army company that refused for a time to move into action.
            Campbell, a former editor in chief of European Stars and Stripes, is scheduled to take over as editor in chief of Pacific Stars and Stripes next January.
            The Associated Press obtained a copy of the speech, which was read to a closed session of the U.S. Pacific Command information officers’ conference in Taipei Sept. 3. Campbell did not attend the conference. In response to a query, he said, “I stand by all I said in the speech. It remains the view of USARV (U.S. Army, Vietnam).”
            The speech included these remarks:
            “I think this conference will be interested in learning that the Pacific Stars and Stripes has earned for itself the title of ‘The Hanoi Herald.’
            “Perhaps this may seem a bit harsh, but we of U.S. Army Vietnam feel that there is more than just a bit of justification for it. The latest example of what is clearly irresponsible – if not downright dishonest – reporting is a story that appeared on page 6 of the Sunday, Aug. 31 issue.”
            The story, by a Stars and Stripes combat reporter, Spec. 4 Bob Hodierne, was an eyewitness account of an action in the Americal Division area.
            Campbell criticized Hodierne’s use of the numbers of casualties in a U.S. infantry company.
            “Whether these figures are true is completely beside the point,” he declared. “It is my contention that such irresponsible reporting is absolutely devastating to the morale … of all soldiers. It is also my contention that such reporting – in the Stars and Stripes of all publications – is of tremendous aid and comfort to the enemy.”
            Campbell criticized references in the story to troops being killed, the company pulling back, lack of helicopter support, cowardice and troop tiredness.
            He said, “All too often Stripes reporters are inclined to accept the viewpoints of persons clearly not in a position to know what they are talking about, and rarely do they seek the views of someone in a position to give them the straight dope.”
           Stars and Stripes has a bureau in Saigon staffed by civilian and service reporters. The editor in chief, based in Tokyo, is Lt. Col. J.F. Townshend Jr. of the Air Force.
            The publication is described as “an authorized, unofficial publication for the U.S. armed forces assigned to the Pacific Command.” The managing editor and news editor are civilians. The newspaper is published in Tokyo, and more than 100,000 copies a day are sent to combat troops in Vietnam.
            Campbell claimed that there is not enough field coverage by the Stars and Stripes bureau in Vietnam. “With the exception of reporter Hodierne, the entire staff apparently considers the battle zones off limits … they find the press camp at Nha Trang, which has a nice beach, inviting.”
            Several Stars and Stripes reporters have been wounded in the war. One reporter, Spec. 5 Paul Savanuck, was killed April 18.
            Campbell also criticized the use by Stars and Stripes of pictures of American wounded in a week when 2,000 enemy were listed as killed. “We saw no photos of the enemy,” he said.
            And he charged that helicopter losses were receiving “a disproportionate play” in the publication.
            Referring to the “outstanding job” done by the Americal Division in August, Campbell declared, “This outstanding effort was pretty well drowned first by a dishonest story under the byline of two Pulitzer Prize winners who filed an eyewitness report on an event they did not see … and then a few days later this jewel (the Hodierne story) by a man who apparently has forgotten that he is also a soldier whose mission it is to report about soldiers to soldiers.
            “It is the opinion of USARV that such stories do not border on treason – they are treason,” Campbell said.
            Campbell said the story by the two Pulitzer Prize winners he referred to was about A Company by Associated Press newsmen Peter Arnett and Horst Faas.
            Arnett has a six-year record as a font-line reporter in the Vietnam war; Faas over a similar period has taken some of the most outstanding photographs of the war.
            Arnett commented Friday: “We were at the scene of reported the story as it developed, attributing the quotes by name to the persons involved. While true we were not with A Company at the time, the story didn’t say we were. Faas was with the battalion commander during the radio conversation with the company and I interviewed the sergeant and the major who talked A Company back into the war. We quoted them on what had happened with A Company.”
            Reporter Hodierne and other Stars and Stripes men in Saigon declined to comment on the speech.
            No comment was available immediately from Lt. Col. Townshend, the editor in Tokyo.
            Campbell declared in his speech, “Nobody in USARV is trying to muzzle the press … Nobody expects Stars and Stripes to be a smile sheet and report only tapioca news. But the Army does expect – and is not getting – a fair shake from the Stars and Stripes.”