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Requiem

Images from photojournalists Killed during the war in Indochina

THE wars that engulfed Indochina from the early 1950s to 1975 offered photographers

access to the battlefield never seen before and probably never to be seen again.

Photojournalists accompanied commando units into the jungles to stalk the enemy and

hitched rides on American attack helicopters. In some places they could even visit

a major battlefront after breakfast and be back at the office filing photos to far-away

news organizations by lunch time.

But access came at a price. The battle of East against West in Vietnam, Laos and

Cambodia that took the lives of about 1.3 million soldiers and more than 2 million

civilians also claimed 135 photographers. Their work and memories have been captured

in the 336 pages of Requiem ($68 - Jonathan Cape, Random House).

Compiled by veteran photographers Tim Page and Horst Faas, the inspiration for Requiem

began with a search for two old friends - missing-in-action photographers Sean Flynn

and Dana Stone.

The two Americans were last seen April 6, 1970, riding their motorcycles down Cambodia's

Route 1 past the town of Chipou on their way to the Vietnamese border.

"Why does the MIA issue bounce around in our minds? Unresolved spiritual issues

- the satisfaction of putting friends' spirits to rest, soothing one's own soul,"

Page said of the book via email. "The bond forged in conflicts is thicker than

blood."

Page combed southeastern Cambodia for clues to Flynn's and Stone's fate. More than

a decade after the fall of Phnom Penh and then Saigon, local villagers still readily

identified photographs of the two men. Some said the two were held captive for 13

months before execution. An old man offered three teeth and a filling - hard evidence,

but not conclusive.

Page's efforts apparently raised the interest of the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting,

the US military's MIA recovery operation. A US team was sent to Svay Rieng during

this year's recovery effort, but investigators were reluctant to discuss details.

"We have journalists, American journalists, who went missing down there. That

is what we were looking for," an American detachment commander revealed. "We

didn't have any success. The excavation did not reveal any remains."

Flynn and Stone were just two of many foreign journalists who swarmed into Phnom

Penh from Saigon in early 1970 to check out America's new "sideshow" to

the Vietnam War.

Jon Swain, a reporter for Agence France-Presse during the war, wrote in Requiem that,

despite American involvement, there was no US war machine for reporters to hitch

free rides on into battle like they did in Vietnam. Without the presence of friendly

US ground troops, "a more independent-minded, adventurous approach" was

necessary.

"There was seldom any reliable war information to be gleaned at the press-briefing

center, so the rule was to head out into the countryside and see for yourself,"

Swain wrote.

Seventeen foreign journalists went missing in Cambodia in just two months. Another

seven were killed in 1970 as newsmen discovered that the Khmer Rouge were not the

smiling, happy Cambodians often depicted in tourist brochures.

An estimated 20 Cambodian photographers also died in the Cambodian war, most of them

presumed executed after the Khmer Rouge took Phnom Penh in April 1975.

Chhay Bornlay, a Cambodian reporter for The Associated Press from 1971-75, recalled

a flood of memories of his fallen Cambodian comrades as he flipped through the pages

of Requiem.

"A lot of these photos I remember," said Bornlay, now first deputy director-general

of the Interior Ministry.

"I would have to make the assignments everyday. 'Who wants to go down Route

5? Who wants to go down Route 4? Who wants to go to Prek Kadam?'," he said,

mimicking the long-ago early morning meetings with the AP photo team. "But of

course, they only ever went somewhere they felt safe."

Some of Requiem's most startling photos from the roads were snapped by Gamma and

AP photographer Sou Vichith. Also featured in the Cambodia section of the book are

pics by the often-wounded Tea Kim Heang, better known as "Moonface" to

the many foreign journalists who accompanied him to the fronts.

As the Khmer Rouge noose tightened around Phnom Penh, Chhay Bornlay said he realized

it would soon be time to leave his homeland. Others such as Vichith and Heang were

more upbeat, seeing the impending communist victory as an end to the war and a reunification

of the country that would allow them to see their families living in the provinces.

"I think they put too much trust in the Khmer Rouge and their propaganda. I

didn't believe it," Bornlay said. "I talked to a lot of high-ranking [Lon

Nol] government officials. They told me the morning before I left that 'This is the

end'... While I was talking to one, the American helicopters began to arrive for

the US evacuation."

In the final days before the April 17 Khmer Rouge victory, journalist Richard Blystone

chartered a plane from Saigon to Phnom Penh to transport journalists and their families

away from besieged capital.

Bornlay made it to the airport with his wife and two children just in time to catch

the flight back to Saigon. He would spend most of the next two decades in San Jose,

California.

Sou Vichith, his wife and Tea Kim Heang took refuge at the French Embassy until the

last diplomats, newsmen and refugees were forced to leave. They was last seen by

famed New York Times reporter Dith Pran as Phnom Penh's entire population was marched

into the countryside.

Ou Neakiry, a messenger for AP in the 1970s, was one of a few journalists who survived

the Khmer Rouge rule. Wounded by shrapnel in March 1975, he was at his home in the

capital recovering when the Khmer Rouge arrived.

"[Photographer] Sun Heang and Chhay Bornlay asked me to go to the airport, but

I thought that after the Khmer Rouge came it would be safe to go anywhere in the

country, like to my birthplace [in Kampong Chhnang] to see my brother."

He tried to walk north on Route 5, but soldiers forced him to cross the Tonle Sap

and head northeast to Kampong Thom province, the beginning of a grueling 23-day hike.

There he joined a Khmer Rouge mobile labor unit to ensure he was useful to provincial

leaders who distrusted and often killed "new people" from Phnom Penh. Did

he ever tell the Khmer Rouge know he used to be a journalist working with the Americans?

"No, no. I just told them that I was a student. I never told them I was a journalist."

Ou Neakiry, like Dith Pran, returned to journalism after the Khmer Rouge were driven

from power. Rehired by AP in 1993 as a photographer, Neakiry's work can often be

seen in local and international newspapers.

Dith Pran, quoted in Requiem, explained the fate of most Cambodian journalists after

1975: "[The Khmer Rouge] tried to destroy all those who knew what they had done

because we were a witness to their atrocities against the Cambodian people. Their

aim was to get rid of those people who would bring the message of what they saw to

the outside world."

-end-possible quote box

"The silence stands in sharp contrast to the terrible noise that was a defining

part of those days and accompanied so many of these very scenes." - Pulitzer

Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam on Requiem..

eryday. 'Who wants to go down Route 5? Who wants to go down Route 4? Who wants to

go to Prek Kadam [a ferry crossing on the Tonle Sap]?'," he said, mimicking

the long-ago early morning meetings with the AP photo team. "But of course,

they only went somewhere they felt safe."

Some of Requiem's most startling photos from the roads were snapped by Gamma and

AP photographer Sou Vichith. Also featured in the Cambodia section of the book are

pics by the often-wounded Tea Kim Heang, better known as "Moonface" to

the many foreign journalists who accompanied him to the front-lines.

As the Khmer Rouge noose tightened around Phnom Penh, Chhay Bornlay said he realized

it would soon be time for him to leave his homeland. Others such as Vichith and Heang

were more upbeat, seeing the impending communist victory as an end to the war and

a reunification of the country that would allow them to see their families living

in the provinces again.

"I think they put too much trust in the Khmer Rouge and their propaganda. I

didn't believe it," Bornlay said. "I talked to a lot of high-ranking [Lon

Nol] government officials. They told me the morning before I left that 'This is the

end'... While I was talking to one, the American helicopters began to arrive for

the US evacuation."

In the final days before the April 17 Khmer Rouge victory, journalist Richard Blystone,

now with CNN, chartered a plane from Saigon to Phnom Penh to transport journalists

and their families away from besieged capital.

Bornlay made it to the airport with his wife and two children just in time to catch

the flight back to Saigon. He would spend most of the next two decades in San Jose,

California.

Sou Vichith, his wife and Tea Kim Heang took refuge at the French Embassy until the

last diplomats, newsmen and refugees were forced to leave. They were last seen by

famed New York Times reporter Dith Pran as Phnom Penh's entire population was forced

into the countryside.

Ou Neakiry, a messenger for AP in the 1970s, was one of a few journalists who survived

the Khmer Rouge rule. Wounded by shrapnel in March 1975, he was at his home in the

capital recovering when the Khmer Rouge arrived.

"[Photographer] Sun Heang and Chhay Bornlay asked me to go to the airport, but

I thought that after the Khmer Rouge came it would be safe to go anywhere in the

country, like to my birthplace [in Kampong Chhnang] to see my brother."

He tried to walk north on Route 5, but soldiers forced him to cross the Tonle Sap

at Prek Kadam and head northeast to Kampong Thom province, the beginning of a grueling

23-day hike.

There he joined a Khmer Rouge mobile labor unit to ensure he was useful to provincial

cadre who distrusted and often killed the "new people" from Phnom Penh.

Did Neakiry ever tell the Khmer Rouge know he used to be a journalist working with

the Americans? "No, no. I just told them that I was a student. I never told

them I was a journalist."

Some journalists were reportedly not so clever. Tricked by the Khmer Rouge, who lured

reporters and photographers with job offers for the Ministry of Information's propaganda

team, the unwary were then marched to Phnom Penh's killing field at Choeung Ek and

disposed of.

Ou Neakiry, like Dith Pran, returned to journalism after the Khmer Rouge were driven

from power. Rehired by AP in 1993 as a photographer, Neakiry's work can often be

seen in local and international newspapers.

Dith Pran, quoted in Requiem, explained the fate of most Cambodian journalists after

1975: "[The Khmer Rouge] tried to destroy all those who knew what they had done

because we were a witness to their atrocities against the Cambodian people. Their

aim was to get rid of those people who would bring the message of what they saw to

the outside world."

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