Monday, 11 November 2013

Remembrance Day - A Letter from a close Friend

A reporter’s love for the wounded people of Vietnam 
By Uwe Siemon-Netto

Dear Karin,

I would like you to know that on this Veterans’ Day I am thinking particularly fondly of you.
Your wonderful media pub in Hamburg, Funk-Klause became my favorite watering hole
and provided me much comfort when I needed it most.

When I arrived in Hamburg in 1973 to assume the post of managing editor of a local tabloid,
I had just drawn the line under an exciting but also wrenching assignment as a war reporter in Vietnam. 
Almost half a century has gone by since I was first sent there by Axel Springer Verlag
West Germany’s most important newspaper publisher.

  As you know I have finally written my memoirs.
They are now out in English, and a German-language edition will follow early next year.

Uwe (right) in the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley, 1965, 
the first major clash between division-size U.S. and North Vietnamese units.

The book is titled, “Đức":
A reporter’s love for the wounded people of Vietnam.
 The word, Đức, in the title refers to the Vietnamese term for German,
and Đức was the nickname my Vietnamese friends gave me.

It reflects my experiences as a journalist but also discusses my work
as a chaplain for Vietnam Veterans in the 1980s.
I don’t know if I have told you this but partly as a result of this Vietnam experiences
I turned to theology, earning an MA and a Ph.D. in this field
and writing a textbook on pastoral care to former warriors,
titled, “The Acquittal of God, A Theology for Vietnam Veterans.”

I have never quite got over the dreadful treatment
these brave young men received at the hands of their compatriots
when they returned from the front with wounded bodies and, worse, injured souls.
All of the nearly 100 vets I provided pastoral care for during my years
as a student of Lutheran theology told me that they had been called
“baby killers” literally on their first day home.

The WRONG Side Won
 (Please note my story in the upcoming December 2013 issue 
of the American Legion Magazine. Uwe)

In the words of Peter R. Kann, the former publisher of the Wall Street Journal,: 
“Uwe Siemon-Netto, the distinguished German journalist, has written a masterful memoir… 
He captures, as very few others have, the pathos and absurdities, the combat, cruelties 
and human cost of a conflict, which -- as he unflinchingly and correctly argues -- 
the wrong side won."

“From the street cafes of Saigon to special forces outposts in the central highlands,
from villages where terror comes at night to the carnage and war crimes visited on the city of Hue at Tet, 1968,
Uwe brings a brilliant reportorial talent and touch.  Above all, Uwe writes about the Vietnamese people:
street urchins and buffalo boys, courageous warriors and hapless war victims,
and the full human panoply of a society at war."

Women and children crouch in a muddy canal 
as they take cover from intense Viet Cong fire at Bao Trai, 20 miles west of Saigon. 
In the background, the paratroopers of the U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade escorted the civilians
 through a series of firefights during U.S. assault on a Vite Cong stronghold. Jan.1, 1966"
 by Uwe's friend, the German photographer Horst Faas

“As a German, Uwe had, as he puts it, ‘no dog in this fight’, 
but he understood the rights and wrongs of this war better than almost anyone and his heart,
 throughout the powerful and moving volume, is always and ardently with the Vietnamese people.”

Bestseller author Barbara Taylor Bradford calls Đức
“ of the most touching and moving books I have read in a long time.
It is also hilarious… I did cry at times, but I also laughed.......”
read full review on Barbara's blog


Former UPI editor-in-chief John O’Sullivan, my ex-boss,
describes Đức ” as an “angry account of a betrayal of a nation,”
adding, “But there is hope about people on every page too.”

In my epilogue,I raise the timely question 
of whether contemporary democracies are politically and psychologically equipped 
and patient enough to fight guerrilla wars to a victorious conclusion.
Citing the former North Vietnamese defense minister Vo Nguyen Giap’s assessment that they are not,
 I observe in Đức with an eye on Afghanistan,
“Even more dangerous totalitarians [than the Vietnamese Communists] are taking note today.”

Much love,Uwe

Thank YOU my dear friend Uwe, 


Written in English, Duc is available on Amazon. 
It is also on offer in Vietnamese, and a German edition will be published by Brunnen-Verlag Basel 
in Switzerland under the title, Đc, der Deutsche: Mein Vietnam, in early 2014. 

Cover of Uwe Siemon-Netto's book, Duc
showing  the author in a lull of the fighting during the 1968 Tet Offensive in Hué.

“This brilliant book reminds me of Theodore White’s In Search of History,”
commented Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster, author of Dereliction of Duty: 
Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs and the Lies that Led to Vietnam. 
 “Uwe Siemon-Netto challenges facets of our flawed historical memory of the Vietnam War,” McMaster continued.
As Herbert Kremp, the former editor-in-chief of Die Welt writes,
“Uwe Siemon-Netto took nearly 50 years to sum up the Vietnam War –
a seldom practiced historian’s virtue presented in reportage style. What a combination!”
"Excellent background and history of the Vietnam war as told by a reporter who was there. 
Important book for all students of history and anyone interested in this aspect of American foreign policy 
with numerous applications to the struggles going on today. 
An engaging and well written book which is a delight to read."
Review by  By Cornelia Richardson on July 17, 2013, at Amazon

Order your book from Barnes And Noble:  


 War is Hell.
An unidentified U.S. personnel wears this sign on his helmet. 
He is with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Battalion on defense duty 
 at Phuc Vinh airstrip in South Vietnam. June 18, 1965
by Horst Faas, 
German photo-journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner

War is Hell.


Book description and reviews:  here
Barbara Bradford Taylor blog: here
Uwe Siemon Netto:  here
Horst Faas:  here   and  here


  1. Hello Karin ...fabulous post interesting and the photos ... so poignant especially today.
    have a peaceful week ...Gail x

  2. thank you for leaving such a sweet comment on my blog + love this post + thinking + praying for all our Veterans’.

  3. A beautiful and touching post reminding us that wars continue even as we commemorate those who fought for freedom. War really is hell.

  4. Hello Karin

    I hope Uwe's book is made into a movie. It provides another view on the Vietnam war. I lived in Australia in the late 60's early 70's. Many of the American soldiers took their R&R in Sydney. I recall many very young men who were mentally damaged and should not have been there yet they were obliged to return following R&R.

  5. Southeast Asian wars extinguished conscription as the basis for American military service, in favor of recruiting among the plentiful disadvantaged classes for "volunteers." Warfare by gadgetry then only accelerated the momentum of war's appeal. This severing of the military from society naturally insulates misadventure from acute internal complaint, with conspicuously corrupting effects on policy, itself -- not that there are not intransigent belligerent factors, always in play. But the southeast Asian wars, for all their persistent aggravation of extreme schisms in American politics, remain a black hole to American people, on which I hope this project may bring light.

  6. This is a poignant post. As a veteran myself, I like reading about previous veterans as they reminisce. Yes, some it is hard and horrible but I always focus on their hopes and longing to get home to their loved ones. Thank you for this beautiful reminder.

    Marie Angelique

  7. Dear Karin,

    Wow! This post is very personal for me as my family and I left Vietnam after the war. It was especially difficult for my parents as they had previously left China after Communism. I'm not sure they would like to read this book as it will bring back quite a bit. But it is important for us to not forget. I will add this book to my reading list.

    I hope you are well, my friend. I have been very busy....not a lot of time to blog. And I just noticed your blog link disappeared from my reading list. Not sure when that happened. A few blogs are not updating properly (such as Savvy Southern Style, Revisionary Life, etc), and some just disappeared. I plan to go through that list and fix what I can.

    Take care,