Saturday, 4 September 2021


My obituary of Joe Galloway, one of America's foremost reporters of the Vietnam War, is in today's Guardian, for those of us who prefer a paper paper. It has been online for a few days; you can link to it here. It's pretty much as I wrote it, as I was given a hard word count, and there is not much lost, though there is a difference between the Marine Corps and the Marine I Corps. I was also slightly surprised that they added a qualifier to Clausewitz (the military theorist) but not to LBJ (Lyndon Baines Johnson, the US President).

I found the link to his father, gone during the war, and his war journalism telling, as was the link to Ernie Pyle, whose work in World War II I described in a little more detail.

With more space, I might have talked about the traditionalism of his reporting, as opposed to the more impressionistic work by the likes of Michael Herr, who caught tragedy on a grand scale rather than the individual, but that I think was a difference of style. Galloway was already legendary when I worked for UPITN, the news agency's TV agency, and when I was in Moscow in 1980 a number of people told me Galloway stories. I would have liked to talk a little more about the Reiner movie Shock and Awe, which is held back by its smug sense of self-righteousness: Tommy Lee Jones' version of Galloway seems aimed specifically at buffering the film from criticism for being anti-military--when in reality it is the questioning of illegal or unwinnable wars before the politicians commit to them that is the foundation of what journalists ought to, and usually aren't, doing. Knight Ridder and McClatchey were the noble exceptions.

They also left out a few details from his survivors: his second wife was actually the daughter of an officer killed at Ia Drang, whom he had known since she was young. His third wife was a woman with whom he had been friends for some 40 years before they married. I found that somehow hopeful.