By Zoe Cassell
INSPIRING memoirs from a legendary war ABC cameraman who filmed first-hand the horrors of the Vietnam War have been released as an English-language book for the first time.
In this new autobiography, ABC’s top cameraman reveals incredible insights into the devastating war which raged between the USA and Vietnam across a decade in the mid-20th Century. The horrific footage ABC brought back from the war was ground-breaking, and was used by the anti-Vietnam movement to eventually force the US government to end the war.
Entitled ‘On the Frontlines of the Television War’ by Yasutsune ‘Tony’ Hirashiki, the book, the Japanese-version of which is award-winning, has been published by Casemate.
“The memoirs are based on my experience of the war as a cameraman,” said Mr Hirashiki.
“We were told that our coverage of the war was not to be scripted, dramatised, sensationalised, exaggerated or biased in any way.
“Our job was to record what was happening ‘as it is’ and then be sure we reported it ‘as it was’.”
The Vietnam War, began in 1965 after the US military decided to intervene in the communist movement across South-East Asia.
The conflict ceased in 1973 when US forces withdrew and Vietnam then became under communist control by 1975.
More than three-million people died in the conflict, including approximately 58,000 Americans.
“Although people called me ‘Kamikaze cameraman’, I was a bit of a chicken when it came to certain aspects of war,” said Mr Hirashiki.
“I was never afraid during combat but found blood terrifying upon seeing wounded or dead bodies.
“I often fainted, so I always closed one eye and just saw the bloody scene by recording it through my finder.”
Journalists like Mr Hirashiki had to learn on the job and were expected to pick up the knowledge as they went along.
“War took the place of journalism school and battles were our classrooms. Veteran journalists and soldiers were our professors,” he explained.
He explains the motivation for writing his memoirs came from the death of two friends, Sam Kai Faye and Terence Khoo, who he met in Vietnam.
“In the Summer of 1972 they were killed at the frontline of Quang Tri in South Vietnam.
“It was the saddest experience of my life. We had planned and dreamt of our futures after the war.
“When we brought back their bodies to the families in Singapore, I promised Terry’s mother that I would write a book in his memory to show how great her son was.”
Mr Hirashiki continued to report from conflict areas around the world until he retired in 2006 at the age of 68 and began writing his moving book.
“The motivation was to fulfil the promise made to Terry’s mother,” he added.
“At the same time I wanted to share our experience with the world to show how our media correspondents and crews had covered the war.”
‘On the Frontlines of the Television War’ by Yasutsune ‘Tony’ Hirashiki is available to pre-order on Amazon for RRP £25 ahead of its release on 18 April 2017.