A Real Journalist, Bernard Fall


From my previous story, CNN and Wolf Blitzer: “Flammable Helium” , people might assume that I have no respect for journalists. This isn’t actually so, I have great respect for the craft, I just can’t stand entertainment celebrities pretending to be journalists.


I have few redeeming features, but one is that I am particularly well read on 20th century conflicts and political movements. Before I was in aviation, I earned a degree in Political Science from St. Leo University. Most people hardly pick up a book as an adult, but I am a prolific reader.


Much of what is known about 20th century history is due to the work of real journalists like Upton Sinclair, H.L Mencken, Edward Murrow (see: Thanksgiving) Eddie Adams, Robert Capa and Dickey Chapelle. But if I had to pick one journalist that captured my respect, it is Bernard Fall.


 Fall with Americans In Vietnam.


Fall was considered to be an expert on French indo China, and he devoted much of his life to accurately reporting and writing books about both the French and US experiences there, in hopes of avoiding the catastrophe that came anyway.


For contrast, consider todays best known “Foreign Correspondent”  Andersen Cooper.  He is the son of uber-wealthy heiress Gloria Vanderbilt. He was a child and youth model, and attended the most elitist schools in New York, grew up surrounded by wealth and celebrity. On the other hand, Fall was from Austria, but his family fled  to France to evade fascism. After the Fall of France, his father joined the resistance, was captured, and tortured to death by the Gestapo. His mother was sent to Auschwitz, where she was one of the 1.1 million murdered. Bernard evaded capture, and began fighting with the resistance. At age 16 Cooper is partying a exclusive clubs in Manhattan; at 16 Fall is in combat against Nazis and executing collaborators. The former is the training of a celebrity, the latter is that of a combat journalist.


Fall emigrated to the US and became a well known author and college professor. He spent many years in South East Asia, and was an acknowledged expert in the cultures. He had personally interviewed Ho Chi Minh.  To the great cost of our country, the Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson administrations chose to ignore Fall’s warnings. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover painted Fall as a French spy, and they believed him without any evidence.


Fall continued anyway, covering the war from the front lines. On February 21st 1967, while operating with Marines, he stepped on a land mine and was killed. He was a husband, father of three, and his life ended at age 40.


You can see an old film of his widow reading the letter he wrote addressed “send only on case of my death” at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpNE4p8nmnQ




Fall’s two best known works are “Hell in a Very Small Place” and “Street Without Joy.”  Andersen Cooper’s best known work is co-hosting the broadcast of New Years eve with comic Kathy Griffin. In all fairness, Cooper is a much better celebrity than Fall was.


In the story: Thought for The Day – Have we squandered the great gift? I pointed out that celebrated American writers Neil Sheehan, and David Halberstam were both tricked by a North Vietnamese spy posing as a journalist. When you read their work, you get the impression most of it was filed from a hotel bar, not the front lines. They were easy to fool because unlike Fall, they were never soldiers, nor did they speak the language. It is worth noting that Robert Capa, Dicky Chapelle and Bernard Fall were all killed by land mines, a fate that Neil Sheehan, and David Halberstam  were in little danger of in Saigon bars, and something that seems very unlikely to befall Andersen Cooper  on New years eve in Times Square.




About William Wynne
I have been continuously building, testing and flying Corvair engines since 1989. Information, parts and components that we developed and tested are now flying on several hundred Corvair powered aircraft. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics and an A&P license from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and have a proven 20 year track record of effectively teaching homebuilders how to create and fly their own Corvair powered planes. Much of this is chronicled at www.FlyCorvair.com and in more than 50 magazine articles.

5 Responses to A Real Journalist, Bernard Fall

  1. aselliott says:

    Interesting – I went to my local library’s web site to download the 2 Fall books you recommended. Neither is available, and I found that Hell in a Very Small Place has never been converted at all, and therefore is totally unavailable in any e-format. You can download 4 different biographies of Lady Gaga, but not such an important historical text. Argh.

    • Alan Laudani, Vision 401, CC23 says:

      Mr. Elliott,
      I searched and found “Hell in a Very Small Place, the siege of Dien Bien Phu” in my Jackson County Library system, Medford, OR and reserved it. Published by Lippincott, Philadelphia 1967.
      Looking forward to it. I read about two to three books a week. Perhaps try another search. WW has good book suggestions.

  2. Nelson Sparks says:

    The other equally essential piece of journalism besides finding the truth is making it known, the wider the better. Probably the person who is doing the best job of getting the truth out today is someone who insists he’s not a journalist. http://time.com/3674807/john-oliver-net-neutrality-civil-forfeiture-miss-america/

  3. Gary Ray says:

    We pay thousands of dollars yearly in taxes for public libraries and schools. Ours are very posh, but you will find only a few books on technology even though we live in a tech world, even fewer books on free market capitalism, etc. but you get the idea. You will find many books on the popular culture topics, and kids dropped off for babysitting services. I am asking myself how would anybody with personal initiative and little money ever get a self-help education from institutions like these.
    Imagine the real libraries, schools and news agencies that you could afford, if you were not being extorted into supporting the useless, controlled, drivel factories.

    • Gary,
      I tend to see it the same way, that neither the students nor the taxpayers get enough out of the resources. My oldest friend and my cousin both have had 20 year careers teaching in the public school system. Either of them could have make several times the rewards in other work, but they chose to try to make a difference, one in NJ the other in CA. Of interest to me is that they both rated lack of parental involvement and the inability of poor teachers to be eliminated at issue #1 and #2.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: