Thursday, May 19, 2016

Morley Safer (November 8, 1931 – May 19, 2016)

Morley Safer retired from 60 Minutes last week and today he passed away. More than his many years on CBS's popular Sunday-night magazine show, he will be remembered for this, one of the most honest and important reports from Vietnam in 1965 when the US war there was still relatively young. LBJ wanted CBS to fire Safer for this unvarnished look at American troops calmly burning the village of Cam Ne. You wonder how many young antiwar activists were created watching this episode of CBS News with their parents in living rooms around America that evening.

They moved into the village and they systematically began torching every house — every house as far as I could see, getting people out in some cases, using flame throwers in others. No Vietnamese speakers, by the way, were among the group with the flame thrower. The trooper with the flame thrower was ordered to zap a particular house, and our cameraman, who's Vietnamese — Ha Thuc Can, this wonderful man — put his camera down and said, "Don't do it! Don't do it!" And he walked to the house and then I went with him, and a sergeant came on up. We heard people crying.

Reporters were freer to travel and report in 1965, long before the concept of "embedding" in our 21st-century desert wars made television news readers into more predictable flag wavers.

Rest in Peace Morley.

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