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Lost Over Laos: A True Story of Tragedy, Mystery, and Friendship [Hardcover]

Richard Pyle , Horst Faas
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

28 April 2003
The richly illustrated story of four combat photographers who died in a fiery helicopter over Laos in 1971-and the search, twenty-seven years later, for the crash site.. In 1971, as American forces hastened their withdrawal from Vietnam, a helicopter was hit by enemy fire over Laos and exploded in a fireball, killing four top combat photographers, Larry Burrows of Life magazine, Henri Huet of Associated Press, Kent Potter of United Press International, and Keisaburo Shimamoto of Newsweek. The Saigon press corps and the American public were stunned, but the remoteness of the location made a recovery attempt impossible. When the war ended four years later in a communist victory, the war zone was sealed off to outsiders, and the helicopter incident faded from most memories. Yet two journalists from the Vietnam press corps- Richard Pyle, former Saigon Bureau Chief, and Horst Faas, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer in Vietnam-pledged to return some day to Laos, resolve mysteries about the crash, and pay homage to their lost friends. True to their vow, twenty-seven years after the incident the authors joined a U.S. team excavating the hillside where the helicopter crashed. Few human remains were found, but camera parts and bits of film provided eerie proof of what happened there.The narrative of Lost Over Laos is framed in a period that was among the war's bloodiest, for both the military and the media, yet has received relatively little attention from historians. It is rich with behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the Saigon press corps and illustrated with stunning work by the four combat photographers who died and their colleagues.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press Inc (28 April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306811960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306811968
  • Product Dimensions: 23.7 x 15.9 x 2.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 851,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A solid addition to the shelf of books about the Vietnam War...." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Richard Pyle covered the Vietnam War for the Associated Press for nearly five years an d was bureau chief in Saigon from 1970 to 1973. Si nce then he has covered hot spots around the world for the AP, including the Middle East and the Per sian Gulf. He is the author of Schwarzkopf: The Ma n, the Mission, the Triumph. Now based in New York , he covers politics and breaking news for the AP. Horst Faas is the Associated Press P hoto Editor for Europe, Africa, and the Middle Eas t, and is based in London. He covered the Vietnam War from 1962 to 1973 and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1965 for "daring and courageous combat photography ." He was awarded a second Pulitzer in 1972, joint ly with Michel Laurent, for pictures of prisoner e xecutions in Bangladesh. He also won the Robert Ca pa Award of the Overseas Press Club and numerous o ther awards in connection with his work in Indochi na. He is co-editor and author of the book Requiem -By the Photographers Who Died in Vietnam and Indo china.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
What it was really like in the helicopter's final moments, we of course can never know. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars what story? 7 Nov 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I thought most of this book would be about the crash, detection and repatriation of lost friends

It turned into pages and pages of background and history that you can read in any other vietnam historical book

I feel ripped off
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lost over Laos 4 May 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very enjoyable informative book both about Burrows and the major turning points in the Vietnam conflict.
I went on to purchase his book Vietnam.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving story of the loss of their friends. 22 Jan 2012
By A Customer
Photojournalists Richard Pyle and Horst Faas take the reader on a journey through the Vietnam War and its' aftermath and the search thereafter for the South Vietnamese helicopter downed by enemy fire which contained among a total of 11 people, 4 of their fellow photographic colleagues, 2 of them being very close friends.
The joint authors both having experienced many battles before and after are able to make the reader almost feel as if he can feel the shots being fired around where they are and to smell the smells of the 'Old City' before its' name was changed by the Vietcong.
I can say I remember the period well having been in my 20's when there were virtually daily news reports on the war on UK television and photos of "Hanoi Jane" Fonda on so many reports, denegrating her Government and its military,when the Battle of Grosvenor Square took place in London and the US Embassy was under attack led by agitators like Tariq Ali, now unbelievably a 'respectable' newspaper columnist.The question is still un-answered as to whether the armed-guards on duty would have fired on un-armed demonstrators had they managed to gain entry?I believe they would and should as it WAS American soil.I digress.
There are periods when the search for the remains of the helicopter and its' one time human contents are halted for various reasons BUT the two authors NEVER stop checking and re-checking information, co-ordinates and anything that MAY help them locate where their friends were shot from the skies and where they MAY be found.
A book worth reading for its' display of mans tenacity if nothing else.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Explores and explains the psyche of the war photojournalist 8 Aug 2003
By Todd Gates - Published on Amazon.com
For those of us born too late to be part of the generation that was, in the words of Richard Pyle, "educated, molded, and aged by the Vietnam experience," our second-hand knowledge of this war has been limited largely to the negative: the horrors of the battlefield, the mental anguish of the young soldiers being asked to sacrifice their lives for goals that were far from clear, and the deeply divisive debates over the agony of continued warfare vs. the humiliation of abandoning the cause. Yet this book is about journalists who VOLUNTEERED to go into the jungle. What would make an otherwise sane person want to do this? As Pyle explores the lives and deaths of the four killed photojournalists, various answers to this question surface, making the journalist's motives comprehensible even to outsiders such as myself--the lure of the exotic setting, the sense of regret that one might have felt if excluded from the most important event of the decade, and the sense of obligation to "compel the world to see Vietnam," to see it "through a camera lens that illuminated, explained, told truths of what the war looked like and how it felt to be there." As for coping with the drawbacks of death and dismemberment, there was always denial. As Richard writes: "It was part of the war correspondent psyche to recognize the possibility of the worst, but to worry or even think much about that was to invite oneself to look for work in another field"; and "there was a sense among members of the Saigon media that journalists who reached celebrity status through repeated stellar performance could become exempt from ordinary danger, passing into a realm of immunity where the worst simply could not happen to them--as if North Vietnamese gunners tracking a helicopter would receive a last-second order: 'Don't shoot. That's Larry Burrows up there.'"
As summarized in the reviews of others, the primary focus of this book is on (1) the lives of Larry Burrows, Henri Huet, Kent Potter, and Keisaburo Shimamoto; and (2) the difficult search for the details of a crash that took place behind enemy lines (details which, for almost thirty years, were limited to little more than "helicopter shot down over the Ho Chi Minh Trail, apparently killing all aboard"). Yet it's the tangent themes that I found the most affecting, perhaps none more than Pyle's search for meaning in the tragic loss of his colleagues and friends. These four civilian photographers went to Vietnam to share the images of war with the rest of the world, and it seems to double the tragedy "that the only monument to their commitment, their skill, and their courage should be a few bone shards and bits of metal, left out in the rain on a nameless, forgotten hillside." Five stars.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent, evocative book 15 April 2003
By Richard A. Jenkins - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book describes the world of photojournalists in the Vietnam work and focuses on the death of four photojournalists in a battle over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos during a the US government's semi-covert war against the North Vietnamese in that country (the pilots of their aircraft were South Vietnamese and their death occurred during a South Vietnamese attack against NVA supply lines). The book also describes the effort to find their remains and the authors' attempt to give meaning to their loss. The photojournalists who died included two of the most celebrated of the war and two younger men of great skill. In a relatively short text, the book manages to tell their stories and the story of Vietnam War photojournalism in a manner that is reverent without being professionally aggrandizing. By coincidence, I visited the village where the search for remains took place a few months before the authors and their time in that place was particularly evocative for me. The authors offer a perspective on the war that is complex and, in some ways, more hawkish than other first-hand retrospective war accounts, although too skeptical to really fit the conceptualizations of hawk and dove that characterized the times. Given the many parallels that some have drawn between Vietnam and our own era, this is a book that thoughtful critics and partisans of the Iraqi conflict should read. My only complaint is that book does not include enough of the award winning pictures of Larry Burrows and his fallen colleagues.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Especially recommended reading for students of journalism 8 April 2003
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Collaboratively written by foreign correspondent Richard Pyle and Associated Press photographer and photo editor Horst Faas, Lost Over Laos: A True Story Of Tragedy, Mystery, And Friendship is an historical and memorial testimony showcasing four combat photographers who died in Indochina: Larry Burrows of "Life" magazine; Henri Huet of the Associated Press; Kent Potter of United Press International; and Keisaburo Shimamoto of "Newsweek". Twenty seven years later, a recovery team was able to visit the site of the helicopter crash that took the lives of these remarkable men, recover evidence, and bring closure to the tragedy. Lost Over Laos is a powerful and poignant narration, and especially recommended reading for students of journalism.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lost Over Loas: A True Story of Tragedy, Mystery, and Friend 8 Dec 2004
By Tulsa reader - Published on Amazon.com
I throughly enjoyed this book. I love history and this book gave a good insight into the press of Saigon including their risks and misfortunes. I enjoyed reading about the relationships developed at a personal level between the press core and the military. I would highly recommend this book.
4.0 out of 5 stars Tragic 17 Mar 2013
By Rl davidson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a Vietnam veteran I always admired the 'guts' of these guys. More importantly, there contribution through photographs keeps the Vietnam Was in perspective in the 21st Century. I was saddened to hear that Faas had died last year.
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