Death Zones and Darling Spies


Death Zones and Darling Spies

Seven Years of Vietnam War Reporting

Beverly Deepe Keever

Studies in War, Society, and the Military Series

360 pages
30 photographs, 1 map, 2 appendixes


May 2013


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eBook (EPUB)
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February 2020


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eBook (PDF)
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May 2013


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About the Book

Chosen for 2015 One Book One Nebraska

In 1961, equipped with a master’s degree from famed Columbia Journalism School and letters of introduction to Associated Press bureau chiefs in Asia, twenty-six-year-old Beverly Deepe set off on a trip around the world. Allotting just two weeks to South Vietnam, she was still there seven years later, having then earned the distinction of being the longest-serving American correspondent covering the Vietnam War and garnering a Pulitzer Prize nomination.

In Death Zones and Darling Spies, Beverly Deepe Keever describes what it was like for a farm girl from Nebraska to find herself halfway around the world, trying to make sense of one of the nation’s bloodiest and bitterest wars. She arrived in Saigon as Vietnam’s war entered a new phase and American helicopter units and provincial advisers were unpacking. She tells of traveling from her Saigon apartment to jungles where Wild West–styled forts first dotted Vietnam’s borders and where, seven years later, they fell like dominoes from communist-led attacks. In 1965 she braved elephant grass with American combat units armed with unparalleled technology to observe their valor—and their inability to distinguish friendly farmers from hide-and-seek guerrillas.

Keever’s trove of tissue-thin memos to editors, along with published and unpublished dispatches for New York and London media, provide the reader with you-are-there descriptions of Buddhist demonstrations and turning-point coups as well as phony ones. Two Vietnamese interpreters, self-described as “darling spies,” helped her decode Vietnam’s shadow world and subterranean war. These memoirs, at once personal and panoramic, chronicle the horrors of war and a rise and decline of American power and prestige.

Author Bio

Beverly Deepe Keever is professor emerita at the University of Hawaii and the author of News Zero: The New York Times and the Bomb. She was inducted into the Marian Andersen Nebraska Women Journalists Hall of Fame in 2015.


"In this powerfully plainspoken account, one of the leading female journalists of the Vietnam War relays her personal experience of the bloody conflict that divided America and changed the global political landscape. . . . Whether reporting from the ditches of the siege of Khe Sanh, detailing the harried arrival of U.S. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, or fondly recalling her friendship with Pham Xuan An (one of the eponymous "darling spies"), Keever provides a ground-level look—by turns shrewd, lucid, and humane—of the war in Vietnam."—Publishers Weekly

"Beverly Deepe Keever is a brilliant journalist, and her book is both a personal journal and a journalist's personal perspective on a long war."—Foreword Reviews

"Beverly Deepe Keever does an excellent job of recounting her unique Vietnam War experiences."—Marc Leepson, Books in Review II

"Keever is an excellent storyteller. . . . Death Zones & Darling Spies adds a woman's view to the many retrospectives on the Vietnam War—a war covered and perpetrated mostly by men."—Carolyn Johnsen, Lincoln Journal Star

"Crisp and well-documented."—James Boylan, Columbia Journalism Review

"Deepe Keever's book is an important and noteworthy addition to the literature on the Vietnam War and the media coverage of the conflict. Her firsthand experiences and reports,mixed with released government documents and historians' accounts, create a unique blend of historical analysis, which will benefit those familiar with the history of the Vietnam War as well as general audiences, including undergraduate surveys and courses."—Gerd Horten, American Journalism

"Deepe gives a calm, fact-filled, eyewitness narrative of the war on the ground, as it affected ordinary families."—Michael S. Sweeney, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly

"I found this to be a compelling book and highly recommend it."—Becky Faber, Nebraska History

“Few correspondents engaged in the protracted, ugly war in Laos and Vietnam were as diligent and perceptive as Beverly Deepe. As energetic and intrepid as her male counterparts, she slogged through dense jungles, flooded rice fields, and thick rubber plantations, filing dispatches that shed insights on that futile conflict. Her account of that experience is authoritative, credible, lucid, vivid, and above all readable.”—Stanley Karnow, author of Vietnam: A History and winner of the Pulitzer Prize in history

“Illuminating her role as the longest-serving U.S. correspondent covering the Vietnam War, Beverly Deepe Keever examines her dispatches and shows the disastrous consequences of failed policies. Her book presents the unadorned story of a young Nebraska woman who risked her life reporting on a war Americans should not have fought.”—Maurine Beasley, author of Women of the Washington Press: Politics, Prejudice, and Persistence

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


Introduction: From Midwest Dustbowl to Mystical Vietnam

1. The People's War

2. Rice-Roots Reporting

3. "The World's First Helicopter War"

4. The Rise and Fall of Frontier Forts

5. Two Ill-Fated Presidents

6. "The United States Will Lose Southeast Asia"

7. Americanizing the War

8. Her Story as History Too

9. "Destroy the Town to Save It"

10. From Khe Sanh to the "Virtual Equivalent of Treason"

11. Two "Darling Spies" and I

Appendix 1: Author's Vietnam Articles in U.S. Publications

Appendix 2: Author's 1966 New York Herald Tribune Series (Inserted into the Congressional Record by Senator Mike Mansfield)


Source Acknowledgments



2015 One Book One Nebraska selection

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