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Vietnam War Correspondents Gather for Saigon Reunion


Many foreign journalists who covered the Vietnam War are gathering in Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, this week to observe the anniversary of the city's capture by communist North Vietnam's soldiers in 1975. The correspondents talked about the fall of Saigon 35 years ago.

Tim Page fell in love with Vietnam so deeply that he has returned to the southeast Asian nation nearly 60 times since the end of the long war in April 1975.

Page, formerly a photojournalist for Time magazine, comes back to teach the post-war generation of Vietnamese photographers. He shares with them his experiences in Vietnam during the war, which he says had a great impact on his life.

"I think it was one of the nicest places I ever lived," said Tim Page. "It was the most exciting story I ever covered. I took some of the best pictures I ever made [in Vietnam] and I made some of the longest-lasting friends I ever have had."

Tim Page says covering the war was a time filled with strong emotions.

"I've never been so frightened," he said. "I've never been in so much agony. I've never had so much pleasure. I've never had such a wonderfully mad lifestyle, I mean, ever again."

This year's return to Vietnam has a special meaning for the 66-year-old Briton, who survived multiple wounds during the war. He and his old colleagues are probably staging their Saigon reunion for the last time.

In Ho Chi Minh City the correspondents are meeting at the Caravelle Hotel, a place where they spent much of their free time while in Saigon.

Carl Robinson, an organizer of the reunion, says the journalists hope to interact with the public. They are staging an exhibition of their photographs, and they hope both local Vietnamese and expatriates can hear their stories of what it was like living and working in the then U.S.-backed South Vietnam.

"It's not designed to fight the war all over again, of course, but just to tell them what it was like," said Carl Robinson. "These people who know Vietnam today, I think, would be very interested to hear what it was like in our time, because of course Saigon has changed so dramatically over the years."

Robinson, a former Associated Press correspondent, says the "old Vietnam hands" from the news business decided at a previous reunion five years ago that 2010 would be their last gathering in the country where they once risked their lives covering the deadly war. The passage of time and the cost of the event played a big part in the decision.

"The simple fact is that we're all getting older," he said. "I am 66, which makes me a youngster compared to a lot of the other journalists, who are now in their 70s. Every year we lose a few more old colleagues, so our numbers are slowly dwindling away as well. And a lot of journalists never plan their retirement very well, and now that they retired, the whole idea of traveling all the way to Vietnam is a bit expensive."

For those who are able to return to Vietnam this time, Tim Page says the trip itself proves that being old is not that much of an obstacle. Before making their way to Ho Chi Minh City, the retired journalists visited Cambodia for a memorial service honoring dozens of former colleagues who died there while reporting on the conflict in the 1970s.

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