News / USA

US Spokesman During Vietnam War Dies

Veteran journalist and U.S. diplomat Barry Zorthian. Zorthian was a journalist for CBS Radio and spent 13 years as a reporter, editor and program manager at the Voice of America.
Veteran journalist and U.S. diplomat Barry Zorthian. Zorthian was a journalist for CBS Radio and spent 13 years as a reporter, editor and program manager at the Voice of America.

Barry Zorthian, a veteran journalist and U.S. diplomat who served as government spokesman at the height of the Vietnam War, has died at the age of 90.

His son says Zorthian died on December 30 at a Washington hospital from a staph infection.

Zorthian was dispatched to Saigon in 1964 to head the Joint U.S. Public Affairs office.  His arrival came as U.S. military involvement was growing and reporters were becoming increasingly skeptical of the military's depiction of the war.

Zorthian began holding daily press briefings that earned the nickname the "Five O'Clock Follies."

Two U.S. paratroopers seen during landing operations in Vietnam, north of Saigon, 1965.
Two U.S. paratroopers seen during landing operations in Vietnam, north of Saigon, 1965.

Reporters began using the name because they did not believe they were receiving full and faithful accounts of the war.  But those same reporters later praised Zorthian for his honesty and respect for their profession.

Zorthian was a journalist for CBS Radio immediately after World War II, then spent 13 years as a reporter, editor and program manager at the Voice of America.  He joined the U.S. diplomatic corps in 1961, spending three years in India before taking the post in Saigon.

He left Vietnam in 1968 and spent several years as an executive with the parent company of U.S.-based Time magazine.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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