E Q U I E M
Born, November 1945 in Gouverneur, NY, U.S.A
Died: May 6, 1968 in Saigon, Vietnam
When Charlie Eggleston's stint as a U.S. Navy journalist ended in 1966, he had collected two bronze stars for valor and other military awards for such efforts as climbing down a helicopter hoist to rescue a U.S. Pilot in North Vietnam and serving with a SVN junk-fleet patrol. Going home to Gouverneur, New York, didn't hold the same appeal as working for UPI in Saigon, so he stayed on. He was wounded twice in the 1968 Tet offensive. He died in Rocket Alley near Saigon's Tan Son Nhut Airport, leaving his estate to Vietnamese orphans.
THE DEATH OF CHARLIE EGGLESTON (1945-1968)
United Press International radio correspondent Roger Norum was tape-recording live during street fighting in Saigon on May 6,1968, when he witnessed the death of UPI photographer Charlie Eggleston, who was shot by a Viet Cong sniper. Norum was with a group of South Vietnamese and Korean soldiers who were confronting a platoon of Viet Cong guerrillas who had infiltrated a densely-populated area on the outskirts of Saigon near the airport and were now attacking from burning buildings. Norum then spotted Eggleston. UPI's Dick Growald back at the agency's headquarters in New York, later narrated the tape, which was broadcast the same day as Eggleston's death.
ROGER NORUM: Charlie! (In the background single-shot automatic-rifle fire gradually increases.) Trying to make it across the road here. (Three more rounds are fired, the sound of trucks and steady rifle fire can be heard in the background.) Don't you duck, Charlie? The smoke from the heat and the fire is rather intense. What do you make of all this, Charlie?
CHARLIE EGGLESTON: It's just about good for a laugh.
ROGER NORUM: What do you think about that convoy of trucks? Why were they going into this area where all this smoke is coming from?
CHARLIE EGGLESTON: Oh, that's an ammo dump over there in that area: that is the road to Cu Chi, and that was artillery ammo and they are short of it in Cu Chi. I was there two days ago. They said they were low on 155 (millimeter artillery) rounds.
ROGER NORUM: There is a bit more action than I had bargained for. Miserably hot, and the flames and the fire from the burning building is just adding to it...proceeding very, very cautiously now...Is it all right, Charlie?...Charlie has just given me the OK, right in the midst of a burning village area. Flames are all around, and the smell is burned plastic. Looks like we are in the middle of a blacksmith shop here.
NARRATOR: Here, off Plantation Road, in this alley, in this garage and blacksmith shop, the firing picks up; war seems dreadfully near.
(Very noisy bursts of automatic fire; close by, the firm loud voice of a Vietnamese woman warns of Viet Cong "over there". Grenade explosions, firing in both directions. Sound of the loading of an automatic rifle.)
ROGER NORUM: Viet Cong are throwing rocket-propelled grenades. Eight or nine of us in here. The heat is just dripping, just dripping. Something is coming from behind us. Huh, that sound.....(Explosions, noise of a plane buzzing overhead)
CHARLIE EGGLESTON: Do you have a match? It's Marlboro country, huh?
ROGER NORUM: It's coming from behind us....some over to the side. (Cracking explosions and single automatic rounds, very noisy, very close.) Every time I hear a volley of gunfire--(Breaks off, bullets sing past)--very close--was that a bullet ? That must have been no more than a foot away. It's not funny !
NARRATOR: The Viet Cong are just behind the alley, up there on the second floor, and they are cornered, and they are shooting back, and we've got to keep low. The guerrillas are doing all this to try to win publicity and hope that it will impress someone, like the rest of the world. Captured Viet Cong documents proclaim that the street fighting is necessary to back up the efforts of the North Vietnamese diplomats meeting American negotiators in Paris. They talk in Paris, but here....here a shot...(Sharp noise of a single round, very close, is followed by a thumping sound. Charlie has crashed to the ground.)
ROGER NORUM: Oh no! Oh no! Charlie has been shot! Oh my God, my God....Charlie has been killed! Oh my God, blood is streaming out of his nose and mouth. He's got it right in his head! Ooh Jesus! I saw him stand out in this alleyway...(Norum's heavy breathing makes it impossible for him to continue speaking; the NARRATOR takes over.)
NARRATOR: You hear the sound of the shock of death; the blood of a friend is seen in the heat of a day of fighting in the street of Saigon, in the battle of Saigon, in the war of Vietnam.
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