In Wartime: Professor recalls reporting on Vietnam conflict

by Haley Foster

fosterha@mnstate.edu

The Vietnam War cost millions of lives and was one of America’s most unpopular conflicts. While wars were raging overseas and in the court of public opinion across the country, one MSUM professor was in the thick of it.

Journalism professor Camilla Wilson was stationed in South Vietnam, and one of the only woman correspondents covering the war.

“It was intriguing, good and bad,” she said.

Because she wasn’t required to report back daily with fatalities, Wilson said she was able to choose stories of long-term value.

“It gave me a chance to tell a more complete story, because telling just what happened on a particular day might have meant that there were 10 KIAs and 14 WIAs or wounded in action and killed in action, which doesn’t tell you much about anything,” Wilson said. “It doesn’t tell you about war. It doesn’t tell you about anything seriously about what was going on with the troops.”

After the war, Wilson returned to Asia to cover the conflict along the Thai-Cambodian border.

“I had won a two-year journalism national fellowship and they sent me back to Asia,” Wilson said.

It was there she stumbled across what she calls one of the highlights of her career.

“I discovered when I went to China that there weren’t enough girls in the villages. I learned that infanticide was the reason,” Wilson said. “I came back to the U.S. and did a lot of research and went back to Asia and did a syndicated series on infanticide in China.”

As a professor at MSUM, Wilson is able to offer her international communication classes first hand accounts of the Vietnam War and the forms of communication correspondents, like herself, used.

“I think it’s important for students to get exposure from people that have had a variety of experiences and different kinds of backgrounds. I think an individual like Camilla brings a different perspective,” said C.T. Hanson, Chairperson for the School of Communication and Journalism. “When you’re able to share that variety of perspectives with students, it simply enriches the kind of experience the students actually get.”

Wilson said covering the war in Vietnam was an educational experience.

“I don’t think people really realize that once they set a war into motion it basically never ends, especially today because we have so many effects of war,” Wilson said. “We have all the damage that goes on, not only the physical damage to the country, but the psychological damage to both the troops and to civilians and we have lots of environmental effects.”

Wilson is currently writing her latest novel, “The Ghost Parade: Shiloh to Saigon.” It’s a nonfiction book on how long war lasts. Though Wilson hasn’t been back to Vietnam since her time as a correspondent, she is looking forward to making the trip as soon as she finishes what will be her fifth book.

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