A rare look at a female correspondent in combat before the days when women did such things.
What’s a Woman Doing Here, Anyway?
A Novel of the Press in Vietnam
Set during the period of the Tet offensive in 1968 Vietnam, Theasa Tuohy’s novel explores the difficulties of being a female reporter in a war zone during that long ago time when “gals” were never assigned overseas. And when no one had cell phones, instant images or satellite feeds. The occasional women who did show up were freelancers who had bought their own plane tickets.
At a time when women rarely dreamed beyond careers as nurses, teachers or secretaries and certainly not as news reporters, a tall, enigmatic redhead arrives in Saigon. She is an object of great interest to the male correspondents, one of whom reports she arrived at Tan Son Nhut Airport wearing “high heeled bikini shoes.”
Few take her seriously as a reporter. To most, she is a trifle, a bobble, a lagniappe. Angela Martinelli survives a chopper crash, spends several days in the bunkers of the so-called Alamo Hilton during the siege of Khe Sanh, is captured briefly by the Viet Cong while trying to make her own way to the battle of Hue after being refused a hop on a military chopper because she isn’t male, and finally is badly wounded when a jeepload of other correspondents are killed in Cholon, the Chinese quarter of Saigon. Her life, loves and struggle to prove herself chronicle the deterioration of the war, the strategic battles around the Tet offensive, and the conflict raging back home over the conduct of the war. Not since Graham Greene has anyone captured so well the tedium and terror of reporting on war.