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Lost Over Laos: A True Story of Tragedy, Mystery, and Friendship

by Richard Pyle Horst Faas

In 1971, as American forces hastened their withdrawal from Vietnam, a helicopter was hit by enemy fire over Laos and exploded in a fireball, killing four top combat photographers, Larry Burrows of Life magazine, Henri Huet of Associated Press, Kent Potter of United Press International, and Keisaburo Shimamoto of Newsweek. The Saigon press corps and the American public were stunned, but the remoteness of the location made a recovery attempt impossible. When the war ended four years later in a communist victory, the war zone was sealed off to outsiders, and the helicopter incident faded from most memories. Yet two journalists from the Vietnam press corps- Richard Pyle, former Saigon Bureau Chief, and Horst Faas, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer in Vietnam-pledged to return some day to Laos, resolve mysteries about the crash, and pay homage to their lost friends. True to their vow, twenty-seven years after the incident the authors joined a U. S. team excavating the hillside where the helicopter crashed. Few human remains were found, but camera parts and bits of film provided eerie proof of what happened there. The narrative of Lost Over Laos is framed in a period that was among the war's bloodiest, for both the military and the media, yet has received relatively little attention from historians. It is rich with behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the Saigon press corps and illustrated with stunning work by the four combat photographers who died and their colleagues.

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