I Was Like JImmy Olsen - the Cub Reporter

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

I served in Vietnam as a combat journalist. I was 20 years old. Every time I went out on an assignment, I felt like Jimmy Olsen, the cub reporter and photographer of Superman fame.

I WAS LIKE “JIMMY OLSEN" – THE CUB REPORTER

By Al Garcia

I served in Vietnam as a combat journalist.  I was 20 years old.  Every time I went out on an assignment, I felt like Jimmy Olsen, the cub reporter and photographer of Superman fame. 

My adrenalin, like my curiosity, both intensified at the thought of visiting an outpost near the Cambodian border, or a small isolated unit working quietly somewhere in the Mekong Delta.  It was the location that intrigued me the most.  As for the stories, well, they were all the same.  The soldiers I encountered were all the same.  Same featureless faces, same emotionless words, same bewildered looks in their eyes.  The only thing that differed from one soldier to the other was where they were from back in the USofA, and their accents.  Otherwise, I could have stayed in my office in Can Tho and written any story I wanted, anytime I wanted.   

By now, I knew the words I would hear at each interview by heart, regardless of location.  These men were tired, confused and defeated.  They went about doing their assigned tasks as if in a daze, trying to make sense of the senselessness of it all.  In most cases, each soldier simply “killing time,” instead of the enemy.  Counting down the days until they could return to civilization and normalcy, if such a thing existed. 

So, location, location, location.  That was the intrigue of it all.  What would I find when I got off the helicopter?  A jungle setting?  A sandbagged bunker-type unit in the mountains high above a river?  A small unit living in hatch huts like the “locals,” eating, sleeping and living like the Vietnamese?  A well-maintained naval base with “first-class” accommodations and food?  What would it be?  Where would I be?  And each time I jumped from the helicopter at the site of another assignment, it was like stepping through a looking glass into another world within my own maddening world. 

The one good thing about being “Jimmy Olsen” was that I could, and would, get back on the helicopter, fly out of the area, and back to some semblance of life, while the young men I met at these locations had to stay behind, and keep counting down the days in dismal surroundings, and with few comforts and niceties that I took for granted.

So, playing “Jimmy Olsen” gave me the opportunity not only to see the vastness of the Mekong, the dense green jungles, the meandering rivers, rice paddies, and beyond, but it also gave me the chance to meet and talk with countless soldiers wasting away, doing futile jobs, for a cause they didn’t understand, couldn’t comprehend, or much less embrace or care about. 

The one true realization of all my travels and all my interviews and all the late night chats I had with all the lost young American GIs roaming aimlessly as if in a daze, was that this was no game.  People, Americans and Vietnamese, even the enemy, were dying and being mutilated and damaged for real.  And in this world “Jimmy Olsen” had no place.  This was real life.  And there was real death. 


Submitted: June 19, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

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