Jurate Kazickas shares her experience as a female journalist in the Vietnam War

Miriam Williamson

At least half of journalists in Iraq reporting on the war are women. But these statistics are a new phenomenon.

Jurate Kazickas was a freelance journalists in the Vietnam war.

Jurate Kazickas was a freelance journalists in the Vietnam war.

At the age of 24, Kazickas traveled across the world to serve as a freelance reporter in Vietnam. At this time, a female reporter was far less common.

“Women who wanted to cover the war had to fight on two fronts,” Kazickas said.

They had to fight with their editors and newspapers to go, because they were often unwilling to send women, and they also had to fight official U.S. policy.

Editors and U.S. policies said war was a man’s story, it was too dangerous for women, females would be a distraction for men and there were no latrines available for women.

But Kazickas knew she wanted to be where the action was regardless of what it took.

“I think when I look back to why I went to Vietnam…it was the big story,” she said. “It was the story of my generation… it touched everybody.”

When she first left for Vietnam, Kazickas claimed to be pro-war, but was open to what she would see. Once she arrived, she realized the war was not what she thought.

“Reporters got to see it,” she said. “So they knew when the government reported wrong numbers.”

When she was first trying to find a story, a male reporter who was already preoccupied with another story recommended that she write a story about the effects of a Dear John letter. After this, she focused her reporting and writing on soldiers.

She wanted to show readers what it was like to be there, what it was like to kill someone and what it was like to be in a firefight.

Kazicas started writing hometown stories. She reported on boys in the army, and then sent her articles to their local papers.

“The runts – 18-19 year olds – loved having reporters with them,” Kazickas said. “The older generals were a little more difficult to deal with.”

One time, Kazickas decided to ignore a general’s attempts to prevent an excessive amount of journalists from being present at the Battle of Khe Sanh.

She had been there less than 24 hours when artillery shells showered the area she was in. Instead of dropping to the ground, she made the mistake of running to the closest foxhole.

“I instantly knew that I had been wounded,” she said. “Sure enough I had a piece of shrapnel in my rear end.”

After she recovered, she said she wanted to stay in Vietnam, but things had changed. She was much more scared and found it harder and harder to stay.

She explained the positive aspects of reporting on a war – it is erotic, addictive and exciting. It is a journalist’s duty to inform people of what is happening, and a war is definitely a place this is needed.

“But is any story worth your life?” Kazickas asked. “Bullets and bombs don’t discriminate.”

While she said it had a huge impact on her life, she encouraged journalists, male or female, to think very seriously before covering a war.

“If you want to cover a war,” Kazickas said, “talk to me first.”

After her speech, Kazickas sold and signed copies of “War Torn: Stories of War from the Women Reporters who Covered Vietnam,” a book she co-authored. To show her support for student journalism, she donated the proceeds to The Pendulum, Elon’s student-run newspaper.

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