On the Frontlines of the Television War

A Legendary War Cameraman in Vietnam

Yasutsune Hirashiki

The story of Yasutsune "Tony" Hirashiki's ten years in Vietnam—beginning when he arrived in 1966 as a young freelancer with a 16mm camera but without a job or the slightest grasp of English and ending in the hectic fall of Saigon in 1975 when he was literally thrown on one of the last flights out.
Date Published :
March 2017
Publisher :
Editor :
Terry Irving
Contributor(s) :
Ted Koppel
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781612004723
Pages : 304
Dimensions : 9.5 X 6.25 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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“Tony Hirashiki was simply one of the best television cameramen to cover the Vietnam War. His soaring video, often acquired only at great personal risk, gave wings to even the most mundane narration. For those of us who worked with him he was also a source of gentleness and joy in a place where both were in terribly short supply.” - Ted Koppel, Former Nightline anchor ABC

On The Frontlines of the Television War is the story of Yasutsune "Tony" Hirashiki's ten years in Vietnam—beginning when he arrived in 1966 as a young freelancer with a 16mm camera but without a job or the slightest grasp of English and ending in the hectic fall of Saigon in 1975 when he was literally thrown on one of the last flights out.

His memoir has all the exciting tales of peril, hardship, and close calls as the best of battle memoirs but it is primarily a story of very real and yet remarkable people: the soldiers who fought, bled, and died, and the reporters and photographers who went right to the frontlines to record their stories and memorialize their sacrifice. The great books about Vietnam journalism have been about print reporters, still photographers, and television correspondents but if this was truly the first “television war,” then it is time to hear the story of the cameramen who shot the pictures and the reporters who wrote the stories that the average American witnessed daily in their living rooms.

An award-winning sensation when it was released in Japan in 2008, this book been completely re-created for an international audience. In 2008, the Japanese edition was published by Kodansha in two hardback volumes and titled "I Wanted to Be Capa." It won the 2009 Oya Soichi Nonfiction Award-a prize usually reserved for much younger writers—and Kodansha almost doubled their initial print run to meet the demand. In that period, he was interviewed extensively, a documentary was filmed in which he returned to the people and places of his wartime experience, and a dramatization of his book was written and presented on NHK Radio. A Kodansha paperback was published in 2010 with an initial printing of 17,000 copies and continues to sell at a respectable pace.

"Tony Hirashiki is an essential piece of the foundation on which ABC was built. From the day he approached the Bureau Chief in Saigon with a note pinned to his shirt saying he could shoot pictures to the anxious afternoon of 9/11 when we lost him in the collapse of the Twin Towers (and he emerged covered in dust clutching his precious beta tapes,) Tony reported the news with his camera and in doing so, he brought the truth about the important events of our day to millions of Americans." David Westin, Former President of ABC News

About The Author

Yasutsune "Tony" Hirashiki was an ABC News cameraman from 1966 to 2006. In those four decades he became legendary, consistently known as the best cameraman in the company and certainly the guy you wanted next to you if you were walking into danger. During his time in Vietnam, he was present at virtually every major event. Since then he has worked in danger zones around the world.

Terry Irving probably carried some of Tony's newsfilm in the early 1970s when he was a motorcycle courier for ABC News. He then went into a career in TV news, spending four decades covering news in war zones like Beirut, South Africa, and El Salvador; tragic disasters from Indonesia to New Orleans; and political stories across the US. He has earned a number of awards including: 4 National Emmy Awards, 3 Peabody Awards for Significant and Meritorious Achievement, and 4 Columbia University DuPont Awards (including the first ever gold baton awarded.)


Foreword by Ted Koppel
Editor’s Note

1. Happy Valley
2. Rookie
3. Teacher
4. Hawks or Doves
5. The Bureau
6. Con Thien
7. Meet the Bosses
8. Independent Guy
9. He Loved Mozart
10. Son of a Minister
11. Veteran
12. Tuckner’s Crouch

13. Competition
14. Charming Dictator
15. Reinforcements
16. Photographers
17. American Guy
18. Documentarian
19. Quiet in Kontum
20. Roger Returns
21. Battle of An Loc
22. Quang Tri
23. Survivor’s Guilt
24. Ceasefire
25. Fall of Cambodia
26. Fall of Saigon

Acknowledgments and Thanks


"This is a particularly important book for Americans to read."

- Ted Koppel, Former Nightline anchor ABC

"If I could choose one book about Vietnam, it would be Tony Hirashiki's story. He brings you in intimate contact more than anyone else with the grunts who fought this war and the guys who reported it!"

- Kurt Volkhert, CBS cameraman and producer

"A candid portrait of a master cameraman. 'On the Frontlines of the Television War' takes you through the danger, death, and poignancy of the battlefield. Vivid, intimate, and heart-wrenching."

- Barry Lances, award-winning author of Japantown

"Packed with photos and reminiscences from many other news crews, “On the Frontlines of the Television War” tells a story I’d not heard before. Reading this book took me back to my childhood, watching the evening news. But now I know the effort and at times the human cost it took to bring those images to American living rooms."

- Dear Author

"There is a tendency as we approach 2020 for us to assume that everything that occurs on our planet will be recorded for us for instant replay via television or social media. It's an aspect of the modern world that was forecast in children's SF comic strips back in the 1950s, along with regular spaceflights to and from the moon and Mars, which clearly didn't happen but may now be just around the corner... This superb book looks at how we reached this point in TV reporting, and is well worth a few hours of your time."

- Books Monthly

“Sometimes a book comes out that astounds the reader, and I believe this is one of them…This is a riveting read. 5 stars.”

- Soldier Magazine

“The acute details of his recollections of a battle in Happy Valley and the chaos leading to the war’s end—which open and close the book—provide highly informative and enjoyable reading… The book’s importance lies in its neutrality. Many people have criticized Vietnam War correspondents, especially television reporters, for promoting antiwar sentiments. On the Frontlines of the Television War, which was edited by Terry Irving, contradicts that opinion by telling the story of a closely knit group of professionals who strove to report what they saw as accurately as possible.”

- The VVA Veteran Books in Review II

“This work is Hirashiki's vivid account of his time in Vietnam - and it's a damn good one…equally emotive and insightful as the dozens of newsreels that set his work apart from the staid 'bang-bang' war drama of other news networks of the time.”

- All About History

"If there were no pictures in this at all, it would still be a great read and an incredible insight into the life of a ‘non-combatant’ in a brutal war.” "

- Military Modelling

“Hirashiki vividly describes the stories he covered as he, along with other photographers and reporters, crouched next to the American soldiers while under heavy machine-gun fire and exploding grenades… sensitive, honest, and entertaining story about the soldiers who fought and died in Vietnam and the reporters and photographers who were on the frontlines with them to record their stories. On the Frontlines of the Television War would be a good addition to any historian's bookshelf for research or as a supplemental text in a course.”

- American Journalism Review

5 stars “It is a beautifully told story… [Hirashiki] is able to present a uniquely detailed, personal, and yet broad view of the Vietnam War… On the Frontlines of the Television War is a wonderful memoir.”

- Portland Book Review

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