Steve Kroft on the Vietnam War
The award-winning reporter reflects on his time overseas.
Web2Carz Staff Writer
Published: August 7th, 2012
Kroft went on patrols and wrote extensively about unit combat operations for the division’s newspaper.
BS News correspondent Steve Kroft gave the keynote address at the Vietnam Veterans of America Leadership Conference on August 8 in Irving, Texas. An award winning reporter, Kroft has been the recipient of numerous Emmy and Peabody Awards for his excellence in journalism and has been a host of TV’s 60 Minutes for over two decades. But it was as a 23-year-old draftee that Kroft was sent to report on the biggest story of his generation, the war in Vietnam.
Kroft graduated with a BA from Syracuse University in 1967. Though he wasn’t sent to Vietnam until 1970, he was drafted into the U.S. Army in June of 1968, the year troop numbers in Vietnam swelled to over half a million—the largest deployment to date in the war.
After basic training he received his Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) in journalism and was sent to Vietnam just after New Years in 1970.
“When I arrived in Vietnam I was assigned to the 25th Division at Cu Chi,” Kroft told us in a recent interview. “I had a half hour radio show where I reported on the division for Armed Forces Radio.”
Kroft also went out on patrols and wrote extensively about unit combat operations for the division’s newspaper, Tropic Lightning News before starting to escort TV news crews (some of which included future colleague Morley Safer) up to the front-lines. After 10 months with the 25th Division he went to work as a correspondent and photographer for Pacific Stars and Stripes.
Vietnam Veterans of America President John Rowan spoke recently about Kroft’s military service, “Few people know that Steve Kroft got his start in journalism after being drafted into the Army and serving with the information office of the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam, and then reporting for Stars and Stripes."
Kroft, like most Vietnam veterans, remembers the difficulty of post war adjustment and sting of the American public’s rejection of him and the other servicemen returning from Vietnam.
“When we came back we were treated differently than any other veteran from America's previous wars,” remembers Kroft.
“We were shunned by the American Legion and the VFW [who at the time didn’t recognize Vietnam as a war] and when I went back to Syracuse, to complete coursework in 1971 I had a lot of difficulty watching student protesters marching and flying the Viet Cong flag.”
For Kroft, these shared experiences with his fellow veterans have engendered his strong feelings for the VVA over the years. He returned to Vietnam for the first time ten years ago with a delegation of the organization’s national leaders—a chance to heal and visit familiar areas they had seen last as young men.
“The Saigon of today [Ho Chi Minh City] was busier and teeming with more people,” recalled Kroft. “When I left it still had the feel of a French colonial town.”
He also returned to Cu Chi, the former headquarters of the 25th Division, now the site of a Vietnamese military installation and toured the once elaborate Viet Cong tunnel system which ironically ran beneath the division’s old base-camp.
It was Kroft’s long standing association with the VVA that made him a logical choice to be the keynote speaker for this year’s conference and when asked to perform that task he didn’t hesitate to accept the offer.
“I was very happy they asked me,” said Kroft. “Of course, there’s that bond that I have with them.”
In his speech yesterday, Kroft made it a point to speak about the collective responsibility of all Vietnam veterans to reach out now to veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.