Don North, Vietnam war correspondent, 22-year National Press Club member
Don North, a member of the National Press Club for 22 years, died on Jan. 7 of complications from a heart attack, his son, Glen, said in a note addressed to the “Vietnam Old Hacks,” an informal association of correspondents who covered the Vietnam war.
Don studied international journalism at the Columbia University graduate school, after graduating from the University of British Columbia. A young and adventurous Canadian, he headed for Hong Kong, and then for Vietnam as the war involved increasing numbers of American troops and news media. Don freelanced, with pen, pad and camera, and ABC News hired him in 1966.
“Like so many of us I initially bought Washington’s rationale for the war to save this little democracy of South Vietnam from a communist takeover and the start of falling dominoes in Asia,” Don said recently, speaking to students at George Washington University.
But in the end, “we suffered defeat in an unwinnable war fighting against a country about which we knew nothing and in which we had no vital interests," he said. "As reporters of the lost war, it may have been our finest hour, documenting the defining event of our generation. Being a reporter in Vietnam was probably the best thing I will do in this life. I’m grateful I was there.”
After ABC News, Don worked for Canadian Television, as an anchor for CBC News, and a reporter for NBC News in Cairo. By his count, he covered 15 wars, from Yugoslavia to Afghanistan and Iraq. He taught for a semester at the American University of Nigeria, and used the opportunity to report on the atrocities of Boko Haram. When he and his wife, Deanna, took a cruise originating in Barcelona, he wrote an analysis of the Catalan movement.
Don ran his own video company, Northstar Productions, in Fairfax, Va., producing documentaries. In addition to his Club membership, he was vice president of Military Reporters and Editors and a member of the National Association of Press Photographers.
He recently self published a book, "Inappropriate Conduct: Mystery of a Disgraced War Correspondent," the story of a Canadian journalist who got a raw deal from the Canadian military during World War II.