The Cat from Hue
A Vietnam War Story

By John Laurence

Book jacket:

This is the true story of a young American reporter who went to Vietnam with an open mind and an innocent heart and was plunged into a world of cruel beauty and savage violence.  His experiences in the war farced him to question all his assumptions about his country, the nation’s leaders and his own sanity.

John Laurence covered Vietnam for CBS News from 1965 to 1970.  He was judged by his colleagues to be the best television reporter of the war.  He and his camera team lived with a squad of U.S. troops in the jungles of War Zone C to film The World of Charlie Company, a documentary that received every major award for broadcast journalism.  Despite the professional acclaim, the traumatic stories Laurence covered became a personal burden that he carried long after the war was over.  He struggled with memories of the Tet Offensive and the Battle of Hue, incoming artillery at Khe Sanh and Con Thien, the wounding of those around him, the deaths of his friends, the killing of civilians, a colonel who smoked opium during the siege of his camp, American troops who fell in love with their dead comrades.  Mostly, his conscience haunted him about a close encounter with a North Vietnamese soldier that forced hi m to make a decision of life and death.

After years of reckoning with his memories, Laurence has made sense of them in this memoir by weaving them into a compelling story.  It is laced with humor, anger, love, and the unforgettable tale of a very idiosyncratic cat who was determined to play his part in the Vietnam revolution.  In reconstructing his experiences, he has relied not only on his notes and memory, bur also on hundreds of hours of film footage shot at the time.  It gives the book an uncanny vividness and fidelity to facts.

The Cat From Hue is filled with bizarre stories of unexpected human behavior, of famous names and of unknown soldiers of the worlds of the American grunt and the Vietnamese civilian, of incredible humanity and courage of corruption and cowardice, and of the personal price of survival and sanity.  Along the way, it clarifies the history of that murky war and the role that journalists (some of them as crazy as they were brave) played in altering its course.  Finally, the book offers a secret to survival for those who still struggle, as he did, with the demons of Vietnam.

For anyone who was there, for anyone who wants to discover what it was like to be there, for all of us trying to understand what the Vietnam War meant and still means for America.  The Cat from Hue is memorable reading.

John Laurence was a foreign correspondent for CBS and ABC News who covered many of the most important events of our times:  from the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963 to the bringing down of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet empire.  He reported more than fifteen wars and revolutions.  He lives in rural England with a tribe of abandoned cats.
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