Death Zones & Darling Spies by Beverly Deepe Keever

Beverly Deepe Keever spent more than seven years as a magazine and newspaper correspondent covering the war in Vietnam. She arrived in 1962 at age twenty-six as a free-lance reporter after having received her MA in journalism from Columbia Journalism School. She left in 1969, after writing countless articles, mainly for Newsweek, the Christian Science Monitor. and the New York Herald Tribune.

In her new memoir, Death Zones and Darling Spies: Seven Years of Vietnam War Reporting (University of Nebraska Press, 360 pp., $26.95), Beverly Deepe Keever does an excellent job of recounting her unique Vietnam War experiences. The book, she notes, is “more than just my re-reporting of the Vietnam War or my instant replay of the history that I witnessed.” In her book Keever fills out what she experienced with information that she couldn’t write about at the time—mainly from secret government documents about the war that later surfaced in The Pentagon Papers.

When Keever arrived in Saigon only eight other Western correspondents were working there full time. All were men, including Neil Sheehan, Francois Sully, and Malcolm Brown. David Halberstam arrived shortly after Keever did. When Beverly Keever left Vietnam seven years later more than six hundred journalists were on the scene.

Beverly Keever

The war was very different in 1962 and 1968 and Keever was among the very few correspondents who witnessed the massive changes that took place as the U.S. effort grew from a relatively small advisory force to more then a half million Americans troops on the ground by the middle of 1968.

Her memoir, therefore, is unique among the many first-person Vietnam War accounts by former correspondents because Keever was present and reported on the war in the early, mid,and late sixties. She was there in November of 1963, for example, covering the violent overthrow of the regime of South Vietnamese Premier Ngo Dinh Diem; and Keever was there with the Marines at the Siege of Khe Sanh in the spring and summer of 1968.

The “darling spies” Keever’s subtitle refers to are Pham Xuan An, who worked closely with Keever and other American correspondents—and after the war was unmasked as having been a VC colonel who was feeding information to the North Vietnamese—and An’s message passer, Nguyen Thi Ba, “a gray-haired vendor of children’s toys,” as Keever puts it, “who had taken up the revolutionary cause in 1940.”

—Marc Leepson