MATT FRANJOLA, FAMED WAR CORRESPONDENT
AND FRIEND TO ALL, DIES ON NEW YEAR’S DAY
“CAPTAIN AMERICA” WILL BE DEEPLY MISSED BY
THOSE OF US WHO WERE FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO
HAVE KNOWN AND WORKED WITH HIM IN VIETNAM
AND CAMBODIA – “A MAN OF GREAT COURAGE AND
SKILL” PULITZER PRIZE WINNER PETER ARNETT
TELLS US HERE AT MILITARYCORRUPTION.COM
By MAJ GLENN MacDONALD
U.S. Army Reserve (Ret.)
© 2015 MilitaryCorruption.com
“And the tear that we shed,
Though in secret it rolls,
Shall long keep his memory
Alive in our souls.”
He was unfailingly kind in a sometimes cut-throat profession.
Matt Franjola, AKA “Captain America,” peacefully passed on to his eternal rest Thursday morning, New Years Day. He was 72.
Thankfully, in his final hours, many of us former war correspondents got to tell Matt how much we loved and admired him, as his daughter Claire held her cellphone to his ear.
Franjola, survivor or two liver transplants and many dangers covering wars in Vietnam and Cambodia, lay in his hospital bed in Connecticut, laboredly breathing his last as he bravely met his final deadline.
“Glenn. You should have seen it. His eyes popped open the moment he heard your voice and a smile spread across his face,” Claire said.
ARNETT SAYS HIS “GOOD-BYE”
One by one, those of us who had been privileged to have known and worked with “The Franj,” said our farewells. Among them was the greatest living war correspondent of them all, Peter Arnett.
“Matt Franjola’s coverage of Vietnam and Cambodia, in the later years of those wars, showed great courage and skill, winning him lasting respect from his colleagues,” Arnett toldMilitaryCorruption.com via telephone from Los Angeles.
“Especially, Matt’s work reporting the fall of Saigon in April of 1975 for the Associated Press, was his finest.”
From New York, Dan Cameron-Rodill, who, with Eric Cavaliero, held down the CBS NEWSBureau in Saigon once the Communists occupied the city after the American evacuation of the South Vietnamese capital, had this to say:
“Matt was a class act. He was genuine and a gentleman at all times. I never heard a bad word about him. He certainly was kind to me. How many people know that just before Saigon fell, Matt saved Ed Bradley’s life when an angry ARVN officer drew a bead on him with his .45 in Lam Son Square, and Matt deflected the shot by slinging a camera bag at the crazed gunman?”
CONVERSATION ON A TRAIN
In the many years since the war ended, Matt and I were able to attend a number of correspondent reunions – in New York, a very memorable one in 1995 in Washington (actually Alexandria, Va., across from the Potomac), and two in Vietnam: 2005 and again in 2010.
At the time of the 1995 get-together, I was on the job as a UPI correspondent filing for both the wire and UPI Radio.
Matt and I happened to be together riding the train back home from Union Station in D.C. We spent the trip up to New York talking about the old days and many of our colleagues that no longer were among us.
I recall telling Matt of how I survived the 1968 Tet Offensive when I was a U.S. Army combat correspondent. “Why am I alive and so many other good people – (meaning our “bao chi” colleagues) – dead?”
Sitting across from me on the train, Matt didn’t miss a beat.
With his usual quick wit and sharp perception, he immediately responded: “That’s easy,” he smiled. “I know why.” Leaning forward and looking me straight in the eyes he slowly said: “To bear witness.”
Well dear reader, may I “bear witness” here and now that Matt Franjola, war correspondent par excellence, has passed from this earth and is now at peace. But he lives on in our hearts and memory. He will never be forgotten.