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Beyond the Killing Fields: War Writings Hardcover – March 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Now in his 70s, Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter Schanberg looks back on a long career as a war correspondent for the New York Times and offers an anthology of war coverage and commentary, from Vietnam and Cambodia to the war in Iraq, aimed at showing the brutality and senselessness of war. From his reporter’s notebook entries, he describes watching small children die and thinking of his own children back in the U.S., the hasty evacuation of the U.S. embassy in Cambodia in 1975, the surreal calm before the Khmer Rouge moved into Phnom Penh. He includes his tribute to Dith Pran, the Cambodian so instrumental in the Times’ coverage that he was named a correspondent. Schanberg recalls their relationship as colleagues and friends and his profound sadness that while Pran saved his life, he was unable to save Pran’s in return. The final pieces are critiques of the U.S. failure to push Hanoi to return POWs and the cover-up of that failure, including Senator John McCain’s participation, despite his time as a POW. Schanberg’s collection is grim reminder of the brutality of war. --Vanessa Bush


“There is a biblical quality to this story. What you have in this book is a tremendous, bone-chilling piece of eyewitness war correspondence. What makes it truly extraordinary, however—what makes it a transcendent and classic piece of war literature—is the story of the survival of Dith Pran and the deepening affection between two men from different worlds. Caught up in a war in which the vile and inhuman have become commonplace, two men are reborn by discovering the depths of their own humanity. In the end, they have won a personal victory over war itself.”—Russell Baker, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, humorist, chronicler of American life, former columnist for the New York Times, and former host of Masterpiece Theatre
(Russell Baker 2009-12-14)

“I recommend reading this remarkable book all at once, as I did. You’ll learn things. You’ll be fascinated and moved. It puts the reader where the reporter was and leaves you with an indelible picture of war as it is. The past—and the myriad, uncounted noncombatant victims of three wars—are brought back to life. Sydney Schanberg’s writing matches the intensity of the stories he has to tell and makes you feel the hurt. ‘This is what it’s like. Look,’ it says. ‘Don’t look away.’ It’s hard, necessary information.”—Sam Waterston, star of the long-running television drama Law & Order, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Schanberg in The Killing Fields
(Sam Waterston 2009-12-13)

“Sydney Schanberg is one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century. His passion for Cambodia is outweighed only by his passion for the truth and for his dear friend and colleague Dith Pran. This book is a chilling historical document that lyrically captures some of the darkest periods in American—and human—history. It is both great journalism and great art."—David Rohde, two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter for the New York Times
(David Rohde 2009-12-12)

“A priceless collection of the war journalism of Syd Schanberg. Based in Southeast Asia, he was one of a tiny handful of reporters who remained behind to see the Khmer Rouge take over Phnom Penh and begin the Cambodian genocide. More recently, Schanberg's was among the few voices calling to account two U.S. senators, John McCain and John Kerry, both Vietnam veterans, for manipulating the findings of a special Senate committee to cover up the truth: that the Nixon White House, directed by President Nixon and his war planner, Henry Kissinger, left hundreds of living American POWs behind in the hands of their captors when we evacuated Vietnam. Schanberg's war writings offer lessons of great value in our conduct of today’s wars without end. They remind us at once of bygone standards of journalistic excellence and the depths to which humanity can descend in times of war.”—Joseph L. Galloway, coauthor of We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young and We Are Soldiers Still: A Journey Back to the Battlefields of Vietnam
(Joseph L. Galloway 2009-12-10)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books; 1 edition (March 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597975052
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597975056
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,714,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sydney Schanberg was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his New York Times coverage of the fall of Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge in 1975. But his reporting on Cambodia is largely known from "The Killing Fields," the Academy Award-winning film starring Sam Waterston as Schanberg, which was based on his New York Times article chronicling the search for his captured Cambodian colleague Dith Pran and Pran's escape to freedom in 1979.

After returning from Asia, Schanberg was named NY Times Metropolitan Editor and then became an Op-Ed columnist, writing about New York City. In 1985, Schanberg left The Times and spent nine years as an Op-Ed columnist for New York Newsday. He then worked as head of investigations for and later wrote award-winning press criticism at The Village Voice.

Beyond the Killing Fields (Potomac Books, March 2010) is his first book -- an anthology of his reporting and commentary about wars in Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia and Iraq.

Please visit the book's website at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Veil on March 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Few journalists have seen as much war as Sydney Schanberg and this overdue collection of his war dispatches is a sobering look at some of the worst conflicts of the 20th century. Schanberg is best known to us as the journalist depicted in The Killing Fields, the classic Roland Joffe film. He emerges here against a broader backdrop of modern conflict, pondering in straightforward prose, the madness of war and the extremes that it brings out in people.

The first section of the book takes us to Cambodia, in the weeks preceding and following the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge. Here Schanberg captures the panic and misery of a besieged city, along with the contributing madness of US bombing and Khmer Rouge shelling. His prose helps us to understand the profound weariness that preceded Cambodia's dark age. Also depicted, of course, is his own near-escape from the Khmer Rouge, the terror of Cambodians, and the trauma of his evacuation from the country.

The second section contains the famous "The Death and Life of Dith Pran" - the basis for The Killing Fields. This is an amazing piece of journalism - as evocative in its own way as the film.

I was pleasantly surprised by the third section, which takes Americans to a conflict they know less about: Pakistan's savage suppression of East Pakistan, followed by the liberation of that territory by the Indian Army. Schanberg reported from East Pakistan in 1971, before he went to Southeast Asia, and one can read this section as informing his later approach to Cambodia. Given the tumult and terror that we associate with Pakistan nowadays, this section has a newfound importance, and it was wise of the editor to include it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Frank Snerdly on January 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book was interesting first because I didn't know the history of the Cambodian involvement by the USA during the Vietnam war.secondly it gave an inside account of what was going on also confirmed my ideas on John McCain and John Kerry's coverup of the Mia's of the Vietnam war.l was wondering why McCain was so upset at a person giving evidence at the Mia committee hearing about evidence of live soldiers in Vietnam .the book gave me some understanding on what was going on.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By T. Dith on June 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an accurate account story of the war during the Vietnam War that spilled over to Cambodia and Laos. Everybody should read this book if you are interested in it's history and learning about war reporting through journalist experience in the front line.
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The said book was arrived as described and on time....Thank you.
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16 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Alexandre Di Lolli on August 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
As the only American journalist to remain behind in Phnom Penh after the city fell to the Khmer Rouge, this is what the author wrote for the The New York Times about the departure of the Americans and the coming regime change: "it is difficult to imagine how their lives could be anything but better with the Americans gone." The Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia in 1975 and killed approximately two million people. A dispatch he wrote on April 13, 1975, written from Phnom Penh, ran with the headline "Indochina without Americans: for most, a better life."(!!!)
Schanberg then went on to reject claims that the communist takeover of Cambodia could lead to state-sponsored genocide: "Wars nourish brutality and sadism, and sometimes certain people are executed by the victors but it would be tendentious to forecast such abnormal behavior as a national policy under a Communist government once the war is over."
NY Times Walter Duranty would have been proud of his colleague Schanberg's work! Like Duranty, Sydney Schanberg like the communists and went on to ignore or excuse their enormous crimes.
My advice to Sydney Schanberg is to apologize for his reporting on Cambodia and give back his 1976 Pulitzer Prize for International he won for his Cambodia coverage.
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