When a TIME correspondent named Stanley Karnow filed a story in July 1959 on the deaths of two U.S. servicemen near Saigon, no one knew it was only the beginning--of both a long war and a distinguished career. Through his 13-part 1983 PBS documentary Vietnam: A Television History and its companion book, Karnow, who died Jan. 27 at 87, would elucidate for millions of Americans a struggle that vexed and frustrated them. For him, the U.S. could never have prevailed in Vietnam, but the outcome was not crucial to its security. As he wrote, "Defeat was a debacle, but not a disaster."
Logevall is the author of Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam