Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Vietnam War...3 Brave S'poreans Ultimate Sacrifice.

BELOW is the full transcript of the Straits Times Feature Article dated 6 Dec 1997.
'I'm OK .' Moments later, he was shot
THREE Singapore photojournalists who died on assignment during the Vietnam War were honoured in Requiem, an exhibition that opened last month at the Newseum in Arlington, Virginia.
Former Straits Times photographers Sam Kai Faye and Terence Khoo, and Charles Chellappah, who worked for a short period for the now-defunct Malayan Times, were among the 135 brave men and women from 11 countries remembered by their colleagues.
Requiem, a book edited by Horst Faas and Tim Page, was also launched by Random House at the exhibition.

Chellappah, whose full name was Canagaratnam Chellappah, was born in Indonesia but emigrated to Singapore so he could find a job as a news photographer. His lifelong dream was to cover the war.
Arriving in Saigon on Jan 21, 1966, he headed straight for the action and was baptised into the scary world of war photography when he followed American GIs into a dense jungle full of Vietcong tunnels.
His close-up shots of casualties and combat from this outing north of Saigon were so dramatic that Horst Faas, his picture editor at Associated Press, warned him to be more careful.
On Valentine's Day, 1966, he was with a troop on a road-clearing mission when a claymore mine went off. Chellappah and a company commander and medic, went to the rescue of the wounded. A second mine exploded, killing them all.
Just before his death, he had written to his businessman-father about his plan to return to Singapore a month later to start a news photo-agency.
Chellappah was the third AP photographer to die in a year and Faas was ordered to write a report for the president of his agency.
"This last roll of film was released by the authorities today along with his other personal effects," Faas writes in Requiem.
"The pictures show, better than any words could, how close Chellappah was to the action up to the moment of his death."

Sam Kai Faye and Terence Khoo were 48 and 35 respectively when they were killed in a similar incident on July 21, 1972. They were working for American television network ABC at the time and had a lot in common.
Both were former staffers of The Straits Times. Khoo was known for his bravery and suaveness and was frequently in the news.
In the book, Steve Bell, a former ABC correspondent, tells how Khoo had saved his life.
They were both captured in April that year and a Vietcong offered to let Khoo and other Asians go -- but not Bell. Khoo persuaded the soldier that the act would make the Vietcong look bad in the eyes of the world. The argument worked and they were all spared.
Sam had collected many prestigious international journalism awards. Both men were bachelors but Khoo was engaged to marry Winnie Ng, a secretary from his company's Hongkong bureau, at the end of 1972.
After seven years in the trenches, he was to leave for a safe posting to the ABC News bureau in Bonn the next day.

"I was to join him there later," his fiancee said in a newspaper interview at the time, "and we planned to be married there in December."
But he and Sam, his replacement, decided to spend the day on the battlefield instead. It proved to be a fatal decision.
Not long after setting out, Sam was shot by a sniper near Quang Tri. Khoo stayed behind to help him. His last known words to a Korean soundman who managed to escape were: "I'm OK." Moments later, he too was shot. Their bodies were recovered a few days later.
Ali Yusoff, a Straits Times photographer, remembers that the sadness in the newsroom was almost palpable when word of their deaths reached Singapore.
Sam had worked for the paper from 1950 to 1955. Khoo had joined in 1954 and left two years later to freelance.
Sam Yoke Tatt was only a child when his uncle Sam Kai Faye's picture of a plane crash won the top award in an international press photography competition in 1955, but he was well aware of its significance.
"As far as I know, no other Asian has won the award," the nephew said.
When his uncle died in 1972, Yoke Tatt was in his early 20s. He brought his uncle's casket back from Saigon. For many years, Yoke Tatt helped his late father, ex-Straits Times photographer Sam Kai Yee, in their family business.

Khoo's mother, Sim Geok Kee, who was 73, described him in a newspaper interview after his death as a "very brave and famous boy" who knew his own mind.
Khoo had bequeathed one-third of his insurance money of $62,500 to the University of Singapore. Yearly awards of $1,300 were given to the medical research fund for good students from poor families.
The first award went to Lim Meng Kin, a final year medical student who later joined the army after his housemanship, rising to the rank of brigadier general.
Now chief executive officer of Health Corporation of Singapore, Dr Lim was filled with deep emotion when asked about the man who had helped him but whom he knew little about. "Yes, I was one of his beneficiaries," he said, "and I'm very grateful to him."
He said the little he knew about Khoo came from newspaper reports and a small write-up in the scholarship prospectus.
"I met somebody who knew the family and was hoping to meet and thank them personally," he said emotionally, "but the opportunity did not arise."
Apart from Khoo's bequest, ABC, the US TV network Khoo and Sam had worked for, also set up fellowships for Asians to study at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.
Shortly after the article appeared, family members of Charles Chellappah called to point out a few discrepancies in this article.
Chellappah, according to his younger brother, Kandasamy, was born and raised in Singapore. (The book said he was born in East Indies, which later became part of Indonesia.)
The family also believes that he was killed by a sniper bullet instead of claymore mine explosion. His elder sister remembers his body was very much intact, apart from a severed face, which would have been impossible if he had been killed by the mine.
Attempts to contact the family before the publication of this article was futile as there were very few reports about Chellappah.
The author apologises unreservingly for the errors.

Of the 3 brave Singaporeans who were killed, I clearly can recall seeing the photos and pictures
of Terence Khoo and Sam Kai Faye in the Straits Times and elsewhere...before July 1972.
Both were really well-known during those days before their sudden and unexpected deaths.
I wonder if anyone knows whether the legacy left behind by Terence Khoo for the University
of Singapore to sponsor good medical students from poor families...still exists today.
It's more than 38 years since.

Was it fate that played a cruel hand for the both of them on that fateful day in July 1972?
Terence was supposed to leave the very next day for Bonn, Germany.
Sam was his replacement photographer.
Despite that day being his final day in Vietnam, Terence decided ( fatally ) to go into the
battlefield and show Sam around.
Just consider this, Terence must have gone on many field operations months before to bring
us his "top action" pictures. The battles he witnessed and captured from the frontlines on those days may have been even more dangerous than that day he was killed. Yet, though he was captured by the Vietcong, he came through safely.
With this blogpost, I hope my younger visitors will have a better insight and understanding
of the dark days of the Vietnam War which claimed the lives of 3 truly BRAVE Singaporeans.
May their souls rest in peace.


Tay Kay Chin said...

Thanks for digging out this article which means a lot to me, as I got to speak to some important people who are related to the three photographers, in one way or the other.

I am still researching about this topic and hope to have more to share in the near future.

unk Dicko said...

Hi Kay Chin,
Glad to be of some help. I hope you can update me later as I there are some aspects to the story I would like to take up..in the future too.
Thanks for visiting.

unk Dicko said...

For readers and visitors to this blog,in case you may not have noticed...
TAY KAY CHIN was the Straits Times journalist who wrote that original news story in 1997.

Shirlene Noordin said...

Hello Mr Yip

Just wanted to let you know that I'm organising an exhibition called Requiem which will feature photographs by the 3 Singaporean photographers.

The exhibition is an extension of the book Requiem by Faas and Page.

The exhibition will be part of the annual photography event that my company organises called Month of Photography Asia. The website has not been updated but you could check out our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Month-of-Photography-Asia/

I'd like to get in contact with you to see if you'd be keen to be involved in the exhibition.

You can contact me at shirlene@phish-comms.com.

Hope to hear from you soon!



unk Dicko said...

Hi Shirlene, thanks for dropping by. I'll get in touch with you. Btw, when's the event scheduled for? The month.
Unk Dicko

Shirlene Noordin said...

Hi Mr Yip

The exhibition is scheduled to run from 9 July to 7 August 2011 at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Galleries 1 and 2.

You can contact me via email for further details, we'd love to hear from you!



Anonymous said...

Does anyone know where the graves of these three Singaporean heroes are? Were they brought back home? I'd like to pay my respects.

unk Dicko said...

Hi Anon,
I believe that their remains were brought home to S'pore. But I have no idea where they were finally placed. Hopefully someone can help answer that. Thanks for visiting !

Merllene Bendixen said...

Hi - I found your blog while attempting to find out what happened to the rest of the photos taken by Charles Chellappah on February 14, 1966. My husband's cousin was one of those killed on that day. He was an amry photojournalist assigned to the unit and I am hoping that perhaps the earlier pictures taken by Mr. Chellappah may be some of the last taken of Terry Reed. Do you have any suggestions of who to contact to ask about the other pictures on that last roll of film? Thanks - Merllene Bendixen

Unk Dicko said...

Hi Merllene, thanks for dropping by here. So sorry to hear about your hubby's cousin. My suggestion if for you to contact 1 or 2 of the persons in this same comment page who may still have direct access to the family of Mr Chellappah. Just ckick on the name of Ms Kay Chin or Shirlene. Let me know if that has helped. Thanks for now !

Malcolm said...

Hi Uncle Dick, I found your blog while searching for something else. I was due to present a speech for my Toastmasters Club, and since I just came back from Saigon and visited the War Remnants Museum, I was planning to tell a fictional story of the Vietnam War. Thanks to your blog post, I have some materials to tell a real story of the brave Singapore journalists and share it with my club members.

Unk Dicko said...

Hi Malcolm, Great you drop by here.
All the Best for you TM speech.
It's an excellent choice of topic story...gripping !
Dick Yip