MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Denby Fawcett went to Vietnam for the adventure. Jurate Kazickas wanted to prove the war was wrong.
And Tracy Wood, who had been hoping for an assignment in China, was instead sent to wartime Vietnam.
They joined an elite group, an international press corps with more than 400 accredited women reporters but fewer than 100 devoted to significant, long-term coverage of their generation's biggest story.
''I hardly knew what I was,'' said Fawcett, now a TV reporter in Honolulu. ''To think that we blazed a path is astounding.''
But many people believe that's what they did.
''We were fighting enough battles when I went in 1967. Women weren't tolerated in a lot of jobs,'' said then-ABC field producer Anne Morrissy Merick, one of seven women who shared war stories at West Virginia University Friday. Their talk will air on C-SPAN April 30, the 25th anniversary of the fall of Saigon.
Journalism in the 1960s and early '70s still relegated many women to the lifestyle and ''women's'' sections of newspapers, assigning them to cover parties and society news.
Look magazine refused to send Kazickas when she asked to go to southeast Asia, so she landed a spot on the quiz show ''Password,'' won enough money to buy a one-way ticket and quit her job to free-lance.
Once there, she had other obstacles. Kazickas was assigned an overweight Marine escort who collapsed on the first day of a jungle trek. Infuriated, she was forced to leave with him on a helicopter.
Two days later, an ambush killed 20 percent of the men in the unit they had been with. The survivors blamed Kazickas, cursing her for their bad luck.
''There were instances when you just said to yourself, 'They don't want me here. They don't want me here,''' she said.
Kazickas chose to cover combat exclusively. The other women also wrote about the GIs on the front lines, but also told stories of nurses tending to dying men, and of Vietnamese women and children caught in the crossfire.
''I chose to cover the 'soft' stories because the people with the least voice in that war were the women and children of the Vietnamese. Those stories had universal appeal. They showed true suffering and the true destruction that was war,'' said former Associated Press special correspondent Tad Bartimus, now a syndicated columnist.
''It was important to me these people not be left behind with the bodies and the rusted tanks.''
Bartimus was working for the Miami Herald when she took an interest in Vietnam, clipping the front page bylines of women who worked for United Press International and other news agencies.
Bartimus mailed the clips to the AP's then-president, Wes Gallagher, ''telling him, 'If I were there, AP would be getting these bylines.'
''Eventually, some guy from New York showed up with a green plastic international air travel card,'' she said.
Wood, a foreign editor for UPI, had been snatched from her desk and offered an assignment in Vietnam. Although she'd been hoping for China, she couldn't refuse.
''If you said no at that point ... it would reinforce the idea that wasn't dead yet, that women didn't want to do the hard stuff,'' she said.
Bartimus followed Edie Lederer, now the AP's chief correspondent at the United Nations and a veteran of several foreign wars.
Lederer was working in San Francisco when she took a round-the-world vacation that included a four-day stop in Vietnam in 1971. In the summer of 1972, she got a call from Gallagher asking if she wanted to go to back.
But Lederer says it was the women reporters in World War II who blazed the path for today's female journalists.
''We certainly were not pioneers,'' she said. ''They were very, very courageous. ... They proved women could do on the battlefield exactly what the men could do. We followed in their footsteps.''
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