Saturday, August 11, 2012

Alan Fisher, Part 2

Alan Fisher From the library of Congress. Fisher was a photographer for the World Telegram and the Sun in the 1930's. Another part of an interview done with him for a library of Congress oral history project:It concerns Fisher's time as a photojournalist in Vietnam. For part one on a previous postQ: This was after Dien Bien Phu?
FISHER: Oh, yes.
Q: You were doing it for South Vietnam because the North had already separated. Objective of Mopix in Vietnam FISHER:
Yes. We were doing it for South Vietnam, and we had three objectives, basically: to support President Ngo Dinh Diem, to tell what USOM, the operation mission, was doing in Vietnam, and to support other American policy objectives through news clips which we brought in. So theoretically, I was to check every newsreel with the Minister of Information, but after checking with him a few times, he said, "You know what you're doing. Don't bother me with it." So we put it out under their name. It was released in 37 theaters first run in Vietnam, all over South Vietnam, and very effective. I had two cameramen everywhere President Ngo Dinh Diem went. We had two cameramen with him. We always had a story of him, and that's the way they knew him. Remember this was before television, so they knew him through the newsreels. I think it was a very effective way of doing it.
Q: It didn't keep him from being overthrown, however.
 FISHER: No, it didn't. He was a nice guy, you know. Mrs. FISHER: He was not overthrown; he was murdered. FISHER: Yes. Incidentally, an aside. Wes Fischel was the head of the United States Operation Mission at that time. He used to breakfast with Ngo Dinh Diem every morning and they'd work out a program for the day. We saw Wes in Washington when he got back. He'd left the service. He was a contractor. He came to the house for dinner one night, and we were talking about perils of living in the Far East. He said, "You know, I spent something like 18 years in the Far East, and I had stomach troubles all the time I was there. Because of these troubles, my diet consisted of just white rice and tea." He said, "You know, I just went through a series of allergy tests and they discovered I'm highly allergic to white rice." (Laughs) To get back to Saigon, it was a good operation. We had a contract with USOM to produce 48 reels of documentaries for them a year. I was there on TDY at this time. Then at the end of this period, I went back to Washington. I had written a long report to Turner while I was there. When I got back to Washington, Turner came over and came out to the house for breakfast one morning. As we were having breakfast, he said, "How would you like to transfer to Vietnam?" And I got a terrible kick in the shins from Florence under the table. I said, "I would like it. I would like it." Because it was exciting, it was fun. Professionally, it was great.
Q: How long were you there on TDY?
FISHER: Three months. I made those changes when I was there.
Q: Florence was still in Paris.
FISHER: She was still in Paris.
Mrs. FISHER: With our daughter, of course.
FISHER: So I agreed, and we went back, direct transfer to Saigon. I really enjoyed it because it was a job that took every moment of my time. In addition to that, I had supervisory responsibilities for production in Cambodia and Vientiane, plus a laboratory contract operation in the Philippines, where all our laboratory work was done. When Turner proposed that I be transferred to Saigon, I said, "I will take it on one condition, that you get me Bill Ridgeway out of Korea, transfer him to the Philippines, to Manila, to supervise that laboratory operation." Because Bill was a crackerjack. I knew if I had him there, I'd never have any lab problems. He agreed to it, so Bill was transferred to the Philippines. I would go over every month or so and talk with Bill. He'd come over occasionally to Saigon. It was a good operation.

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