Tom Herman Explores His Motivations and Inspirations for His Film Dateline-Saigon

In honor of Veterans Day, Dartmouth College celebrated the service of all U.S. military veterans through a week of special programming. Events included a November 7th screening of the film, Dateline-Saigon, followed by a discussion with producer and director Tom Herman and History Professor Edward Miller, Founding Director of the Dartmouth Vietnam Project.

Dateline-Saigon is the story of five young journalists who risked their lives to share the story no one else dared to explore during the early years of the Vietnam War. Herman spent twelve years researching, filming, and interviewing over 50 writers, photojournalists, radio and television correspondents, government officials, historians, and others for this project.

As a late baby boomer, the Vietnam War was a part of his childhood like the 9/11 attacks and the invasion of Iraq were a part of mine. However, the political landscape of the Vietnam War seemed to permeate throughout all levels of society as even a very young Tom Herman had an opinion on it. Herman recounts that at a summer camp, he argued with a camp counselor that the Vietnam War was just, because the Americans needed to fight the “communists.” Little did he know his college self would be protesting against the war many years later. Further into his career, Herman’s connection with Vietnam came full circle, while working as a CNN field producer when he met the journalists who had covered the war. Inspired by both their stories and the journalists themselves, Herman knew he had an opportunity – which became his fuel. Now, decades removed from the war, Herman wanted to explore what he understood then and now while using these journalists’ work as a lens in which he could question his beliefs. Ultimately, Herman’s goal was to tell a story that had never been told before.

Upon asking Tom Herman where his next source of inspiration is coming from, he was not sure but he is certain that he wants to make another film. Like David Halberstam, whose book “The Best and the Brightest” was used as inspiration for Dateline-Saigon, who switches from historical to contemporary pieces, Herman does not want to restrict himself to one thing. He notes that he is inspired by both what excites him and what troubles him. It is yet to be determined which of two will take precedence.

-Written by Mariah Reese ’17, Rockefeller Center Student Program Assistant for Public Programs