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Exoneration Finally!
Tony Plattner wrote a highly-acclaimed series of articles for the world's foremost aerospace magazine Aviation Week & Space Technology early in the Vietnam War that pointed out the inept handling of the war by the Johnson Administration. He was then pursued by the Administration which tried to convict him as a criminal under the Espionage Act and then attempted to cashier him from the Marine Reserves. With ingenuity and determination, he was exonerated in a decade-long battle.
Plattner debuts with an intriguing memoir of his life as a citizen, soldier, and journalist who faced accusations of publishing classified information about the air war in Vietnam. Plattner, who served as a Marine Corps Reserve pilot, delves into a South Vietnam reporting mission assigned during his tenure as a journalist for Aviation Week & Space Technology, revealing how his published (and celebrated) series led to surprising blowback that had a negative impact on his career. Following publication in 1966, the Department of Defense initiated an investigation into Plattner’s writing that eventually resulted in restrictions to his flight status in the Reserves–and inspired him to launch the decade-long fight for justice chronicled here.

Plattner dedicates this memoir to sharing the efforts to clear his name, efforts that culminated not just in exoneration but in an administrative discharge board finding that he should be retained in the Marine Corps Reserve as “a valuable asset to the service.” After this harrowing experience, Plattner achieved success as a journalist, and then salesman, all while continuing as a reservist. Readers will be fascinated by the ethical dilemma this memoir raises—especially the potential conflicts between the roles of reporter and warrior—as well as the gripping context it provides for the larger narrative of the Vietnam War.

The contents are compelling, particularly the disclosure of military bureaucracy’s effect upon an investigation that often was mysterious, which lightens the text’s occasional disconnected feel. Plattner includes extensive documentation to provide an external perspective for readers, most notably two appendices with military reports and correspondence related to his case, and his attention to detail illuminates elements of the conflict that could have been easily overlooked. The pressures Plattner faced are ably sketched, as is the function the press was expected to fulfill within Vietnam. In the end, readers will empathize with Plattner’s quest for equity and celebrate alongside him when he achieves exoneration, finally.

Takeaway: A Vietnam-era memoir about a journalist and soldier clearing his name after the military finds those roles in conflict.

Great for fans of: Robert M. Smith’s Suppressed, Conrad M. Leighton’s War Stories: A GI Reporter in Vietnam, 1970-1971.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: N/A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A-