In Depth

'NBC Nightly News': 'Richard Engel Reports: Tip of the Spear'

Richard Engel is one of the rare breed of electronic journalists who has spent nearly his entire career in war zones. His next tour of duty starts shortly in Pakistan, where he already has lined up a place to live in Islamabad.

But for now, the NBC News correspondent is savoring the Peabody Award for “Richard Engel Reports: Tip of the Spear,” a series of reports on “NBC Nightly News” from the deadliest zone in Afghanistan—and a follow-up from the Lake Michigan hometown of a soldier who was killed there.

Mr. Engel’s reporting was done during the waning days of the Bush administration in a treacherous place known as the Valley of Death, the remote, mountainous Korengal Valley in Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border.

“Under fire at times, the war correspondent and his team produced an extraordinary series of reports from remote outposts in Afghanistan, making vivid and visceral the hardships and danger faced by American soldiers,” the Peabody board said in its citation.

“The most important reason to do these kinds of stories is that people don’t understand what it means to be at war,” Mr. Engel said. “It’s far away, and people here can ignore it. When you are there seeing soldiers dealing with the terrain and the tragedy, you understand what we’re up against.”

Mr. Engel and his crew, videographer Bredun Edwards and producer Madeleine Haeringer, were embedded with a command team in the midst of a firefight when an American mortar accidentally landed on a nearby safe house and killed a U.S. soldier.

“We saw it and heard it, all the people screaming,” said Mr. Engel. “I knew all these guys. There is a family bond, and it is hard to comprehend how close they are. They were devastated. We were devastated.”

Mr. Engel went to the soldier’s hometown and interviewed his family. Sgt. John Pinch’s mother wore half a locket, the other half of which was buried with her son.

“I am proudest of the fact that we handled it truthfully but respectfully,” Mr. Engel said. “You’re nervous about how someone’s family is going to react. She thanked us, and said it was a tribute. You don’t want people to think you are taking advantage of them—but it is war.”