‘NBC Nightly News’: ‘Richard Engel Reports: Tip of the Spear’

May 17, 2009  •  Post A Comment

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.”


  1. First, Congratulations Richard for the Peabody Award! You bring such a great realism in your reporting and yet there is an empathy for the people being interviewed. Your ability to speak the language translates into believeability of what it is really like. Your voice is clear and succinct. Your choice of stories are unique. Thanks for the education on a world so far from mine. You are a vital link. Please be safe.

  2. thank you, richard, for your coverage of the iraq war and the pieces from afghanistan. i have been playing ‘catch-up’ in the last couple of weeks since i cancelled my cable service after 9/11. i had been pulling up the humvee bombings and the stories on the mash units and the chronic infections and the amputee stories on the web. between your work and that of dexter filkins, i now have a good timeline and history of the horrors. i have overactive imagination, i don’t know if i dare get your book or dexter’s. i have a couple of prayer altars where i will put the bad nightmares if i get the books. now that i’m up to speed, i can stay current with the events in iraq, afghanistan and pakistan. i hope they can keep the civilian casualties down. best, anna martina

  3. richard.i’d like to thank you so much for all the reporting that you do on the 2 wars.my son is in fob airborne,afghanistan.whenever you are on the news reporting in afghanistan i hope that maybe you are where my son tim is.if you do go to fob airborne please look him up.i hope and pray that you’ll stay safe and continue to cover the war there.i hope someday that i’ll see a glimpse of him on tv.i am so proud of all the troops who serve our country.my husband and i are veterans also.plus our oldest son is in iraq.we love our country and would do anything to protect our freedom.thanks and keep up the good work you do.god bless you. lisa pauley

  4. Mr. Engel,
    Just to let you know, my son is a Sgt. with Second Platoon and goes between Restrepo and the KOP. I talked with him this morning from Camp Blessing and he said you guys were getting off the bird as he was getting on. He has been very complimentary of you and your crew. I believe he said, “yeah, those guys usually get it right.” That’s pretty high praise from him. So thank you for the images and thoughts over the last year. As the father of a Soldier in a place called the Valley of Death, I can tell you that good honest reporting of what is happening to our troops is a comfort. Hard to watch at times, but what you do is important, so thanks again.
    Keep up the good work and keep your head down.
    Alan Turner

  5. Richard,
    Congratulations for the Peabody Award! If any journalist deserves to win such a prestigious award, that is YOU.
    Your reports on the “Tip of the Spear” are incredible and give a true and realistic picture of what WAR is. I think it is very important for people to be reminded and to understand that WAR is a terrible thing where soldiers and innocent civilians die all the time. Not to mention all the families that are displaced.
    The way you present your reports makes it easy to understand for most viewers and they can really connect with you.I have read your two books and I really loved them. You are a very brave man.
    Please be safe… CUIDATE MUCHO
    Carmen Gilbert

  6. Dear Richard,
    I want to thankyou and your team for the excellence you have shown day in and day out in 2 war zones. Keep up the good work.
    Spc Hassan.
    3o4th CABDE

  7. I was absolutely overwhelmed when I saw this documentary. My oldest daughter asked me to tape it because it was about Afghanistan and she was interested in seeing a good documentary. Little did we know as we watched it with other family members that this was to be filmed in the Kongola Valley with Viper Company. My nephew and her cousin was killed there two weeks before this filming. His picture was one displayed on the soldiers wall! SSG Nathan Cox. His picture is on the far right. It was extremely moving to see everything that he had written in his journal come to life, but it was also comforting to be able to see the beauty he also described to his 7 year old daughter. Thank you to the entire film crew for risking their lives to bring such an important message back to the US! It is so important for us to see what these brave soldiers are dealing with and going through. God bless you all!

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