Schoendoerffer launched his career with the French military film service, documenting the war in Indochina. Following the 1954 defeat of French forces at Dien Bien Phu, he was held as a prisoner of war for four months.
He subsequently left the military but stayed on in Vietnam as a reporter for numerous French and US publications, including Paris Match and Time.
After 1955, Schoendoerffer continued as a correspondent, filmmaker and writer, covering events in Vietnam and the Algerian War.
His most famous works in France charted the war in Indochina, and “Le Crabe-Tambour” won three Cesar film awards in 1977.
Schoendoerffer was born in 1928 in Chamalieres, a town in the centre of France. He had three children, including filmmaker Frederic Schoendoerffer.