Vietnam War Photos That Made a Difference


“A group of people are huddled together in a jungle clearing, some with arms reaching toward a light from above. At first glance, perhaps an allegorical painting from the age of da Vinci. But on closer examination, it’s a black and white photograph. The people are soldiers, and the divine deliverance they seek is a medevac helicopter, coming in to pick up wounded men. Given the subject matter, that image, by Art Greenspon, might never have made it past the censors of World War II, which was nearly into its third year before Americans first saw photos of dead G.I.’s on a Pacific beach. Today, it is on the cover of ‘Vietnam: The Real War,’ a new history of America’s military and political misadventure in Southeast Asia, built around nearly 300 photo images from the archives of The Associated Press. More than a century after the first murky photographs of soldiers on horseback were made during the United States’ 1846-48 war with Mexico, the depiction of conflict by the camera finally came into its own in Vietnam. By then, the once-static snapshots of men in camps or posing with their cannons had become museum curiosities. … As other wars flared and faded, photographers made pictures — many excellent, but few as arresting to the eye or mind as Rosenthal’s. Then, in the early 1960s, came Vietnam. It was there, in the jungles, fields and French colonial cities, that still photography became the great medium for telling the story of war. Even television, making its own battlefield debut in Vietnam, lacked the impact of the small 35-millimeter camera, the tool of choice for photojournalists. Journalism in Vietnam, however, was different for more reasons than that. For the first time since the early days of the Republic, Americans were in a war without censorship. … In Vietnam, The A.P.’s Saigon bureau was the largest and most experienced news unit covering the war, brimming with exceptional talent and a professional commitment that helped it earn six Pulitzer Prizes, four of them for photography, during the 15-year conflict. For those of us who reported that war with notebooks, typewriters and cameras, it’s not easy to grasp the reality that a half-century has passed since then, not to mention how advances in technology have revolutionized combat reporting. No journalist in Vietnam ever sent a story or photo to the home office from atop a moving tank. …”
NY Times

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in Books, CIA, Henry Kissinger, John Kennedy, Laos, Lyn. Johnson, Nixon, R. McNamara, Vietnam War and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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