Remembering The Vietnam WarPhotographs and Stories by Soldiers Who Served in Vietnam
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The Vietnam War Photo Archives collection contains photographs collected by Bernie Weisz, a Vietnam War Veteran. These images document the Vietnam War as well as the after effects. The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War, and known in Vietnam as the Resistance War Against America or simply the American War, was a war that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war was officially fought between North Vietnam and the government of South Vietnam. The North Vietnamese army was supported by the Soviet Union, China and other communist allies and the South Vietnamese army was supported by the United States, Philippines and other anti-communist allies. The photos come from soldiers and people on the ground in Vietnam. The story of Vietnam is much more nuanced than most give it credit for. Here is an opportunity to learn some of those details. Which will hopefully serve to illuminate and create perspective about the struggles, from both sides of the conflict. Many people were affected, scarred and killed. This gallery reveals a complex and nuanced photographic history of the conflict. A conflict that affected multiple countries for multiple generations.
Portrait of an Older Vietnamese Man During the Battle of Hue, February 1968
Portrait of an old Vietnamese man during the Battle of Hue, February 1968. Photo by Don McCullin Here is an interview with Don McCullin discussing his observations during the Tet Offensive: DON MCCULLIN, THE BATTLE OF HUE – FEBRUARY 1968: WOUNDED LIEUTENANT. The Colonel that I was with, his name was Myron Harrington, said to me, “This will be a 24-hour operation”. Two weeks later and 70 men killed and a thousand casualties, the Marines took a bit of a beating. I came away from Hue, a much older, and a much wiser person than I went in because I didn’t take my clothes off for 2 weeks. I didn’t shave, I didn’t wash, and I was living like an animal. With Delta company I was on the wall. And what happened was that the snipers were just cutting these people to pieces, and we couldn’t see these snipers – like all snipers they are secret killers. This particular day, I was with a probing patrol of Marines and they got really badly hit and the actual lieutenant who was in charge of this patrol was hit – clipped in the throat – and he was also badly wounded in the thigh, he was immobile and couldn’t move. So I crawled over to him and I said, “Look. I can’t do much for you, but let me bandage your leg and let’s get out of here, I’ll help you.” And he said, “No, I’m going to bring down fire on this position” and I said, “You must be crazy.” The thing was, he was in very big shock and he was losing it — or he’d lost it, really, and so I calmed him down. The things, events changed and the pressure came off of us, and thank god he didn’t send that command to bring the artillery down on our own positions. But that’s what men are like in war, they sometimes break up and they lose it. It’s all about shock and it’s all about being in war really. We have been through many of those days. The thing of course, is that we don’t lose it. DON MCCULLIN – ON PHOTOGRAPHING THE VIETNAM WAR: We became war junkies. It was always at the expense of other people’s lives. That wasn’t right for us to get off on that, but we did it. And in many ways we went to Vietnam and we also raped the country, we changed our money on the black markets, we became famous photographers and doors opened for us more easily because we made a name in photography. But we always have to remember how we made that name. We made it at the expense of other people’s suffering. We went to those places, we got a certain amount of excitement out of it, and even that was wrong because the worse it got, the more excited we got. Admittedly we were afraid – sometimes we occasionally paid the price in blood, from our own bodies. Well, if I have to think back about it — first of all, it’s done me a great deal of harm. It helped to ruin part of my life. My first marriage broke up, and also I started to get slightly off the rails. It affected my life and I was a very angry young man, I needed to test myself. But in the end it was an indulgence, because I didn’t need to do that. What I’ve discovered in myself now, is that — first of all I hate those photographs I took all those years, that is to say the photographs I have done in the past 10 or 15 years give me much more pleasure because they are about life, they are about the countryside, they are about the land, and the rivers, and the beauty of our planet and even that is under threat. What is left of my photography and my energy — my body is refusing to climb hills or carry all of my equipment. But I still have the passion of photography. And I will exercise that passion until I am on my knees.
Soldier Cools Off in a Stream in the Mekong Delta Whilst Cleaning His Weapon
A U.S. 9th Infantry Division soldier of the 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry, takes advantage of a stream in the Mekong Delta of South Vietnam to cool off while cleaning his weapon in June 1969 during the Vietnam War.
Marine Fashions the U.S. flag in Preparation to Hoist it Over the Citadel, in the Imperial City
A U.S. Marine fashions the flag of his country to make a shirt staff in preparation to hoist it over the citadel in the Imperial city of Hue following 24 days of continuous battle for the prized objective during the Tet offensive by communist forces. Photo by Douglas Pike.
Photojournalist Henri Huet, KIA, Feb.10, 1971 Over Laos
Henri Huet (April 4, 1927 – 10 February 1971) was a French war photographer, noted for his work covering the Vietnam War for Associated Press (AP). Huet’s photographs of the war were influential in moulding American public opinion. One of his most memorable series of photographs featured Pfc Thomas Cole, a young medic of the First Cavalry division, tending fellow soldiers despite his own wounds. On February 10, 1971, during South Vietnam’s invasion of southern Laos, known as Operation Lam Son 719, Huet and three other photojournalists, joined the operation commander, Lt Gen Hoang Xuan Lam, on a helicopter inspection tour of the battlefront. The pilots of the South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) UH-1 Huey carrying the photojournalists lost their way and flew into the most heavily defended area of the Ho Chi Minh trail, where it and a second chopper were shot down by hidden North Vietnamese 37mm anti-aircraft guns, killing all 11 on the photographers’ aircraft and four on the other.
Project Eldest Son
Project Eldest Son – The U.S. Scheme to Sabotage Charlie’s Rifles. “The objective of the scheme was two fold: to thin the enemy’s ranks while at the same time sapping his confidence in his own equipment.” THE U.S. MILITARY’S Studies and Information Group might sound like a dull Washington policy think thank, but during the Vietnam War, the SOG planned and carried out some of the most daring, not to mention devious, operations of the long and bloody conflict. Case in point: Beginning in 1967, the notorious unconventional warfare unit flooded communist ammo depots throughout Southeast Asia with thousands of sabotaged rifle, machine gun and mortar rounds. Each of the ordinary looking bullets was packed with enough high explosives to destroy any weapon that fired it while also maiming (perhaps even killing) the unlucky shooter. And the charges hidden within spiked mortar shells were so potent they could wipe out an entire gun crew. The objective of the scheme was two fold: To thin the enemy’s ranks while at the same time sapping his confidence in his own equipment. It was a 45-year-old SOG colonel named John Singlaub who first suggested the ploy. The former OSS operative supposedly borrowed the idea from the British army, which had secretly distributed its own exploding .303 Lee Enfield rifle rounds to enemy rebels in Waziristan during the 1930s and even tribal insurgents in Zimbabwe as far back as the 1890s. The American plan, dubbed Project Eldest Son, called for technicians to pry apart thousands of captured AK-47 and 12.7 mm machine gun rounds, as well as 82 mm mortar shells. Once opened, the casings would be filled with a potent explosive that was virtually indistinguishable from conventional gunpowder. The booby trapped munitions were then reassembled and mixed into crates of perfectly good ammo bound for enemy supply depots. Eventually, the SOG manufactured more than 12,000 trick rifle bullets and machine gun rounds along with nearly 2,000 killer mortar shells. Over a two-year period, U.S. special ops teams fanned out across South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia covertly adding ammo crates containing the corrupted rounds into enemy supply caches. Another tactic was to leave full magazines loaded with a single tainted bullet onto battlefields in hopes the ammunition would be recovered and used by North Vietnamese forces or communist guerrillas. At the same time, the SOG spread rumours of Chinese armaments factories producing faulty munitions. According to the stories, the deficient ammo was being knowingly transferred to communist troops in Vietnam by careless and indifferent government officials in Beijing. It was hoped the revelation would lead to a rift between the two communist powers. The U.S. Armed Forces Radio Network, which was monitored by enemy intelligence, added to the narrative by advising GIs to avoid using captured weapons because of the risk posed by defective Chinese bullets. The SOG even went so far as to forge official looking VC and NVA communiqués reporting the hazardous ammunition. The bogus documents were dropped in the field for enemy units to recover and pass along to their superiors. Little data exists as to the success of the operation. Yet Eldest Son had to be abandoned in 1969 when details of it were leaked to the American media. The story didn’t end there however. It’s been reported recently that the Syrian military has launched a similar operation its two-and-a-half year old civil war against anti-government rebels. According to the New York Times, pro-Assad forces have been secretly passing booby-trapped rounds to enemy fighters via illegal arms bazaars across the region. The paper reports that the Syrian army appropriated the idea from the U.S. military, which had reportedly been booby trapping insurgent bullets in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Australian soldiers of the 7th Battalion
Australian soldiers of the 7th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, wear American helmets and flak jackets as they stand guard outside the Hotel Canberra in Saigon during the Tet Offensive. The building was fortified and guarded because the Viet Cong specifically targeted urban establishments used by the Americans and their allies. In 1967 factions within the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese leadership began to call for a change of direction in the war’s conduct. General Vo Nguyen Giap, who had formerly advocated waging a largely guerrilla war, came to believe a “quick victory” might now be possible. Planning therefore began for a major offensive in South Vietnam that would provoke a “general uprising.” Against the corrupt and unpopular South Vietnamese Government. Abandoning conventional military wisdom, Viet Cong forces were not heavily concentrated for the offensive. The aim, instead, was to mount as many different attacks in as many locations as possible. And in a departure from traditional guerrilla tactics, the main targets were in population centers rather than the countryside. The offensive, during which more than 100 towns and cities were attacked, began during the early hours of 31 January 1968. The first assaults achieved almost complete surprise, not least because they occurred over the Chinese New Year or Tet holiday period, which, according to recent tradition, was a time of truce. In many places the Viet Cong were astonishingly successful; in the former capital, Hue, they took control of a large part of the city. The most spectacular Viet Cong successes were, however, in the South Vietnamese capital Saigon, where a number of government buildings were attacked. An elite Viet Cong squad even managed to fight its way into the grounds of the American embassy. Although most of the attacks were quickly defeated, in Hue and at the American provincial base at Khe Sahn Tet signaled the beginning of protracted battles. Yet there was no “general uprising” in South Vietnam. The “quick victory” had turned into a disastrous defeat and recriminations within the communist leadership soon followed. With the Viet Cong decimated, General Giap lost much of his authority, ultimately being retained merely in the figurehead role of Minister of Defense. Only much later would the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese realize what they had actually achieved. The Tet Offensive shocked the Americans and their allies, especially because it occurred at a time when they thought they were winning the war. Graphic footage of fighting in Saigon and Hue was broadcast into American households and around the world. The bitterness and desperation conveyed in these images deeply affected many people – even those who had until then broadly supported American involvement in Vietnam. The initial Viet Cong successes, the ferocity of the fighting, and heavy American and South Vietnamese casualties ultimately left a far greater impression on worldwide public opinion than the offensive’s final defeat. “After the Tet Offensive American politicians and military leaders doubted whether a military victory would be possible, and began to think of other ways of ending the conflict. In this sense Tet marks the turning point in the Vietnam War. But perhaps the offensive’s most enduring significance lay in how widely it revealed the horrors of the Vietnam War, and indeed war in general.” -Vietnam Veteran.
Soldiers Delivered to Battle via UH-1 Helicopter
UH-1 helicopter, aerial delivery of personnel. During the Vietnam War, the United States relied on the helicopter as never before. The helicopter’s role in combat expanded enormously in this conflict as thousands of “choppers” rapidly transported personnel throughout the war zone. Heavily armed helicopters offered a fearsome component to ground operations as close air support. Photo by Douglas Pike.
Parent-less Children of War
Children gather in front of a bombed-out building in Quang Tri five years after the end of the Vietnam War. 1982. Photo by Dick Halstead.
Soldier, Team Leader, With a Kit Carson Scout
Jim Bates & Thny. “Jim was my Team Leader and Thny was a Kit Carson Scout. We were lucky to get a couple of good ones. Their families were killed by the VC/NVA, so they wanted them more than we did”. The Kit Carson Scouts (Vietnamese: Hồi Chánh Viên, a term loosely translated as “members who have returned to the righteous side”) belonged to a special program initially created by the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War involving the use of former Viet Cong combatants as intelligence scouts for American infantry units. Photo and comments by David Weeks II.
Elders From North And South Embrace
May 1975 – Elders from North and South embrace, having lived to see Vietnam reunited and unoccupied by foreign powers. Image: Vo Anh Khanh/Another Vietnam/National Geographic Books courtesy Ken Howser.
Soldier's Boots, Helmets, And Rifles Lined Up
R.I.P. South Vietnam, 1967. Soldier’s rifles, helmets, and boots lined up. Photo by Andy O’Meara.
Helicopter Lifts A Wounded American Soldier
A helicopter lifts a wounded American soldier on a stretcher during Operation Silver City in Vietnam, March 13, 1966.
Shell-Shocked U.S. Marine
U.S. Marine during Tet Offensive Hue, Vietnam, 1968. Photo by Don McCullin.
Injured Vietnamese Receive Aid After Bomb Explosion Outside U.S. Embassy in Saigon
Injured Vietnamese receive aid as they lie on the street after a bomb explosion outside the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, Vietnam, March 30, 1965. Smoke rises from wreckage in the background. At least two Americans and several Vietnamese were killed in the bombing.
Two Members of V-Company Use Smoke to Signal Location of Wounded During Operation Coburg
Preparing for a casualty evacuation, two members of V-Company, a New Zealand component of the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Battalion, use smoke to signal the location of men wounded during Operation Coburg to a dust-off helicopter. Coburg took place in the border area of Bien Hoa and Long Khanh provinces, to the north-west of Phuoc Tuy. In the foreground is Corporal W. Vautier, of the ANZAC Battalion. February 1968. Vietnam Veteran comment: “I used to go down to the field hospital, this was at Vung Tau, and some of the fellows down there. They really would have been better off dead. It was an ironic tragedy, if that’s not a tautology, that they could rescue people that had been badly wounded and have them on the operating theatre within twenty minutes of being hit. Now most of those blokes would have died, in any other conflict. They wouldn’t have survived… There were some terribly wounded blokes.” Photo by Keith Williams.
Roman Catholic Chaplain With 1st Royal Australian Regiment, Gives Communion
Captain Gerry Cudmore, a Roman Catholic Chaplain with 1RAR, gives communion to Australian gunners and American troops, Bien Hoa, 1965. Fifty-five chaplains served with the Australian Army in Vietnam between 1965 and 1972. They accompanied men on operations, ministered to them in the field and often carried their ecclesiastical tools in a pack that hung around their neck. One chaplain remembers: Mass celebrated on the ground, on an ammo box, in D Company Mess at the Horshoe, on a table in a deserted Viet Cong hospital camp, at dawn on a deserted beach…Michael O’Brien, Conscripts and Regulars with the 7th Battalion in Vietnam.
U.S. Helicopter Crewchief Watches Ground Movements of Vietnamese Troops
Helmeted U.S. Helicopter Crewchief, holding carbine, watches ground movements of Vietnamese troops from above during a strike against Viet Cong Guerrillas in the Mekong Delta Area, January 2, 1963. The communist Viet Cong claimed victory in the continuing struggle in Vietnam after they shot down five U.S. helicopters. An American officer was killed and three other American servicemen were injured in the action.
Captured Guerrillas Guarded by American Soldiers
Captured guerrillas, blindfolded and hands tied behind their backs, are guarded by American GIs during the battle of An Thi, in South Vietnam. Photo by Henri Huet KIA Feb. 10, 1971 over Laos.
Soldiers Helping Soldiers During a Fire Fight in Hue, Southern Vietnam
As fellow troopers aided wounded buddies, a paratrooper of A Company, 101st Airborne, guides a medical evacuation helicopter through the jungle foliage to pick up casualties during a five-day patrol of an area southwest of Hue, South Vietnam, April 1968. This photograph is featured on the cover of the Associated Press’ book ‘Vietnam: The Real War.’ 1968-04. by Art Greenspon
These Kids Rescued Soldiers, Long Story..
“If it wasn’t for these two kids.. I might not be here today. Hope they made it out, never found out, but I always wondered. Saved both the Major and myself one day, and some of the Medics that were down. Long story just one of many.” 3/4 Cavalry Vietnam, Cu Chi, 1966. Photo and comment by Roger McGill.
Soldier Poses With Two Local Vietnamese Girls
Soldier poses with two local Vietnamese girls. There was a heavy social stigma attached to Vietnam Veterans when they returned. A characterization, that in hindsight, is wildly unjust. That treatment also made it more difficult for returning soldiers to integrate back into civilian life. “Be Careful ladies…..I’m known in my country as a ‘Baby Killer.'” Photo and quote by Paul Plante.
The Body of Private Michael (Mick) Alwyn Bourke, 1 RAR, is Farewelled at a Ceremony at Tan Son Nhut Airbase
The body of Private Michael (Mick) Alwyn Bourke, 1 RAR, is farewelled at a ceremony at Tan Son Nhut airbase before being flown back to Australia. Just weeks after arriving in Vietnam, 1RAR suffered its first casualties when Private William Carroll’s grenade pin caught and released as he leaped off a truck after the battalion’s first operation. The subsequent explosion killed Carroll, Privates Mick Bourke and Arie Van Valen, and an American, Private First Class D. Pierson. A further ten soldiers were wounded, including two Americans. 26 June, 1965.
Father Holds the Body of His Child as South Vietnamese Army Rangers Look Down From their Armored Vehicle
A father holds the body of his child as South Vietnamese Army Rangers look down from their armored vehicle March 19, 1964. The child was killed as government forces pursued guerrillas into a village near the Cambodian border.
Berlin-Born Paratrooper Ruediger Richter Patrols In The Jungle
September 2, 1966, Bien Hoa, Vietnam. In this 1966 photo, Berlin-born paratrooper Ruediger Richter patrols in the jungle northeast of what is now called Ho Chi Minh City as a member of the U.S. Army’s 4th Battalion, 503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade. As a boy, Richter saw bodies in the streets of Hitler’s Germany, where he spent his childhood. He then became a professional killer, first as a member of the French Foreign Legion and later as a member of the U.S. Army. A gunshot through the head ended his Vietnam combat service in 1967, leaving him with a shattered face and a heart hollowed out by anger and addictions. He has since found his peace living in the rural Southern United States near Columbus, Georgia. Photo by Henri Huet KIA Feb. 10 1971 over Laos.
Paratrooper Rests During a Lull in Fighting Near Bong Son During Operation Thayer
Bong Son, Vietnam — A paratrooper of the U.S. 1st Cavalry rests during a lull in fighting near Bong Son during Operation Thayer in late September of 1966. The unit met stiff enemy resistance in the area. Photo by Henri Huet KIA Feb. 10 1971 over Laos.
Hal Moore, United States Army Lieutenant General
Hal Moore. Harold Gregory “Hal” Moore, Jr. (born February 13, 1922) is a retired United States Army lieutenant general and author. He is a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, which is the U.S. military’s second highest lieutenantsfor valor, and was the first of his West Point class (1945) to be promoted to brigadier general, major general, and lieutenant general. Moore is best known as the lieutenant colonel in command of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, at the Battle of Ia Drang in 1965, during the Vietnam War. The battle was made into the movie We Were Soldiers in 2002, which starred actor Mel Gibson as Moore; today, Moore is the “honorary colonel” of the regiment. In 2007, Moore’s volunteer driver wrote a book on Moore’s personal religious journey titled A General’s Spiritual Journey. In 2013, author Mike Guardia published the first full-length biography of Moore’s life and career titled Hal Moore: A Soldier Once…and Always. Moore was awarded the Order of Saint Maurice by the National Infantry Association as well as the Distinguished Graduate Award by the West Point Association of Graduates. Photo by Rudy A. Jaramillo
Women Wounded in Hue During the Communist Tet Offensive in the Imperial City
Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) 1955–75 forces and civilians aid a women wounded in Hue during the Communist TET Offensive in the imperial city. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed, wounded, crippled, or left homeless in the communist so-called “liberation” movement. Photo by Douglas Pike
Troopers of the 8th Vietnamese Airborne Battalion Fire M79 Grenade Launchers and Small Arms During Heavy Fighting
Viet Cong Attack On Saigon – January 31, 1968 – Troopers of the 8th Vietnamese Airborne Battalion fire M79 grenade launchers and small arms during heavy fighting with the Viet Cong in a cemetery one-half mile northeast of Saigon’s Tan Son Nhut airfield. Photo by Don Jellema. Donald D. Jellema, originally from Orange City, Iowa served in the U.S. Army from 1952 until 1976. Before going to Vietnam in 1967, he was stationed at Camp Breckenridge (KY), Ft. Sam Houston (TX), Munich, Germany, Ft. Lee (VA), and Chicago (IL) at 5th Army Headquarters. Jellema served in Korea between 1952 and 1953 in E Co., 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, where he took part in combat on Pork Chop Hill and in Operation SMACK. In Vietnam, Jellema served in Saigon as a platoon sergeant in HQ Co., 69th Signal Battalion and as a member of the Department of the Army Special Photographic Office Association (DASPO). After he left Vietnam in 1968, he served at the Pentagon, in Hawaii with DASPO-Pacific, and in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, as a recruiter. Jellema retired from the Army in 1976.
Vietnamese Child Sitting in the Cockpit of a Huey Helicopter
Local Vietnamese child sitting in the cockpit of a Huey helicopter. Perhaps being taught how to fly by Tom. Photo by Tom Everhart
Soldier Staying Low in a Rice Paddy
Soldier Staying Low in a Rice Paddy. Private First Class. Lacey Skinner of Birmingham, Ala., crawls alongside a rice paddy dike near An Thi, Vietnam while under fire from Viet Cong troops trying to repel an assault of the U.S. 1st Air Cavalry Division on Jan. 28, 1966. by Henri Huet
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