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June 29, 2017

These Candid Photographs Taken by Servicemen Show How Young U.S Soldiers Saw Life in Wartime Vietnam

The photographs are almost banal.

In contrast to most images of a war that still reverberates decades later, they show soldiers lazing, showing off their squalid jungle living quarters, discovering the charm of the Vietnamese children they encounter, reveling in a rare ocean swim. There is nothing remotely as chilling as much of the classic Vietnam War photography, no shots like Nick Ut’s of a naked Vietnamese girl fleeing from a napalm bombing or Eddie Adams’s shot of a Saigon police chief firing a bullet into the head of a Viet Cong prisoner.

Yet these photographs were taken not by professionals but by young grunts barely out of high school. Grinning wide-eyed at this strange land where they had been sent, often against their will, in circumstances they did not fully understand, with little foreboding of what might be in store, their photographs of ordinary wartime days have a special poignancy.

A U.S.O. performance at Fire Base Rawlings. Tay Ninh Province, Vietnam. November 1969. (David Fahey)

Larry Diesburg taking a smoking break after filling sandbags near Binh Long, Vietnam. (Larry Diesburg)

A Vietnamese boy’s daily work, along highway QL-19 near An Khe Pass. (James Alan Jenkins)

Light at night used to detect Viet Cong activity during the Tet offensive. Ninh Hoa, Vietnam. 1968. (Gene Bailey)

The Quang Tri River seen from a Huey helicopter. Vietnam. (Richard Lynghaug)

Batting practice. Landing Zone Bayonet, near Chu Lai, Vietnam. (Jay Arthurs)

A Viet Cong prisoner held for interrogation at Landing Zone Stinson. Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam. (Jay Arthurs)

Marvin De Witt with two puppies. Special Forces camp, Tay Ninh, Vietnam. (Hadley Rome)

Mortar battalion. Cambodia. May 1970. (David Fahey)

Inside Cambodia, near the Memot District. May 1970. (David Fahey)

Heading-home hug. An Ninh, Ninh Thuan Province, Vietnam. (Steve Maddox)

Joe Kempt, at Fire Support Base Wood 3. Near Tay Ninh, Vietnam. (Bill Noyes)

The photographer’s helmet, with two bullet holes. Fire Base L.Z. Stinson, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam. (Merle Elliott)

A wounded Kit Carson Scout, waiting for a helicopter medical evacuation. Vietnam. 1969. (Richard Lynghaug)

The pilots. From left, Capt. Tom Boatman, 1st Lt. John Morrissey, Capt. Charlie Copin, Capt. Matt Kelch, 1st Lt. Sam Waters, Capt. Ray Moss, 1st Lt. Frank Tullo, Maj. Bill Hosmer. The photo was taken two hours before takeoff for the first mission of Rolling Thunder. Korat Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand. March 2, 1965. (John Morrissey)

Bob Hope, U.S.O. Christmas show. 4258th Heavy Bombardment Wing, Utapao Royal Thai Naval Air Station, Thailand. December 1969. (Greg Foye)

“My home while on L.Z. Stinson Fire Base.” Company B, 52nd Infantry, 198th Light Infantry Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division. Vietnam. 1970-71. (Gerald W. Lewis)

After filling sandbags for bunkers at a base camp by the South China Sea near Ninh Hoa, Vietnam. 1968. (Gene Bailey)

Coke kid and the photographer’s platoon leader, Lieutenant Timor, with his radio telephone operator. Vietnam. February 1969. (Bill Noyes)

Michael Patrick Eltrich in trees in the mountains west of L.Z. Stinson. June 11, 1970. (Michael Patrick Eltrich)

Men whom the photographer was stationed with at Phu Bai, taken on his last night at Fort Lewis. August 1968. (Jim Fox)

A Vietnamese man with marigolds. Qui Nhon, Vietnam. (James Alan Jenkins)

Taken while on a mission, with Black Virgin Mountain in view on the left. Cambodia. (Richard Bergan)

Gene Bailey swimming in the South China Sea, near Ninh Hoa, Vietnam. 1968. (Gene Bailey)

At Marble Mountain Air Compound. Vietnam. 1970. (Dennis High)

Brian Mowatt and his sentry dog, Prince, running the exercise course at the Army sentry dog kennels. Nha Trang, Vietnam. (Michael Olson)

A Viet Cong couple, blindfolded. Vietnam. (Fred Gibbs)

After the gunships were called in. Northern I-Corps, Vietnam. 1969. (Richard Lynghaug)

(via The New York Times)


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