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September 6, 2017

U.S. Marines in Vietnam, 1965: 30 Amazing Color Photographs That Capture the Human Side of the Vietnam War

In March 1965, 3,500 U.S. Marines landed in South Vietnam. By year’s end, there were 200,000 of them. When LIFE dispatched Associate Editor Michael Mok and Photographer Paul Schutzer to spend six weeks with them, the two men found the Marines mired in a world of ambiguity: They were at once dispatching lives and saving them, hailed as heroes and decried as villains.

The scenes the men captured, in images and words, reflect a world in which bullets and bandages were doled out in equal measure. The Marines carried out their missions, killing and capturing Viet Cong soldiers, but they also undertook a broader mission to win the hearts and minds of the people whose world they occupied. Treating the Vietnamese with dignity was as much a matter of human decency as it was a strategy to win the war: To acquire crucial intelligence from villagers, the Marines needed first to earn their trust.

The images are not those that portray scenes of battle and warfare, but those that capture the humanity of people embroiled in a situation not of their own making.

(Photos: Paul Schutzer—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)


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