Exhausted to the point of collapse by four days of fighting in the southern tip of Vietnam, the strewn men look more like corpses than soldiers. A widow crouches distraught over the remains of the husband she identified from his teeth. And a young paratrooper sports a helmet that says it all.
They are images that bear testimony not only to the gruelling barbarity of the Vietnam War but also its chronicling by press photographers whose work in the front lines of the south east Asian jungle made the conflict the “last newspaper war”.
With the age of satellites and video film still in the offing, the Vietnam conflict was brought home to the outside world – and in particular America – through the printed images captured by photographers brave enough to get close to the battlefield and its aftermath.
Among the most captivating and remembered images were those taken by photographers working for the Associated Press news agency, which has now republished more than 300 pictures in a book – Vietnam: The Real War – to mark the 50th anniversary of the start of the conflict.
Pete Hamill, who reported the war, said: “As a young reporter, I had learned much from the photographers about how to see, not merely look. From Vietnam, photographers taught the world how to see the war.”