Fred Waters: Second World War veteran who earned a Purple Heart and went on to take pictures in Korea and Vietnam


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The Independent Online

Fred Waters was a photographer for Associated Press who covered everything from the Korean and Vietnam wars to the construction of the Gateway Arch. Waters was born in Alabama in 1927. His family moved to Miami in the 1930s and he got a job as a clerk in the photographic lab of the Miami Herald.

He was 17 when he joined the Navy during the Second World War, earning a Purple Heart on Guam. He joined the Army after his stint in the Navy ended in 1946 and he was trained as a photographer, serving a tour in Japan and earning the name "Mizu-San," Japanese for "Mr Waters." He Waters was hired by AP in 1952 and remained in South-east Asia ,coveringconflicts that included the Korean War, the French-Indochina War and Vietnam. He was wounded in Korea, hurt in a helicopter crash in Laos and suffered an eye injury from a bamboo trap in South Vietnam.

During the French-Indochina War, Waters covered the fall of North Vietnam. He was one of the last three newsmen to leave Hanoi before it was overrun by the Vietminh in 1954. Under constant surveillance and forbidden to take pictures, Waters hung his camera around his neck and as he walked around, aimed his body and snapped his shutter. Once his film was smuggled out of the country it provided the first photographs from Hanoi under Vietminh rule.

Waters was transferred to St Louis in 1962 and worked there until he retired in 1987. His photographs chronicled the construction of the Gateway Arch, presidential visits, and games in the World Series and Stanley Cup finals. He travelled with Martin Luther King Jr and covered the upheaval after his assassination. In his autobiography, Mizu-San, published in 2011, Waters wrote, "Very few people can say that they accomplished their life's goal before they were 30 years old. That's what happened to me. It's been a good ride."

Frederick Waters, photographer: born Alabama 1927; married; died Gulf Breeze, Florida 4 December 2013.