Friday, November 12, 2004


For those of you who may be unfamiliar with these, I am posting four famous photos taken during the Vietnam war that polarized a country as never before, and which I think are a harrowing representation and a symbolism of the brutality, futility and heart-breaking devastation of war. All the journalists who took these photos won Pulitzer prizes for their portrayal. All the images depict the all-important role that the media can play during conflict. In the end, I think that words cannot do justice, and all we have to do is to see and never forget.

1. June 11, 1963, Saigon, South Vietnam. A Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc, immolates himself in protest against the atrocities which the South Vietnamese Government is perpetuating against religious monks. I was horrified to see the composure of the man walking behind him, who still seems to be searching for his cigarette lighter.

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2. February 1, 1968. A South Vietnamese police chief summarily executes a man suspected to have killed eight people. Another iconic image that helped sway public opinion in the US against the war. Journalist Eddie Adams took the picture.

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3. Kent State University, OH, May 4th, 1970. The National Guard, in their attempt to dispel an anti-war rally, open fire. Four students are killed. Mary Ann Vecchio, shattered, kneels over the body of Jeffrey Miller, one of the students just killed. Journalist John Filo who took the photo was a student at Kent State at the time. Ironically, one of the unfortunate students was not even participating in the protest, just observing.

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4. June 8th, 1972. Trang Bang, Vietnam. A napalm bomb was dropped by the US Air-Force on this village, suspected to be harbouring insurgent Viet-Cong guerillas. Napalm is an incendiary which consists of gasoline mixed with palm oil and aluminum powder. It's notorious for burning intensely, but slowly. This picture, probably the most enduring of the war, shows a little girl named Kim Phuc Phan Thi running naked on the road along with other children, away from the onslaught of the bombing. She had been severely burned. Photographer Nick Ut of the Associated Press took this photo, and also promptly took her to a hospital.
By 1997 Thi had forgiven the bomber pilot and was named a UNESCO goodwill ambassador.

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Blogger Sumedha said...

I recently read an article about the tracing of the 'Afghan girl'who was on the cover page of National Geographic many years ago, during the Soviet occupation.
Her eyes had seemed to express all the suffering and anger of the Afghans. The story of her life, as we know it today, is as sad as that of any other Afghan woman...

6:53 AM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

I remember the picture you are talking about. It was riveting to say the least.

7:28 AM  
Blogger Hirak said...

There was an interesting quiz conducted in which the current images of these people in famous photos were shown and the connection to be identified.
Shall see if I can come across the link. It had Kim Phuc Phan Thi and the NG Afghan woman. It seems that NG was deluged with requests for people wanting to know her name and address, because they wanted to marry her.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then why even write?

9:03 PM  
Blogger Anirudh Garg said...

You have a super informative blog.
I *have* to drop in often and check out what you have posted next.. Is it ok if I link you on my blog ?
You have interesting comments on the election too. If interested do drop in on my blog to see some cool election maps.

I do remember seeing the second and the last photograph in several places. I think it was in a Pulitzer Prize winning photographgs museum that I visited..
I remember the photo of the Afghani woman too, she was recently revisited by the NG crew too, to see how she has done through the years ..

2:24 PM  

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