The Vietnam War As Seen By Its Fearless Photographers

Published March 13, 2017
Updated October 29, 2019

While the quagmire may have technically ended some time ago, in many veterans' and war photographer's hearts, the Vietnam War rages on.

Op Oregon
1967: Operation "Oregon," a search and destroy mission conducted by infantry platoon of Troop B. Here an infantryman is lowered into a tunnel by members of the reconnaissance platoon.National Archives

Vietnam War AP Photographers Rainy Day
1965: In the jungle area of Ben Cat, U.S. paratroopers carry their weapons above water in the rain while they search for Viet Cong troops.

Photographer Henri Huet would later die in 1971, when the helicopter that he and three other photojournalists were in was shot down.
Henri Huet/Daily Mail

Jungle Mud
1968: Armed South Vietnamese marines slog through jungle mud, Mekong Delta, South Vietnam.Wilbur E Garrett/ Flickr/manhhai

Vietnam Paratroopers
1954: French paratroopers descend on Dien Bien Phu to provide reinforcements. Daniel Camus and Jean PĂ©raud/Daily Mail

Chopper Aircover
1965: U.S. Army helicopters lay down cover fire over South Vietnamese troops as they attack a Viet Cong camp north of Tay Ninh, near the Cambodian border.Horst Faas/Daily Mail

Con Thien
Combat at the Con Thien Base in 1968.Flickr/manhhai

Chopper Down
1966: U.S. Marines south of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) after a night of fighting North Vietnamese troops. The supply chopper seen in the picture was shot down.Henri Huet/Daily Mail

Vietnam Red Beach
1965: American soldiers arriving at Red Beach at Da Nang.Peter Gregg/Daily Mail

Vietnam War AP Photographers Burning Monk
Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc burns himself to death on a Saigon street to protest persecution of Buddhists by the Catholic South Vietnamese government. This was the first in a series of self-immolation by the monks.Malcolm Wilde Browne/Daily Mail

Vietnam War AP Photographers Grieving
A South Vietnamese woman grieves the loss of her deceased husband, who was discovered in a mass grave.Daily Mail

Wounded Warrior
A wounded paratrooper in agonizing pain awaits medical evacuation at the base camp of Shau Valley.Daily Mail

Bunker Sign
"Home is where you dig" was the sign over a fighting bunker, 1968.National Archives

Peace Symbol
1971: Near Camp Eagle, an aerial view of a peace symbol probably made by U.S. troops with a bulldozer. Daily Mail

Vietnam War AP Photographers Recovery
1966: The body of a U.S. soldier killed in battle near the Cambodian border is lifted up to an evacuation helicopter.Henri Huet/Daily Mail

Burning Base
1968: Private First Class Raymond Rumpa, St. Paul, Minnesota, with a 45 pound 90mm recoiless rifle. NATIONAL ARCHIVES/AFP/Getty Images

Carry Ammo
Picture released in 1972 by a North Vietnamese official agency with the caption: "Young women carry the ammunition to the front in Quang Tri province, south Vietnam." VAN BANG/AFP/Getty Images

Civilians Troops
1972: Lightly-wounded civilians and troops attempt to push their way aboard a South Vietnamese evacuation helicopter. AP photo/Flickr/judgerock

Company H
Marines of Company H walk through a punji-staked gully in 1966.National Archives

Vietnam War AP Photographers Village
1963: A Vietnamese mother pulls her two children away from their burning home which was set fire to by South Vietnamese soldiers, near Tay Ninh.Horst Faas/Daily Mail

Crouched Down
American soldiers taking cover. Flickr/Gerald Simmons

Datko Rest
1967: Soldier resting close on his position at the Hill 875 near Dakto, a few days after the North Vietnamese Army made a massive assault.CORR/AFP/Getty Images

Xmas Tree
Soldiers taking rest close to a small Christmas tree on their position at the Hill 875 near Dakto, few days after the North Vietnamese Army made a massive assault. CORR/AFP/Getty Images

Helicopter Evac
1965: American wounded soldiers of the special forces are evacuated by helicopter from a camp in Plei Me, south Vietnam. AFP/Getty Images

Close Up
1967: Close up of a U.S. soldier in Vietnam.Flickr/manhhai

Laos Border
1971: American helicopters land at Khe Sanh base on the Laos border after it was "reactivated" following a Vitecong offensive. AFP/Getty Images

Loading Canoes
1968: Marines load captured material into canoes in a jungle-covered delta on the Cai Lon River.Wilbur E. Garrett/ Flickr/manhhai

Christmas Bombings
Picture released in 1972 of Vietnamese people carrying victims of the American "Christmas bombings" on Hanoi and North Vietnam.AFP/Getty Images

Mail Call
1967: CPL. Jesse D. Hittson of Levelland, Texas, reaches for his mail at the U.S. Marine Con Thien outpost two miles south of the demilitarized zone in South Vietnam. AP Photo/Kim Ki Sam/Flickr/manhhai

Marines On Tank
1968: Marines riding atop an M-48 tank, covering their ears.National Archives

Op Yellowstone
1968: During "Operation Yellowstone" at the end of a hard day, a few members of Company A gather around a guitar and play a few songs.National Archives

Refugee Evacuation
1975: Inhabitants look at a US helicopter which was destroyed the day before the takeover of Saigon -- during the refugee evacuation. Pham Khac/AFP/Getty Images

Treating Wounds
1968: D.R. Howe treats the wounds of Private First Class D.A. Crum, "H" Company, 2nd Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment, During Operation Hue City in Vietnam. NATIONAL ARCHIVES/AFP/Getty Images

Vietnamese Forces
1966: North Vietnamese forces ready to fire during a military exercise in Bach Dang, near Hanoi. STF/AFP/Getty Images

Wounded Comrade
1969: Soldiers carry a wounded comrade through a swampy area.National Archives

Wounded Soldier
1968: A wounded South Vietnamese soldier is helped by his comrades in the destroyed cemetery of Da Nang, during an attack. STR/AFP/Getty Images

During the Vietnam War, the United States military gave the press a remarkable amount of freedom to enter combat zones. Photos from the front lines appeared in every newspaper; footage of the conflict unfurled on televisions across the country.

Photographers in a sense became soldiers as well, risking their lives to tell the stories of those risking their lives abroad, amid an increasingly unpopular war. They worked to preserve the war for the history books, to ensure that the sacrifices of the soldiers did not go unseen.

Fifty years later, this catalog of images provides a vivid, harrowing account of one of the most trying conflicts the U.S. has seen -- and more broadly, cuts straight to the heart of war, its stark horrors and its striking banalities. It gives viewers a deeper understanding of what the soldiers and photographers lived through - and what many of them will never be able to shake.

Next, look at the most powerful photos and enduring myths from World War II.

Erin Kelly
An All That's Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she's designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.
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Kelly, Erin. "The Vietnam War As Seen By Its Fearless Photographers.", March 13, 2017, Accessed June 16, 2024.