April 21, 2011 2:13 PM   Subscribe

Captured: A Look Back at the Vietnam War on the 35th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon. (The following photo collection contains some graphic violence and depictions of dead bodies.)
posted by docgonzo (17 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Oddly, some of the most emotive images here for me don't feature smoke, blood or bodies. The aerial view of the cratered, pockmarked earth and the pile of spent artillery cartridges really give a sense of scale to this war. These are all great photos.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 2:33 PM on April 21, 2011

Those craters were the most striking thing for me whenever I flew over the jungle in a helicopter. We bombed the hell out of that place, and we still lost.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:08 PM on April 21, 2011

Good god, that face.
posted by koeselitz at 3:41 PM on April 21, 2011

We bombed the hell out of that place, and we still lost.

No, they lost. They lost 3 million people and suffered more than could ever be understood by a single person

There's a quote engraved in the wall in the War Remnants Museum in Saigon, above the photos and stories of human beings, people's children, who spend their lives strapped down like animals to stop them from destroying themselves and the deformed, grotesque fetuses preserved in formaldehyde - all thanks to agent orange, and the endless photos of green jungle turned to moon craters:

"To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." - Robert H. Jackson, chief prosecutor, Nuremberg Tribunal
posted by crayz at 3:46 PM on April 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

"Be proud of fighting for freedom and world peace!"

Oh American war machine, you so crazy.
posted by yifes at 3:57 PM on April 21, 2011


My father was a pilot - a Forward Air Controller - in Da Nang in 1967-1968. He didn't just fly, but was also heavily involved in on the ground intelligence...development.

As the youngest son, it was my job to serve as his therapist. He'd drink - and drink a lot - and then the stories would come. I heard everything, ad nauseum. Always the same stories, always the same details. Stories no kid should hear, burdens that are unconscionable to lay on one's own children. But I bore them stoically, hoping that some day he'd find peace. By the time I was old enough to go to college or join the military, I pretty much knew I really didn't want or need to see war up close and live. It's not so much the horror of war, as it is the degradation of one's own self. Dad used to joke that he was "going to go down to the Post Office and suck dicks until he got his self respect back".

That's war. It steals your soul.

When I was nine years old, I came home one afternoon and nobody was home. I turned on the TV, and the news was broadcasting the now iconic images of people fleeing the Saigon embassy by helicopter. Pushing the helicopters off the carrier decks to make room. I made a promise to myself to remember the day. April 30. It had been going on my whole life, and the TV made it a part of me.

For some people the war will never end. The hell unleashed in Viet Nam reverberates to this day. Because of that, I thought we'd never fool ourselves so easily again. I am not sorry that Americans care and want to do something to help. I am sorry that we can fuck things up so badly, and for so long, like drunken, drug addled houseguests who go too far, too long.
posted by Xoebe at 4:45 PM on April 21, 2011 [14 favorites]

the most horrifying pictures in the set are the very comfortable, very clean, very wealthy and very guilty masters of fucking war.
posted by kitchenrat at 5:27 PM on April 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

You can still clearly see the bomb crater scars when you fly out of HCMC. Just a few minutes after leaving the airport you see stuff like this for miles. The first time I saw it I was astonished at how close it was to the city -- the U.S. and SVN govt had so little control over the area that they were carpet bombing their own back yard.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 6:26 PM on April 21, 2011

"It is well that war is so terrible. We should grow too fond of it." - Robert E. Lee during the Battle of Fredericksburg, 1862.
posted by coachfortner at 6:29 PM on April 21, 2011

It should be called A Look Back at the South Vietnamese/American Side of the Vietnam War. Over 140 photos and there's, what, one picture of somebody in the Vietcong? There's a whole different side to the story, starting with Ho Chi Minh declaring independence (and quoting Thomas Jefferson) on September 2, 1945.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:33 PM on April 21, 2011

Vietmam: With the Viet Cong from Life.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:44 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I spent three years dealing with soldiers returning from "Nam so hooked on drugs and alcohol we were strapping them down at night to keep the other patients on the ward safe from the withdrawal nightmares and hallucinations.

But, hey, PTSD isn't a big deal, we really don't have any responsibility to help out those old, homeless 'Nam vets... or the frigging thousands that are coming back from Iraq and Afganistan.
posted by tomswift at 4:00 AM on April 22, 2011

But, hey, PTSD isn't a big deal, we really don't have any responsibility to help out those old, homeless 'Nam vets... or the frigging thousands that are coming back from Iraq and Afganistan.

That's one lesson they did learn. They are spending millions trying to change the culture so those returning will seek out help. It is pretty amazing, actually. PTSD has been going on for milennia, but we are only now allowing ourselves to admit the personal cost of war on those lucky enough to return home.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:14 AM on April 22, 2011

I was alive but not cognizant during the Viet Nam war. These photos are so movingly tragic. Sadly, mankind will ever be thus.
posted by PepperMax at 7:34 AM on April 22, 2011

Seeing all those big red 1s gave me chills. My dad was in the 1st, drafted in 1963. Finished up weeks before his unit was sent over in 1965. I was born 1966.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:13 AM on April 22, 2011

Often forgotten, itt wasn't only the USA, 60,000 Australian troops were also involved. I Was Only Nineteen. Over 50 per cent of the Vietnam veterans children surveyed, suffered from many physical, psychological or psychiatric illnesses that were impacting on both their quality of life and their ability to work. The legacy of the Vietnam War; Fuck you Mr Menzies.
posted by adamvasco at 9:37 AM on April 22, 2011

Horst Faas was one badassed motherfucker.
posted by Jim Slade at 10:15 AM on April 22, 2011

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