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07-10-2009, 03:57 PM   #46

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absolutely amazing information Bob! I am very happy that you are proud of what you did. you should be. my father was spit on in Hawaii upon his return, and was a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. he never really talked much about his experience (so you can imagine I am more than excited to hear yours) but he always seemed very proud of what he did. and I admire that. helicopter crew members had to wear the leather 'jump boots' (im sure you know) and he still wears those very same boots to this day. I really do enjoy reading everything you share, and I look forward to more. especially photos.

would you happen to have the name of any publications that feature your work?

07-10-2009, 05:32 PM   #47

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I just got onto this thread...fascinating. Keep up the stories Bob. Along with a number of other makes ...I have a Leica 11F Rangefinder. It's a 1952 model, I bought it used around ' perfectly, I use a hand held Sekonic light meter.

Only have the 50 mm lens...Leica glass is expensive ++.

As you say the Leica Rangefinder takes excellent photos. I'm not surprised they are used for military service. Mine is built like a Tank and has lasted almost 60 years...I've had it about half that time and never needed to have it worked on.

I think that it's hard to beat a Leica Rangefinder when it comes to fast and accurate manual focus.

Bob...did you mostly use B/W film....did you have to push it ? You may have answered these questions previously.

What lenses were typically issued for the Leica and the Pentaxes ?
07-10-2009, 05:41 PM   #48

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I had a buddy who was from North Carolina and was a Medic in the US Army during Vietnam.

I don't know if he carried a weapon (ie: pistol, etc.) but I think he didn't carry a weapon...hands full fixing up soldiers. But I could be wrong.

I recall him telling me that once while flying over the jungle in a helicopter with an open door...he was looking out over the jungle. He saw a puff of smoke from the jungle...heard a whizz...then realized a bullet was lodged...near his helmeted head . Some real close encounters for him, even though he had a Red Cross/ white background emblem on his helmet.

With military photographers...were you usually assigned some protection, as during the action I would assume you could be pretty vulnerable while clicking away ?

Any close calls ?

Looking at one of your looks like part of your kit may have included a pistol.
07-10-2009, 06:15 PM   #49
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Hillerby thanks so much for your service to this nation.

You really have an incredible story to tell. I think it is not just time you get credit for images you took but time you start getting paid for them as well when they are published. I think a publisher would be very interested in your story. You have a unique view on the war. You were a soldier not a journalist.

The color slides can easily be color corrected thanks to the digital age.

I can not imagine this thread ever loosing interest for people.

Again Thanks.

07-10-2009, 07:27 PM   #50
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I love how this thread is all about the pictures and the process behind them, as well as the memories. Very refreshing to see this in the sea of "ZOMG look at the noise in this dark -5 EV underexposed test shot of the corner of my room".
07-10-2009, 09:37 PM   #51
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Thanks for sharing, wonderful read and great photos
07-10-2009, 11:24 PM   #52
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Subscribed! Love to see pics from Nam, thanks Bob.
07-11-2009, 07:23 AM   #53
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QuoteOriginally posted by séamuis Quote
my father was spit on in Hawaii upon his return
Séamuis, that happened to a lot of people, not just the ones coming back to the world from Vietnam. Happened to me in the Atlanta airport when I was on leave heading home from an aviation school in Memphis. If you were in uniform, you were a target for some jackass.

Bob, it's good you didn't have that REMF attitude (if you don't know, don't ask ) and were willing to stand to when the grunts needed a hand. I too would love to know some of the places your photos could be found. Ever consider a book of your own?


07-11-2009, 09:11 AM   #54
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More responses from "Killerby" the photographer!!!

I've enough time this morning to post a few quick comments and responses, so I'll take the time to do wo now.
First off, my nickname was "Killerby"... kind of a dark take off on my last name "Hillerby".

One of the posters above, mentioned the Leica glass (expensive). I'll just say that in my opinion Leica glass was vastly superior to anything manufactured at that time! You could see a visible superiority from 35mm slide or prints laid side by side next to Nikon or Canon...anything else. It really was THAT GOOD! In fact a little known bit of trivia is that for a number or years journalists shooting in the White House were only allowed to shoot w/Leicas. SLR's were considered too obtrusive and noisy.
The same poster also asked about film. In the field, we mostly shot B/W Tri X and we frequently had to instruct the "Lab Rats" to Push Process it by a couple of stops. This usually pissed em' off, but in their defense, they didn't understand the difficulty under which we worked.
As to lenses, the Pentax kits included 50mm standard lens, 35mm wide angle, and a zoom lens that went up to 135mm (I don't remember the specifics on the zoom as I didn't use it much. The Leica came with 35mm, 50 mm, and 135mm Fixed Focal Length lenses. If I recall, they were all the summilux (not sure), I just recall they were the "higher quality" glass made by Leica at the time.
One of you mentioned you had a friend who was a Medic who commented he didn't carry a weapon. This would be unusual,although not unheard of. Medics and photographers were considered "non-combatants" then and were normally issued 45 cal. Colt pistols. I did run across a few who had declared themselves "CO's" (concientious objectors) and thus, declined to carry. In our recon unit B 1/9th Cav, our Medic (like me) carried both a 45 and a rifle.
Someone asked if we (photographers) were assigned any protection. I thought this an excellent question as there are some who believe this was the case. The answer is NO! We were just like any other solder and we relied on ourselves for personal protection. One must understand however, that on the battlefield, you fight for your survival and that of your buddies. There's a bond that develops between men in that environment that CANNOT BE MATCHED anywhere else! That's why you hear and read about some guy throwing himself on a grenade (which WILL kill you)...they care more about protecting their brothers than their own survival. Soldiers CARE about one another ... NO ONE ELSE! Soldiers don't fight for "mother, home, apple pie, or the flag"... they fight for EACH OTHER'S SURVIVAL!
CLOSE CALLS: Yeah, Like any other soldier, I had a few. For some reason the one that stands out in my mind is when we were caught too close to a "Command Denotated Device" and the skinnly little bastard that set it off waited till we were close enough to be injured. I was laying in an open field between two other photographers (each less than an arms reach away). When the shell went off it singed all the hair off my face (eyebrows, and several days of beard stubble). The guys on both sides of me got pieces of shrapnel in their arms. No serious wounds, other than some rather profuse bleeding, but they "continued to march" after being bandaged by our medic.
Someone mentioned that I should get credit for my photos and payment from anyone who published the pictures. We knew going in, that all photos we took were property of the US Army and we'd get nothing other than our basic pay and hazardous duty pay. I didn't have a problem with it then, and still don't. That was my job and I was expected to "earn my pay". As a matter of fact, we were cautioned (with the threat of Court Martial) against selling or distributing any of our pictures to anyone. Some of the stuff I sent home, my dad entered in various photo contests and I won some of them. If I recall, I got some kind of certificate or something, but I don't know what ever happened to those.
Someone made a comment about .... "being in uniform you were always a target for some jackass!" When I got back stateside, I was stationed at Ft. Sheridan, Ill (just north of Chicago). Most of the guys in my unit were recent returnees from Vietnam. You wouldn't believe the number of bar fights we got into (and sucessfully finished). Just going somewhere in uniform could sometimes ignite a situation. For that reason, were were'nt supposed to be off base in uniform unless it was a dress uniform.
I most certainly never had a REMF attitude (see if you can google that one). I never considered myself a REMF even though we did get back to rear areas with a good deal of regularity. We (Combat Photographers) felt more closely associatied with the soldiers in the field than we did with our own "Lab Rats" back at base. My cot back at Division was right next to one of the "Lab Rats", a great guy named Fred Delaney. I spent the better part of a year right next to him when we were back there, but I was much closer to a guy who was on my photo team than I was to him. Fred and I had a lot more in common than I had with most of the guys on my team. Fred and I were both married at the time we went into the Army, the photographers were nearly all single guys and a few years younger. Those of us that went to the field regularly just developed a much closer relationship.
I wish I could tell you where my photos appear, but I really have no idea. I can tell you that I've been in Barnes & Noble, Waldenbooks, and others and picked up books about the Vietnam War and seen my pictures in them. As I mentioned earlier, they always are credited: US Army Photograph, but I remember the images that I took when I see them! It's something you don't really forget. One of the MOST FAMOUS (and most highly published) photograph of the Vietnam War is a picture with a Huey about 8-12 ft off the top of a hill (in the An Lao Valley). In the shot, there are 3 or 4 guys "riding the skids" and another caught in mid-air as he jumped. A truly GREAT Shot! I was in position, in focus, and ready to shoot when another photographer jumped directly IN FRONT of me. He got the shot, and I got one shortly afterwards. PISSED ME OFF big time! Even though he seriously outranked me I let him know in no uncertain terms that sort of behaviour was unprofessional and unethical and if it EVER happened again, they'd be sending his sorry ass back to his momma in a plastic bag. He didn't argue with me, but he damned sure stayed away from me for the duration of the operation. He's gotten a lot of credit for that picture because it's been so widely circulated. To his credit, however, he knew there was a shot to be had and he got it. I guess I hesitated a split second too long!
One of you asked if I'd ever considered a book of my own. Not until this thread started! I'm now thinking perhaps I should do so. My wife and I own a small printing company and I'm considering self-publishing a book. This would probably be more for my own edification than anything else, but I would like to have something like that for my sons and grandchildren. That would be a HUGE undertaking, and I'm not sure I've got the time available to do it.
I may ask my oldest son if he'd help me with it. He's an excellent writer and superb interviewer, so he could do a good job with it. MAYBE I'll do that one day.
Bob HIllerby
Combat Photographer
B 1/9th Cav, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile)
RVN 1966-1969
07-11-2009, 09:26 AM   #55

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I would just like to make it clear right now, that I want a copy of any book you may eventually put together Bob.
07-11-2009, 10:04 AM   #56

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Keep on writing. Did you ever get a Leica for yourself when you got back to the States ? What about personal camera equipment and taking pictures once you got back to civilization ? Did you keep on taking pictures or was life back home too busy ?

I was the guy who asked many of the questions...I'm always fascinated by social history and you relate your experiences well.

I'm a Canadian and I believe (not sure) that Canadian Army Photogs also used Leica. As mentioned previously I have an almost 60 year old Leica Rangefinder that still works well...of all the different cameras I've got (Pentax, Mamiya, Canon, Olympus , Zeiss- Ikon Super Ikonta, etc.) I have to say there is no other camera that comes close to the build quality of that old Leica Rangefinder.

Interesting story you related about the telephoto lens that fell into the rice paddy and a coule of weeks later had lots of mold / fungus on it.

I would imagine the Vietnam climate was very hot and humid...must of played havoc with your equipment and film....

07-11-2009, 10:59 AM   #57
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Subscribed! Thanks for letting us in on your experience, Bob. I never could carry a rifle and camera at the same time and shoot straight with either.
07-11-2009, 02:09 PM   #58
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A few pix from Nam'

I'll post a few pix here and answer questions and comments later. I'll keep this up as long as there is any interest.

1 Zoo Bridge: This is a shot I took at the Saigon Zoo. This would probably have been shot w/Miranda G and a 135mm Soligor lens. The original slide is much better than seen here. I used to have a 16x20 print of this that was incredibly sharp and clear.
2. Interpreter: This shot may have also been made w/Miranda. The man pictured was a Vietnamese soldier attached to our unit as an interpreter. Kids were much more likely to open up and give us information than the adults.
3. Questioning Villagers: This shot clearly shows the affinity the average soldier had for the indigenous Vietnamese. Hell, we didn't hate them, we just wanted to help them. You can see from the expression, that this guy wasn't trying to intimidate anyone....just let them know we were there to help them.
4. This picture is a shot of our Platoon Sgt. and the interpreter trying to get information from the local villagers. In all of the photos above (except the Bridge), we were on a recon mission trying to locate and NVA staging area (which we later found when we were ambushed) Taken in the area around Bong Song.
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07-11-2009, 03:05 PM   #59
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Welcome Hillerby and thank you for your service. Please keep sharing.
07-11-2009, 03:34 PM   #60
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There's only one shot in your previous post, Hillerby, instead of four. It looks nice, by the way.
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