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07-18-2009, 11:53 AM   #91
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Thanks a lot for keeping this up, Bob. The images you post and that your writing conveys are pretty much a priceless part of our modern human experience.

QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Langille Quote
He enlisted into the US Army Air Force and was a ground crew member for the B-17's that bombed Europe. Needless to say he was very willing to share technical details on most anything about his experiences. Like you, only fellow vets were within that inner circle of talking about those experiences. One thing that floored me was his recounting the shot up B-17's that amazingly managed to fly home.
My dad (87 and kicking!), flew B-17s with the US 306th BG and once flew back to Thurleigh (UK) with the tail so torn up, down to the frame, that he used the engine throttles to turn and bounced on landing. He's got photos of that one somewhere, and the mechanics got it back up in a week.

07-18-2009, 12:10 PM   #92
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Thanks for sharing this with us. I was in the Air Force in the '60's, but happily never stayed in SE Asia. My late father-in-law who landed on Omaha Beach and did the rest of the European campaign, including being captured during the Bulge, went to Vietnam as civilian doctor/eye surgeon. He was involved in setting up/running a clinic in the Mekong Delta that was destroyed during the Tet offensive (if I remember it right). He never talked about any of his experiences, but one time in the late '80's we spent an evening drinking and watching hours of 8mm movie film that he shot in 'Nam, including footage that he took from gunships.
You and everyone that served there have every right to be proud of what you did. It's a shame that every American can't walk along the wall at the Vietnam Memorial and take in the sacrifices that were made.
07-18-2009, 12:22 PM - 1 Like   #93
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A few comments about "Combat Action Shots"

I'll make my final post for today. An earlier poster had asked if I had any "Combat Action Shots?" After a little time to refelct more on that question, I've a few comments regarding that.
As I responded, I took a LOT of those, most of which I didn't bring home for reasons already stated. Additionally, that type of photograph was incredibly difficult to obtain for a number of reasons:

1. Getting "The Shot" in combat is more a function of luck than by design. I can guarantee you that for every "good action shot" in combat the photographer burned a "buttload" of film. Again, I did so; but most of it I didn't keep.
2. Most (not all) infantry combat in Vietnam was small unit action and definately not preplanned! In other wars and other places, there were very large scale battles that took place. Many of those lasted for days and weeks on end. With the exception of: The Battle of Ia Drang Valley, The Battle for Hue City, Hamburger Hill, The Tet Offensive of 68' (to name a few) were rare. Most infantry combat in Vietnam was a result of a carefully planned ambush by the enemy. Those engagements begin very suddenly and generally end as suddenly as they started.
3. An enemy ambush is generally characterized by three things: They are SUDDEN, They are VIOLENT, and they are DEADLY! This is compounded by the fact that at the moment of initiation it is NOISY and CONFUSING.
4. As a result of those factors (above) the first reactions are to seek cover and concealment and return as much firepower as possible. Because of this, the photographer is absolutely restricted in movement. It's not like you can get up and walk to a different position to get better lighting, composition, etc. You can shoot what's there at the moment and that's about it.
If you compare that to say the D Day Landings at Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge and others during WWII, the photographic potential is vastly different. Those battles took many hours, days and even weeks to conclude. Thus, the photographer did have at least some opportunity to shoot from different locations, different subjects, etc. That was generally not the case in the typical ambush situation in Vietnam.
Most of the really great combat (and award winning) shots made in Vietnam were the matter of "being in the right place, at the right time. Moreover, some of the best photographs made during the war were not actually "action shots", but truly great photographs that were taken during a "lull in the battle, helping the wounded being tended, etc. One of the very best shots I can recall was of a black soldier standing next to a group of dead & wounded lying at his feet. He's standing in a "stream of bright light" coming through the treetops with both arms extended upward. He's got a tired and pained expression on his face. If I recall, what he was actually doing was signaling to another soldier in the LZ that "choppers were inbound" and needed someone to bring them into the LZ. I can tell from the photo that it was probably taken at the "Command Post" where the battle (Hamburger Hill) took place. The CP is generally behind the area of main action where the Commander commands and directs his troops. It's also where the dead and wounded are taken for evacuation and is thus a place of relative safety on the battlefield.
I could go on about the photographic aspect of Combat Photography, but I'll stop here as this posting has already become rather long. The short story here is that Combat Photography (and photojournalism in general) undoubtedly requires shooting a LOT of film to get a single good one. If any of you are familiar with the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City you'll remember the photo of a fireman carrying a wounded child away from the scene. I'm sure that every photojournalist in Oklahoma was on the scene as quickly as possible, but that ONE shot dominates that event! The photographer (an amateur I think) just happened to be in the "right place at the right time." ....Nothing more, nothing less!
I'll post more later.
Thanks again to all of you who've shown such interest in this subject!
07-19-2009, 08:43 AM   #94
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More pix from Nam'

I've scanned a few more pictures for posting this morning.
Someone earlier had asked if I ever contacted any of the kids that I had pictures of. The answer to that unfortunately is no. I didn't keep any record of names. Besides that, contacting most of those people would have been extraordinarily difficult. Best I can recall, I don't think the rural areas of Vietnam even had a postal service at all.

In one of these pictures, our Interpreter is "checking the papers" of people we'd detained in a small fishing village along the coast. At that time in Vietnam EVERYONE had to have some form of I.D. The NVA and VietCong frequently had forged papers. On this recon missison, we got into a very short (but violent) firefight with some NVA who'd been "posing as fishermen" in this village. The battle ended about as quickly as it started as we had the few enemy vastly "outgunned".
Another picture in this series shows one of our guys "posing" for his picture beside a group of prisoners we'd taken in the same fishing village mentioned above.
In all of these pictures, you can easily see the technical difficulty we had to photograph under. At any given time, if you exposed for the face, or any other "mid-tone" area, the highlights would be totally blown away. It was almost impossible to cover the entire range from shadow to highlight without using "fill flash", which I don't recall ever doing. As you can easily see, the shadows are pretty much "plugged" and the highlights are "blown out" completely.
Finally, there's a picture of a woman holding her young child. This again was in the same fishing village. This photo (if you can see it clearly enough) is quite telling. If you look at the expression on the face of this woman, you can see a the fear, concern in her eyes. This was an expression I came to see thousands of times during my tour. As I'd mentioned in an earlier post, this was more common among adults than the children. Occasionally however, it could be seen on the faces of children as well.

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Last edited by hillerby; 07-19-2009 at 08:47 AM. Reason: I left out some information
07-19-2009, 08:52 AM   #95
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A final note about the most recent pictures here. You can easily see the technical difficulty under which we had to photograph. If you correctly exposed for the face or any other "mid-tone" areas, the highlights would be "totally blown out!" This made exposure a nightmare due to the extreme contrast range of the scenes. If you exposed for the highlights, then skin tones would be terribly underexposed. When we shot color, it was almost always Ektachrome, we rarely ever shot color neg film. As indicated by these photos, it was tough shooting at best!
07-19-2009, 08:58 AM   #96
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This really is an excellent read Bob. The posts can be as long as you wish. I keep returning and reviewing the past posts as well as the new additions. I'm glad and somewhat amazed you even returned from this event. It is so hard to fathom the conditions even with the great descriptions and all we've seen over the years describing the war.

You mentioned Aussies and Kiwi's. I know Canada didn't become officially involved but did send support and technical troops as well as volunteers. Ever meet any in your travels?
07-19-2009, 11:48 AM   #97
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These shots go to show that even if the image is "technically" out of whack (blown highlights), they can still be very strong and impactful.
07-21-2009, 10:18 AM   #98
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subscribed.......

07-21-2009, 12:12 PM   #99
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Nam' ... Shots from the field

These shots should illustrate the "untypical" day(s) in the life of a Combat Photographer. There were days that were routine and mundane and others that were "full of excitement" to say the least! In short, there was no "typical" day....every single one was different.
In one of these shots, I'm standing directly behind a 155 howitzer gun crew as they were firing a mission. We'd been sent "upcountry" near the DMZ to provide some photographic support for the Marines in the area. It turned out their firing mission was at some Elephants north of the DMZ. The NVA typically used elephants to move large, heavy equipment if trucks weren't available.
In the other shot, you see one soldier sitting on the ground and the other standing and motioning to someone out of frame. If I recall, we'd secured the LZ and all the troops had been deposited, so we were getting ready to move off the LZ and take a "little walk in the park". Later in the day, our "walk in the park" was disturbed when the lead squad walked into an ambush.
Finally, I have included a shot of a "MoPic" photographer. We'd been assigned to get some pictures (still & motion) at the Division Training Center. At that time in the 1st Cav, ALL new FNG's went there for (I think it was a week) of very intensive training on the Airmobile techniques that the 1st Cavalry Division had developed. At the time, the 1st Cavalry was the ONLY Airmobile division in the world. I included this shot simply to show that some of our assignments were of a rather routine nature, even though we were in a "field environment".
As a side note, I've not looked at ANY of these pictures for at least twelve or fifteen years, but as I look at each one, there seems to be a "lie" in there somewhere! Hell, it's been 40 years since I was there, but I can still remember some of the details about each shot.
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07-21-2009, 01:32 PM   #100
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Fascinating.
07-21-2009, 02:31 PM   #101
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Poor elephants! What did they ever do to us...and we take their ivory and tell them to haul our gear.
07-22-2009, 06:06 PM   #102
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I find this the most interesting thread in the forum! I guess I can relate to it on a minor scale. I am currently working at the Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan in a supporting role to Operation Enduring Freedom. My position does not allow me to leave the airfield so naturally I do not have the risk that Bob did, however we are kept on our toes by the frequent rocket attacks (sometimes daily) to remind us we are in a war zone. When I return soon for my 3 month tour I will be taking my camera to document my little adventure. So far I have taken approx 500 pics with my trusty point and shoot. I can relate to some of the things that Bob talks about and some of the things that we are not allowed to discuss. I will be keeping and eye on this thread.

Derek
07-23-2009, 06:12 AM   #103
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how often did the NVA use elephants? did you ever get to spend a lot of time with montagnard people? if so, what was your impression of them and their position in the war?
07-24-2009, 06:26 AM   #104
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Just checkin' in this morning, I'll try and get a few more pictures up this weekend. I noticed that when I went to the "Forums" and down to our little thread here, there were some "yellow stars" in there.... anybody know what that means and who put them there? Just curious.
07-24-2009, 07:22 AM   #105
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There is a thread rating system and this one has five stars. Your thread has obtained the highest marks...well deserved. Thank you for continuing to share your experiences.
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