Health Editor’s Note: Just when you think you have seen all the photos there are to see about the Vietnam War, you can be overwhelmingly and pleasantly surprised. Even though these photos represent intense turmoil, emotion, and often great sadness and anguish, they are so important to our continual understanding of this unjust conflict that took so many and is still taking with Agent Orange related diseases and other illnesses and injuries received while serving in Vietnam. We Shot the War Oversees Weekly (OW) in Vietnam, edited by Lisa Nguyen, is wonderful collection of images taken during the Vietnam War. Many of these photos are being seen for the first time. Photos are taken by both professional photographers and soldiers in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and other places. This book also contains personal essays by OW’s photographers. I share the story of this counter-military publication and also many photos. So many photos and so little space. If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself, here is some information about the publication: Hoover Institution Press, $49.95 US/$66.95 Canada/ We Shot the War/Stanford University/ISBN: 978-0-8179-2164-4 (more of my note below.)
I offer a bit of background into why and how these photos have appeared in this publication to tug at our hearts and minds. Overseas Weekly (OW) was an important publication that began in the 1950s and covered the Vietnam war from the view point of those servicemen who found themselves in Vietnam. OW published articles that were distinctly not on the military’s agenda. Their controversial subjects earned OW the title of “Oversexed Weekly” which insured that it would have a loyal following of readers. The publication’s choice of stories to tell got it banned from military post exchanges. The ban was lifted after several U.S. congressmen, the Hearst Corporation, and the ACLU got involved. The OW became a juxtaposition to the Stars and Stripes which was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Defense.
In the 1960s, during the time of the escalation of the war, Marion von Rospach received control of OW in a divorce and covered the war from the bureau located in Saigon in the Pacific edition. The editor that she chose to run this bureau was a Texan, Ann Bryan, who acted a photographer, writer, editor, public relations specialist, circulation manager, copy boy, just generally a one-woman show. The Pacific edition ran stories on issues that were common in Vietnam (and back in the U.S. for that matter): the black market, war profiteering, media censorship, racial friction, integration, and drug abuse as well a the more mundane human-interest stories and sports. OW again ran into being banning from the PX newsstand, but this ban was met with a yearlong legal battle with OW enjoying a victory. Operations were expanded and reporters and photographers were hired to give the public a view of the Vietnam War as the soldiers saw it.
The photos in this book demonstrate the Vietnam War between the years of 1966 and 1972 and show episodes of boredom broken up with intense war scenes….just like you were there with the guys whose photographs will remind you that they were/are all someone’s son and were meant to come home and live the “normal” life. For some being in Vietnam was like being on a long camping trip with friends, a trip that he did not want to come back to the U.S. from, for others everyday was terrifying as one thought it might be his last day on earth, waiting for a bullet or a exploding mine to stop life, remove limbs, kill a friend, etc. The wounded were taken away, to never be heard from again. Not every soldier in Vietnam had warm meals, clean water (often laced with dioxin from Agent Orange use and abuse), a place to sleep, safe or not, got to see those USO shows that you will see in this book, medical treatment for malaria, etc. Your friends/compatriots in Vietnam became your family and you would feel closer to many of them than you did to your own family members. They were your family. Some did not want to come back to the U.S.
Enjoy these photos of kids on a camping trip in a foreign country where they did not belong…..Carol