The Vietnam War is sometimes referred to as the 'last newspaper war' - there were TV news reporters there, but their cameras weren't as discreet and portable as 35mm stills cameras and we didn't yet have rolling news coverage. The conflict's iconic images were seen in print, and iconic they were. Many of them are immediately recognisable even if you never saw them on the day that they were published. The Associated Press had over 50 photographers posted to Vietnam, four of whom won Pulitzer prizes for their coverage. Their images documented the war from positions of unequalled battlefront access and today, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the conflict, 300 of their images are being published in a new book: Vietnam: The Real War.
Fifty years on, even after seeing them so many times, these images never fail to shock, horrify, or give you cause to reflect. The collection includes Malcolm Brown's photo of a Buddhist monk self-immolating on a Saigon street in 1963. It was this image, supposedly, that prompted President John F. Kennedy to say: 'We’ve got to do something about that regime.' And there's Nick Ut's photo of a scorched, naked girl fleeing a napalm attack, the veracity of which President Richard Nixon allegedly questioned. Showing the impact of the war on civilians, soldiers, and rebels, the book is a testimony to the power of conflict reporting.
The book's introduction is by Pete Hammill, who reported from Vietnam in 1965. 'Across the years of the war in Vietnam, the AP photographers saw more combat than any general,' he says. 'This book shows how good they were. As a young reporter, I had learned much from photographers about how to see, not merely look. From Vietnam, photographers taught the world how to see the war.'
Vietnam: The Real War is available to buy from Amazon for £24.99