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IN History & Culture ON 13 Apr, 2016
The Vietnam War has been stored in our memories through a couple of photographs.
A big salute to the photographers who went against all odds, to capture the essence of the war. They even ventured into dangerous places for taking the pictures. While some of them worked for the National Liberation Front, the Vietnam News Agency, the North Vietnamese Army and different newspapers, almost all of them were self-taught. The effect of the war on the innocent, civilian life, resistance movements in the Mekong Delta, combat and troops on the Ho Chi Minh Trail were documented by the photographers.
Below are a few such rare iconic images of the Vietnam war. You can find collections of many unseen photographs and stories of the brave men who made them, in the book - 'Another Vietnam: Pictures of the War from the Other Side.
Activists used to meet each other in the Nam Can Forest by wearing masks for hiding their identities from each other in case of interrogation and capture. Forwarding photographs to the North from the mangrove swamps of the Mekong Delta was difficult. The photographer, Vo Anh Khanh said, "Sometimes the photos were lost or confiscated on the way."
Physical examinations of new recruits were done in Haiphong. The volunteer system of the North was transformed in 1973 to a mandatory system, when all able-bodied males were carried. By the mid-1970s, the NVA grew to half a million men from 35000 men in 1950. A U.S. military conceded this force as the finest in the world.
Standing as a guard in the Mekong Delta was a Viet Cong guerrilla. The photographer, Le Minh Truong said, "You could find women like her almost everywhere during the war. She was only 24 years old but, had been widowed twice. Both her husbands were soldiers, I saw her as the embodiment of the ideal guerrilla woman who had made great sacrifices for her country."
Paddling through a mangrove forest in the Mekong Delta which was defoliated by Agent Orange, is a guerrilla. The landscape was denuded with chemicals by the Americans for denying cover to the Viet Cong. Mangrove forests are regarded by the Vietnamese as dense areas for fishing and agriculture so, the photographer was sickened by whatever he saw.
Women pulling heavy fishing nets on the Mekong River's upper branch. This job was exclusively done by men but, was eventually taken over by women.
Seen in this image are militia members on the outskirts of Hanoi sorting through the debris of a downed US Navy Plane.
An outpost on the Vietnam-Cambodia border which is protected by poisoned punji stakes of bamboo, is guarded by guerrillas. Hardened, sharpened and hidden punji stakes were meant to wound the soldiers and not kill them as the entire unit slows down when one member is wounded!
Viet Cong and their enemies meet each other face-to-face, mostly in the Plain of Reeds or Mekong Delta. Both the sides are shown to be in combat in this image.
A militia company in Thanh Tri, used overhead targets for practicing firing ahead of aircraft that are speeding. Many U.S. aircrafts were crippled by the Vietnamese by using these antiquated WWII rifles.
Repair works of the bombed out Ham Rong Bridge in central North Vietnam is being discussed by the construction workers. The bridge was the only route for heavy machinery and trucks across the Ma River.
The troops are walking the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the Truong Son mountains. The trail stretches much along the western border of the country, forming the 750-mile long spine of Vietnam. The trail was known as the Truong Son Road by the soldiers of the North.
Laotian guerrillas pull supplies by the foot and elephant to NVA troops in southern Laos near Route 9. This was during the attempt of South Vietnam for the interdiction of the trail. The invasion proved to be disastrous with many troops running away in panic.
Danh Son Huol, an ethnic Cambodian guerrilla, who was a victim of the American bombing is being carried to an improvised operating room which was in a mangrove swamp on the Ca Mau Peninsula.
Seen in this image are NVA soldiers, during Operation Lam Son 719, dashing across open grounds in southern Laos near strategic Highway 9. The Operation proved to be a failed attempt by the South for cutting the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
The road is littered by the combat boots abandoned by ARVN soldiers. This is on the outskirts of Saigon. The soldiers shed their uniforms for hiding their status. As recalled by the photographer, Duong Thanh Phong, "I'll never forget the shoes and the loud 'thump, thump, thump' sound as we drove over them. Decades of war were over and we finally had peace."