The Vietnam War is one of the bloodiest, most controversial wars in U.S history. To stop the rapid spread of the Soviet Union?s political influence and communism, the U.S primarily waged this as a proxy war. It led to the deaths of 2.5 to 3.5 million Vietnamese and 60,000 Americans, and it destroyed Vietnam. It went on for 20 agonizing years, from 1955 to 1975.
Also called the Second Indochina War, it divided Vietnam into two factions. The north was supported by the Soviet Union and other communist allies, while the south was supported by anti-communist America, Philippines, Thailand, and others. The latter conceded defeat after the simultaneous risings of the Laotian and the Cambodian Civil War, which signaled the reign of communism in these three states. Here is a closer look at what happened during those times.
Intervention From The Montagnard
South Vietnam had formidable allies, but they also had deadly foes. It is why the U.S army sought the much-needed intervention of local minority groups. The perfect candidate was the Montagnard, or ?People of the Mountain? in French.
The photo shown above is of an American officer talking to a Vietnamese civilian, and it is proof of their successful attempt of seeking out another ally. This group dwelled in the highlands of Central Vietnam and served as a great friend to the anti-communist movement. The U.S Army reinforced this ethnic group?s strength by training them to be well-versed in unconventional warfare tactics.
Probably one of the most amazing photos from this post is the image shown above, which depicts a face-to-face encounter between the well-camouflaged South Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong soldiers in the middle of rice fields in the Mekong Delta region.
The dense vegetation of the Mekong Delta helped the anti-communist group move incognito.
The City of Thanh Tri
The Viet Cong Guerillas had less war gear than their South Vietnamese counterparts, but despite their outdated weaponry, the group compensated their lack of technologically relevant equipment with cunning tactics and unexpected strategies. They gave the U.S Military a hard time.
In this photo, soldiers train and practice their gun shooting skills in the city of Thanh Tri. A few days after they took this photo, the Viet Cong Guerillas attacked this very city and killed 25 soldiers along the way. They also killed innocent civilians and took every weapon in sight, while burning important establishments to hinder progress.
Dog Of Duty
The puppy shown in this photo is not a real military dog, but it captured a heartwarming moment between a worn-down U.S Soldier and an innocent newborn pup. This photo’s beauty is in its innocence. The slaughter the eyes of these men have seen is washed away by the purity of the puppy's eyes. Love is part of every life form, and that will never cease to exist, even during a war.
It is amazing to see the love in the eyes of these men, who exist in such harsh environments. Huge tanks in the background, combat soldiers who have killed numerous enemies and their weary eyes are elements that do not usually mix with the tender presence of a puppy. However, the soft smiles of these soldiers appear to be some sort of relief, that despite what humans can do to protect and progress their ideologies and theories, kindness will never cease to exist.
Two Nations At Arms
An image of a U.S helicopter called "Eagle Flight" is advancing in the rice fields to assist the South Vietnamese soldier, as they make their way through the tricky terrain. They took this photo on December 1964, at the Mekong Delta battlefield.
The seemingly impenetrable Viet Cong were formidable foes in tricky terrains like these. Rice fields were one of their most common setting, in which lethal ambushes and blood-soaked battles took place. The rough terrain of the Mekong Delta put the communist group at an advantage against the U.S Military, as they were not well versed when it came to combat in these harsh and peculiar conditions.
Chivalry Is Not Dead
It was pretty evident that the Vietnam War was overwhelming for the elderly and the weak. It required vast amounts of survival skills, resiliency, efficiency, and physical strength, and that is something an old woman from the province would not usually have. Just like the one in this photo, a soldier decided to carry her, as her body did not allow her to keep up with fast-paced U.S Patrols.
This photo was taken in February 1970. It shows a Lance Corporal U.S soldier hailing from Portsmouth, Ohio, who decided to go out of his way and carry the senior. She was barefoot and dressed in traditional Vietnamese clothing.
Search And Destroy: Viet Cong Guerilla
For the U.S Army to counter the Viet Cong guerilla and win the Vietnam War, they devised a strategy, officially called the ‘Search and Destroy’. Soldiers would patrol the wilderness in search of guerillas, which they called "Charlie."
As shown in the photo above, this was a special mission that required camouflage and unconventional uniforms — comprised of members who were efficient in dealing with landmines and booby traps installed by the Viet Cong. One of the biggest dilemmas of ‘Search and Destroy’ was that it was hard to separate the Viet Cong from the others, since they disguised as ordinary villagers.
The Destruction Of Red Beach
It was the year 1965, when reports about the communist groups receiving better ammunition, supplies, and soldiers broke out. This information urged the U.S to considerably increase their level of military support for the South Vietnamese Army, in order for them to have a fighting chance.
It was a presidential decree made by President Lyndon Johnson. To top off the increase in artillery, soldiers and supplies, the U.S authorized two Marine Battalions to dock in Red Beach. Primarily, the president sent them to protect the Da Nang Air Base. It was then that the situation quickly turned into combat versus the Viet Cong guerilla fighters and the North Vietnamese Army.
Bird's Eye View
In war, good vision is everything. This is why choppers proved to be exceedingly valuable during the Vietnam War. They proved to be a central part of military tactics, with The Bell UH-1 Iroquois, a.k.a. Huey, spotting enemy coordinates in the field ahead and providing ground troops with an exact location.
Here you can see the plan in action, as the ground troops move slowly into an offensive position. They prepare for a tactical advance towards the enemy with the help of Huey, as they receive directives on their enemy's location. This tactic saved hundreds, if not thousands, of U.S army troops.
Public Execution In Saigon
When public killings were still a thing and signified a stable government, a photographer took a photo of a captive Northern communist named Nguyen Van Lem as he is lead through the streets of Saigon by the South Vietnamese Army.
In his long walk towards the executioner, he is hatefully humiliated by the crowd. In a few moments, he will be shot in the temple by General Nguyen Loan, who was the chief of national police at the time. This photo would go on to become an iconic symbol of the Vietnam War.
The Great A-1 Sky-raider
Here is a photo of the A-1 Skyraider that was used by the U.S Military during the Korean War a decade later, and it was deployed again for the Vietnam War as part of the operations in North Vietnam.
In the photo shown above, the A-1 Skyraider is seen in action as it drops two 500 lbs Napalm bombs on a pocket of Viet Cong troops. The U.S troops lent the remaining Skyraiders for the South Vietnamese Airforce to use in battle. It was a single-seat, powerful aircraft that could pulverize cities in a matter of minutes.
Makeshift Operating Rooms
This photo represents how medical attention works during wartime. Doctors and nurses are required to make do with whatever resources are available to them. Most of the time, there are no proper setups in order for surgeries to be performed quickly and patients to heal fast. It was time for talented medics to show their skills and knowledge.
As depicted above, a U.S military bombing victim lies on a stretcher as it is lead through water and into the makeshift operating room. These medics had no choice but to build it on a mangrove, located in the middle of Ca Mau Peninsula. Yes, the bacteria-infested water and the humidity of the air provides unsanitary conditions to the gravely wounded, but during the war, nobody gets the VIP treatment.
The Vietnamese Marines
Marine troops of the South Vietnamese Army were the ones to experience the most significant casualties, as they were at the forefront of the battles. With the highly-skilled tactics of the Northern Vietnamese Army and the guerilla fighters combined, the south was barely holding on.
Shown from the photo above is a heavily injured Marine guarded by his comrade, as they hide amid the vast sugar cane plantations. Reportedly, 250,000 of these men met their demise at the hands of the communist army. When the U.S and Australia pulled out of the war in the year 1973, the remaining troops were left to protect and fend for their own, with very little equipment.
Destruction From The Sky
The photo above shows a strategic execution of the South Vietnamese Army troops to win the combat against the Viet Cong. The tactic here was to overwhelm enemy forces through a massive sky attack. This plan would give way for the South to progress, as the heavily armed Viet Cong held their positions on top of trees, taking cover.
The U.S Army helicopters rendered the Viet Cong enemies helpless, allowing the South Vietnamese Army troops to advance through the field and reach the tree line, where they could easily target enemies. It all happened in March of 1965, in the northwest of Saigon, and it was a victory for the South Vietnamese troops.
The Brave Masked Activist Of The Mekong Delta Mangroves
The image shown above is a rare photo taken during the Vietnam War. Female activists are walking barefoot and balancing on a dead tree trunk somewhere in the middle of the Mekong Delta Mangroves, towards the Nam Can Forest.
It was a highly-secretive meeting that tackled sensitive war issues, so they wore masks to protect each other. One of the reasons why they meet in the mangroves is that it was a place that was difficult to reach.
The Iconic Dumbo Drop
It is not a surprise that animals provide great aide to human living, and it was most evident during the Vietnam War. Both parties (the north and south of Vietnam) utilized these animals for jobs that humans and machines were not capable of doing. One particular animal that helped them traverse rivers and carry extremely heavy ammunition and supplies, were the magnificent elephants.
In a strategic operation named "Operation Bathroom," the U.S Army Special Forces dropped two elephants to help a South Vietnamese village survive. It was such an iconic event that there was a movie adaptation, entitled "Operation Dumbo Drop."
To provide much-needed distraction and entertainment to the war-torn soldiers, the government would invite U.S military troops to concerts and other events by local performers. It was an effort to help these soldiers deal with the loss of their comrades and friends, and the many other atrocities of war.
As the U.S soldiers mingled with Vietnamese locals during these occasions, most of them started intimate relationships with Vietnamese women and went on to father children. Unfortunately, as some died in the war, and the U.S government sent the others back to their country, these American/Vietnamese children never had the chance to meet their fathers.
When Two Ideologies Collide
As seen in the photo above, this is what happens when two equally strong forces collide. There was a big fight going on in this photo. While the U.S military tactics included a massive amount of their aerial bombardment attacks, the North Vietnamese Army commanded an air force from the Soviet Union, along with some Chinese planes.
All we can see here is the desolation of one country. There is a fire consuming everything in its wake, a used-to-be village now in ashes, and inhabitants that have either fled or met their demise at the hands of two opposing powers.
Pain Does Not Hinder Tough Men
Governments train their soldiers to be ruthless and powerful fighters that can withstand pain and trauma for extended hours. In this photo, a U.S soldier bandages an injured comrade who seemed rather unbothered by the painful procedure.
The Vietnam War called for highly-resilient men to rise against any adversity a war brings. Discomfort, pain and traumatizing sceneries are nothing but mere human emotions that shouldn't shake their will, at least until the war is over. The suppression of emotions among soldiers during the war takes a pricey toll the moment that everything ends.
This photo shows a beautiful act of kindness despite the atrocities that tore both parties apart. A U.S Marine giving a North Vietnamese prisoner a hearty helping of drinking water. While inhumane treatments with prisoners on both sides remained to be rampant, there were also moments when humanity prevailed.
The three prisoners shown in the image above were from the North Vietnamese Army. They were brought back the South Vietnamese base shortly after being captured from a U.S patrol. The white paper hanging from their necks are labels that contain the specs of when and where the troops captured them.
The Vietnam War destroyed the lives of countless families. Men took part in the war, leaving the women and children to survive on their own and stay out of the crossfires and bombings.
Here is a heartbreaking and rare photo of a fatherless family trying to survive, as they run away from a hot zone through a river. The anguish of the Vietnamese people did not end when the war was over; it went on for many years to come.
On The Verge Of Collapse
Wars can drain even the fittest of troops. Evident from the image above, a very fatigued soldier with a facial expression that is screaming for some downtime and sleep. The war did not just induce fear, blood-soaked encounters, and life-threatening trauma, it would also drive soldiers to the point of exhaustion.
No soldier will ever get used to the excruciating level of energy that battles require. From the sleepless nights, dehydration, heat, rough terrain to the seemingly unending movements, soldiers are sure to face unimaginable hardships.
Camaraderie In The Heart Of Chaos
As depicted in the photo above, a Marine Sergeant shows concern for an injured soldier. This photo vividly shows the anguish and destruction that the war brings, not only to civilians, but also to soldiers. Photographer Larry Burrows took this photo on October, 1966, in the south of Vietnam's demilitarized zone.
Jeremiah Purdie, the Sergeant who has a blood-stained bandage in the photo, was also severely injured, but seemed to be unstoppable in trying to assist his wounded comrades.
The Toxic Agent Orange
By this time, chemical warfare had been going on for years. The U.S had developed a hazardous poison made of Napalm which could be dated back to WWII. The U.S military sprayed a poisonous haze across the lands of Vietnam to hinder growth and diminish the enemy troops' health. They called the operation ‘Agent Orange’ - A substance that would destroy local people’s DNA for many generations to come.
Agent Orange was a herbicide; it just so happened that the U.S sprayed 19 million gallons of toxic chemicals across millions of acres in Vietnam.
Taking Cover For Survival
The photo depicts American soldiers as they take cover under the trenches. In order to survive the incoming bombings and firepower sent by enemy forces, these soldiers lie solidly flat on the ground and hold on tightly to their helmets.
One of the factors that hindered the advancement of the U.S Military, was the seemingly unlimited amounts of submachine guns, machine guns, RPGs, rockets, tank artillery and hand-grenades of the Vietnam People's Army and the Viet Cong. The Soviet Union and China are the superpowers that provided them with such generous amounts of firepower.
Zero Visibility, Body-Drenching Rain
Vietnam experiences the peak of monsoon season between August and October. It brought incessant rain, presenting a great inconvenience for soldiers, that led to varying complications caused by the dampness and extremely cold temperature. In this country, when it rains, it pours, and for soldiers to experience unending water on land can be quite terrifying.
This photo shows American soldiers filling their canteens with water from the leaves, as they stand under the Vietnamese body-drenching rain. With zero visibility, imagine how soldiers dealt with their daily patrols under these harsh conditions. The worry of unexpected combat as they paced through thick mud, wearing a soaked uniform for days is enough to drive anyone crazy.
No Place Like Home
In the midst of turmoil and the feeling of inevitable demise that most wars bring, soldiers learn to create their own comfort zone. It might be through different things, but most get lost in the pages of magazines. It seemed like they would do anything to find a way to transport them back to any resemblance of a normal life, where death and destruction was something they weren’t familiar with.
Some soldiers unwillingly had to bid adieu to their lovers back in their hometown, and some were very fed up with seeing nothing but communist enemies and fellow male soldiers. During wartime, it is essential to know how to entertain oneself, or insanity might come knocking.
Everyone knows about the hippie movement of the '60s; it supported anti-war sentiments, which encouraged peace protests throughout the country. It was one of the most influential movements against the government, after they sent the U.S Army to the jungles of Vietnam.
Here is a photo of a soldier wearing a necklace with a pendant that signifies peace. The U.S Army actively applied a compulsory draft during the Vietnam War, which resulted in many pacifists who frowned on the concept of war being sucked into a nightmarish situation.
The Intimidating Vietnamese Terrain
Vietnam is home to 430 different species of mammals, and 800 different types of reptiles/amphibians. With lethal snakes, insects, massive elephants, and ruthless Indochinese tigers lurking around every corner, danger seemed to stay be everywhere.
Imagine the level of resiliency the U.S troops needed to have while they were crossing the dark waters of the Mekong Delta, as shown above. With a high chance of encountering potentially dangerous animals, or worse, fearsome guerillas, these soldiers already had one foot in the ground.
The Children Are The Future
With the Vietnam War leaving nothing but death and destruction in its wake, both the Northern and Southern parts of the country were rendered useless. War doesn't end with whoever wins. It continues until the very last establishment has been rebuilt and the memories are forgotten. Traumas ran rampant among Vietnamese people, as their cities were destroyed, buildings turned to rubble, villages abandoned, and fatalities multiplied.
Take a look at Vietnam today, and know that the two little-orphaned girls photographed above contributed to rebuilding their nation to what it is now. Observers would see a simple photo of two girls smiling inside a moving bus, but what most individuals do not know is that this bus is taking them to a Children's Village. There they will receive five to seven years of education and will be sent back to Vietnam to help the country restore its glory.
All Hearts Mourn
The Vietnam War was a reality that no one asked for; it was a distortion of what the world wanted. People kept losing important individuals and comrades on a daily basis. It brought a pain that no one could get used to, no matter how frequently it happened. The image shown above is an obvious depiction of mourning soldiers.
In the battlefield, profound and powerful bonds create friendships that can last a lifetime. These soldiers forged their relationships in blood, sweat, and tears. Losing each other would sometimes overwhelm these soldiers to the point of insanity.
Seized Viet Cong Guerilla Member
In the year 1965, the North Vietnamese Army, as well as the Viet Cong guerilla group, snowballed as an influential force amongst the local villages. They were able to replenish their equipment and supplies and recruit more men quickly. This feat placed them at an advantage against the South Vietnamese Troops. Upon hearing these reports, the U.S increased its lent forces and aid for the anti-communist army to have a fair chance against their pro-communist counterparts.
The image above is that of a battalion commander of the South Vietnamese Army, Captain Thach Quyen, as he grabs a Viet Cong prisoner during an interrogation on Tanh Dinh Island.
This photo shows a U.S Marine working together with a South Vietnamese Army comrade as they search for weapons tucked away by the enemy. The photographer took this photo in Xuan Thieu village, on March 11, 1970. It was also the time when the U.S was reaching out to North Vietnam for a peace talk, but it never happened.
As the Northern forces were reportedly gaining territory ground in Cambodia, Nixon decided to go through an incursion into the country, only to bring shocking news to the U.S.
The Stunning Racquel Welch
Racquel Welch and Bob Hope flew all across the world and into Vietnam to entertain the U.S troops. As we mentioned earlier, the Government organized these kinds of events to help soldiers deal with the rough living conditions and constant fights.
From what one can see in the photo above, Racquel Welch vibrantly dances, as the legendary Bob Hope performs on stage. Ms. Welch instills joy in the hearts of these men as she busts a move among military men.
The Deceased Children Of Vietnam
The atrocities of war always result in the deaths of men, women, and children. Statistics show that there were 84,000 child fatalities in the span of the Vietnam War. They are the demographic who suffered the most, as a result of deadly chemical weapons, on top of combat and bombardments.
Children were left alone to survive, as many parents were killed or fighting in the war. They had no place to go, since schools were burned down and destroyed. While most chose to stay hidden, some children joined the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army as soldiers.
Soldiers Leaving Their Uniforms Behind
The only means of winning a war is by surviving it. Shown above are abandoned army uniforms from the South Vietnamese Army soldiers, in an attempt to conceal their identity. The moment they received reports of a quickly approaching enemy towards the outskirts of Saigon, the soldiers left behind a massive quantity of boots and army gear in the middle of the road and ran for their lives.
There is a saying that goes "A real winner knows when to fight their battles," and what the South Vietnamese Army Soldiers did here was a perfect example of that. Who knows what might have happened if they got imprisoned by the infamously brutal North Vietnamese Army?
Protecting An Injured Civilian
Here is a hard look at what went down during those times: death, destruction, and turmoil. The rising smoke behind shows that there is an ongoing combat. The two seemingly worried people walking behind seem to be evacuating, which shows how wars destroy innocent lives. But probably the most potent image of them all is of a Vietnamese soldier carefully grasping a rifle, crouched towards a bloody, injured female civilian.
Resilience and worry flood the soldier's eyes as the woman anguishes through the pain. The Vietnam War brought the stench of death, and it reached every corner of the world, as it devoured innocent lives in search of power. At times like these, we expect so much from our soldiers without thinking about the fear they experience as they answer to their call of duty. Militiamen have to be present and risk their lives in the forefront of war while they protect civilians from danger.
Soldier Finds Viet Cong Hideout
This eerie photo shows a South Vietnamese soldier in a cemetery, pointing to a Viet Cong hideout place to his fellow comrades. What an ironic setting for an ensuing battle; a cemetery that would just keep getting bigger.
The only thing more terrifying than a cramped cemetery is the idea of Viet Cong guerilla fighters hiding out behind the tombs.
Two Women Get Ready for Battle
It is a well-known fact that Vietnamese women were incredibly brave and courageous during the Vietnam War. There were countless women that volunteered to fight in the army (whether it was for the People's Army in North Vietnam, the Viet Cong, or the anti-communist army from South Vietnam). Photographed below are two young women rice farmers loading up their gun, getting ready to defend their village from the U.S. army.
The village they were defending was called Hoa Lok, located in Thanh Hoa province, in the north of Vietnam. The photo was taken on September 1967, and the two women were later awarded the Feat Order of the third stage for their courage. The Feat Order is an award given by the Government of Vietnam to"exceptionally outstanding feats, brave, wise, creative in excellently fulfilled assigned tasks in combat service".
The Fall of South Vietnam
An epic photograph that captured a pivotal moment in history. A tank is driven by the North Vietnamese Army as it rolls through the gate of the presidential Independence Palace in Saigon, celebrating the fall of South Vietnam. It was 11:30 am when President Dương Văn Minh, who had just taken over the role two days before, surrendered to NVA Colonel, Bùi Tín.
The date was April 30th, 1975, and after 20 years of carnage and devastating war atrocities, the communists won and the country was seized by North Vietnamese troops. The NVA captured many other buildings and facilities as they entered and took over the city of Saigon.
The Weaponizing of Women
Vietnamese women played a big part in the Vietnam War. Captured on August 25th, 1965, this photograph shows a young woman soldier suspected of being part of the Viet Cong army being questioned by the South Vietnamese army. Judging by the look on the woman's face, she knew the fate that awaited her.
It is estimated that over 11,000 women fought in the war, most of whom were volunteers. Even though most of the women in South Vietnam would work as nurses or government clerks, there were many that fought in the trenches and faced the same hellish conditions the men did.
Although the exact number of orphaned children is still unknown, it is reported that over 3,000 children were left orphaned and homeless. This photo is a heartbreaking portrait of one of the worst consequences of war: the repercussions on children. These three young, north Vietnamese children are left to fend for themselves in the early 1970s.
It is devastating to see these kids' expressions - confusion, unimaginable sadness, and exhaustion. The worst part was, the war wouldn't be over for another 5 years, and the number of orphaned children would just keep rising.
A Moment of Contemplation
One can only imagine what was going through this soldier's head at the moment this picture was taken. The photo is part of a collection of photographs of U.S. soldiers taken by Charlie Haughey. Haughey was a retired cabinet maker that was drafted to the army in 1967 and was asked by his superior to document the war. There was a catch, though. The photos were not to show moments of combat, but rather 'normal', encouraging portraits of the unit, that would paint American soldiers in a different, more humane light. The photo below is one of many haunting images that Haughey took to show that his brothers in arms were strong, hard-working, honest people that were dealing with nightmarish situations and very trying conditions in a foreign country.
These photos weren't discovered until 2012 after Haughey's neighbor convinced him that the negatives had to be seen by the world. And so, after lying in a shoebox for 45 years, more than 2,000 photographs shed new light over the infamous Vietnam War.
The Fine Line Between Violence and Innocence
Another photograph from the Haughey collection, the image shows two soldiers with a pet monkey, giving us a glimpse into what soldiers used to encounter on the battlefields. The whole scenario seems surreal at first; two soldiers, a gun, and a monkey on a leash. But it actually depicts a unique moment that reminds us how there is a very fine line between violence and innocence, as we can see the unarmed expression on one of the soldier's faces, and the way he just looks at the animal with kind eyes.
One thing to remember is that, at the end of the day, most of these soldiers weren't over the age of 21, so these were still innocent, naive young men caught in the middle of a violent nightmare.
Taking As Much As Possible
Below, we see a photo of South Vietnamese civilians carrying as much stock as they can after sacking the Newport commissary once it was closed down after Americans knew of the impending evacuation that was to follow the fall of South Vietnam, and the end of the war, in 1975.
The first U.S. military commissary opened in Saigon in 1959, and by the early 60s, more branches started to open around Vietnam, mainly in and around Saigon. These commissaries served as supply shops for American army men and their families living in base housing, and they usually carried all the top American brand names they were accustomed to.
The Loss of Innocence
A harsh image to process, the photo below captures a moment in 1967 when two Viet Cong child fighters help each other light their cigarettes, as they hold their guns. As many guerilla groups often do, the Viet Cong enlisted hundreds of children to fight in the war, especially after North Vietnam suffered such horrible losses and started to run out of adult soldiers to recruit. Many of these children were drafted against their will, and others joined because their father was already a Viet Cong fighter or they genuinely believed in the cause from a very young age.
It would be hard to find a more accurate depiction of the loss of innocence. Once recruited, these boys would lose any chance at a normal childhood, along with the purity and innocence that came with it.
Preparing for Battle
Vietnam has a tropical climate, consisting mostly of hills and dense forests, which meant it provided soldiers with infinite ways and places to camouflage in, but its extreme weather conditions also made it extremely difficult for soldiers to move around sometimes. This photo shows a rife platoon as it prepares for battle in a Vietnamese field.
The tall grass provides these soldiers with a natural hiding place, but it would also make it very difficult for them to see their targets from afar since they would also get lost amongst the leaves.
South Vietnamese Resistance
The Americans weren't the only ones fighting the communist North of Vietnam. In fact, before the U.S. even got involved, the war had already started between the South Vietnamese Army and communist North Vietnam. The photo below shows marching soldiers of the South Vietnamese Resistance.
Even though this is a fairly common photo of soldiers on duty, there is something haunting about the expressions on these soldiers' faces; a mix of bravery and willingness to fight, and the look of fear and exhaustion on the last two soldiers in the back of the line.
The Booby Traps
Because of its dense jungles and leafy terrains, Vietnam was the perfect place to set up booby traps. They could be easily covered in seconds. This heartbreaking photo shows a soldier getting help from a comrade after being severely injured after landing in a phosphorous booby trap.
There were several types of booby traps, but phosphorus ones were one of the most dangerous since phosphorus is a highly reactive chemical element that could explode in a matter of seconds.
A Machine Gunner and a Boy
This captivating photo, taken in 1965, depicts Nguyen Toi, a militant machine gunner having a conversation with a 14-year-old boy in a village in Quang Binh Province, located along the north-central coast of Vietnam. The machine gunner was in charge of protecting the Northern province from U.S. planes, and this boy, named Truong Huong, was the one that provided him with a steady supply of ammunition.
If it weren't for the massive machine gun, this would almost be an endearing photo, showing the friendship between a man and a boy, as they have a nice conversation on a field. In fact, when Toi was awarded a Medal of Merit by the Vietnamese National Assembly, the boy received several mentions for the vital role he played in the victory.
Anti-war Protests in the U.S.
This photo shows one of many anti-war protests that happened all across the U.S. in the 60s. There many people that were fervently against the Vietnam War and a lot of those people were Americans that couldn't understand, much less support, the idea of why the U.S. had to get involved in the first place. Even though the anti-war movement began with small gatherings by peace activists and students, it swept the nation in 1965, after the U.S. started incessantly bombing North Vietnam.
From 1965 to 1968, the number of anti-war protests was on a steady rise, reaching its peak in 1968 when the Tet Offensive by North Vietnamese soldiers showed the world that the war wasn't going to end anytime soon, and the toll it had taken was already far too high.
A Gathering of Soldiers of the ARVN
Since its creation in 1955 to the fall of Saigon in 1975, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) were the ground troops of the South Vietnamese army. The photograph below shows a gathering of soldiers of the ARVN in April of 1967. There is something beautiful about this image; it shows that despite facing terrible atrocities every day during battle, at the end of the day, these were just ordinary men that enjoyed being amongst friends.
Even though it is probable they were discussing an attack strategy or topics about the war in general, some of these men look quite happy and entertained. Sadly, it is estimated that the ARVN suffered over 1,394,000 casualties during the war.
A creepy photograph of a human skull keeping watch over a camp of American soldiers deep within in the Vietnam jungle. The expression on this particular soldier's face is one of indifference, almost as if he has become unphased by the atrocities of war, including not being bothered by having a human skull perched next to him.
Some soldiers believed a human skull served as a silent guardian to watch over the troops, inciting fear on any enemy armies that tried to approach.
Once the communist North Vietnamese army took over Saigon and marked the end of a 20-year war, there were millions of Vietnamese citizens that were left homeless. Photographed below is the hold of a ship crowded with refugees in the central Vietnamese city of Da Nang, in 1975.
Many South Vietnamese refugees escaped to the United States in search of a new life, and fleeing government persecution back in Vietnam. As one can clearly see in the photo, Vietnamese refugees had to endure terrible conditions as they were forced to leave their homes and survive a long journey to a foreign land.
The Power of Humanity
This beautiful photograph captures the moment when Staff Sergeant Edgar D. Bledsoe comforts a critically-ill baby in his arms. The sergeant can't hold his endearment towards the child, looking at it with such innocence and kindness.
The image is part of the collection of photos taken by Charles Haughey, a Vietnam War veteran that was assigned the job of battalion photographer. Haughey was tasked with keeping the camera out of the battlefield since the purpose of these photos was to boost the soldiers' morale.
Running Towards Shelter
Below, two U.S. soldiers help their injured comrades get to safety. One can see that the two injured soldiers were already badly wounded. As sad as this photograph is, since we can only imagine the pain and fear these injured men were in, not to mention their friends' desperation to get them safely back to base, there is something very beautiful about the brotherhood between these four men.
The photograph encompasses the unique and unbreakable bond that forms between soldiers after facing and overcoming the nightmares of war together. During the course of the Vietnam War, over 58,200 American soldiers would lose their lives.
A Woman Pleads for Mercy
One of the most gut-wrenching photographs on this list, the image below shows a Vietnamese woman by the name of Cong-Hoa begging an American soldier to spare her son's life, who was arrested after being mistaken for a Viet Cong militant. There were many cases of wrongfully arrested civilians that were suspected of belonging to the savage Viet Cong army.
The look on this woman's face is just devastating; a mother's worst nightmare. As if the war itself wasn't enough to contend with, she also had to plead for her son's life, as an American soldier walks around with a gun, just waiting for a chance to use it.
Refugees Flee Saigon
After the fall of Saigon in 1975, the number of Vietnamese refugees was astounding, and the number just kept growing, reaching over 1.6 million. The photo below depicts desperate refugees helping each other disembark from a barge as they flee Saigon.
This was a harsh reality that Vietnamese people were forced to deal with in the aftermath of such an atrocious war. In the photo, we can see the tired, worn-out faces of women, children and men alike. No one was spared.
Running for Cover
Shot in the 1960s, this photo captures a group of South Vietnamese soldiers under enemy fire, as they run to safety. Again, we see the vast nature that surrounded these troops and realize how easy it was for enemies to launch a surprise attack.
Between the booby traps on the ground and the dense forest trees to camouflage in, these soldiers never saw an attack coming.
The End of the World
In what has become one of the most chilling and heartbreaking photos from the Vietnam War, we see an elderly woman sitting in a pile of ruble, in her village of Phuc Loc. The woman is desperately weeping after her entire village was bombed by Americans on April 16th, 1972.
This photograph speaks for itself; the expression of absolute despair and hopelessness on this woman's face says more than all the words in the world. Like countless others, all this woman ever knew was destroyed in a heartbeat.