I often think about this iconic, Pulitzer prize winning photo.
Associated Press photographer Eddie Adams was on the streets of Saigon on February 1, 1968, two days after the forces of the People’s Army of Vietnam and the Viet Cong set off the Tet offensive and swarmed into dozens of South Vietnamese cities. As Adams photographed the turmoil, he came upon Brigadier General Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the national police, standing alongside Nguyen Van Lem, the captain of a North Vietnamese unit who had just killed the family of one of Loan’s friends.
Loan pulled out his .38 special revolver and shot Lem in the head in the middle of the street.
A clear war crime.
It should be noted that Lém was in civilian clothes and was alleged to have just cut the throats of South Vietnamese Lt Col Nguyen Tuan, his wife, their six children and the officer’s 80-year-old mother.
Interesting Eddie Adams, stayed in contact with Loan after the war. Loan moved to America and opened a restaurant and eventually died of cancer at age 67.
After his death, Adams praised him: “The guy was a hero. America should be crying. I just hate to see him go this way, without people knowing anything about him.”
Eddie Adams wrote a eulogy to Loan in Time magazine
I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths. What the photograph didn’t say was, “What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American soldiers?
I wonder what I would have done… its quite possible that could have been me. And that worries me.