Power of the press (don't open if squemish)

Started by klondike, December 25, 2021, 10:09:18 PM

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I get a weekly email feed from Quora with a bunch of questions and answers. A moderately eclectic mix but within some subject areas I chose. Clicking an answer takes you to more questions and that's how I came across this.

Remember this picture from the Vietnam War? I'm guessing you do because it is a powerful image. But apparently things are not as they seem.

This photo is one of the most famous photographs of the Vietnam War, and it seems to have a clear message.

It's hard not to feel shock and disgust and guilt when you watch a soldier (General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan) shoot a defenseless civilian (Nguyễn Văn Lém) and when you know you are looking at the exact moment of death. Ballistics experts say the picture shows the microsecond the bullet entered the man's head. Considered one of the most influential images of the Vietnam War, the photo was reprinted around the world because it symbolized for many the brutality and anarchy and futility of the war. It also sparked the growing anti-war sentiment in the US.

In reality, however, nothing on the photo is as it seems. The civilian wasn't a civilian. Lém was a captain in the Viet Cong Army and he was caught red-handed leading a Viet Cong hit team tasked with killing National Police members or, if they couldn't find any, their families instead.

On the morning of that day, Lém's death squad had just killed 34 people – and they may have been looking for Loan himself.

General Loan shot and killed Lém for having caused the massacre. Apart from several police officers, the Viet Cong had cut the throats of a South Vietnamese lieutenant colonel, his wife, their six children and his 80-year-old mother; after that, he had taken off his uniform and wanted to run away in civilian clothes. It was day 10 of the Tet Offensive when the Viet Cong had overrun many South Vietnamese towns.

Legally, Lém was in a bad position. He wasn't wearing a uniform, he wasn't fighting a battle, and he had evidently committed a major war crime. As a war criminal and terrorist, Lém had effectively no protection under the Geneva Conventions and was eligible for summary execution when caught.

General Loan was the Godfather of the murdered children, by the way.

The photographer Eddie Adams later regretted having released the photo because it had caused big trouble for General Loan. In his opinion, the photo had been misinterpreted. In an interview he said: "Everyone would have pulled the trigger at that point."

Adams and Loan stayed in touch and even became friends after the general, who had had a leg amputated from an injury, fled South Vietnam for the United States at the end of the war. But after his arrival, the Americans wanted to deport him again because of the photo. They turned to Adams to testify against Loan, but Adams testified in his favor instead. Adams even appeared on TV to explain the circumstances of the photo. Congress eventually overturned the deportation and allowed Loan to stay and opened a burger restaurant in suburban Washington, DC. He died of cancer in 1998.


Fascinating insight. Thanks K..
The image that's always lived with me from the Vietnam war is of a naked child, a girl of about 9, terrified,, filthy and weeping running down a dirt road away from the napalm bombs exploding in the mid-distance behind her..An awful sight.


Yes I remember that one well too. One of the few American military adventures we didn't join. It's a huge pity the ones following 911 took place at all.


Quote from: klondike on December 26, 2021, 12:53:02 AM
Yes I remember that one well too. One of the few American military adventures we didn't join. It's a huge pity the ones following 911 took place at all.

A whole other conversation methinks..


I know I was agin before because I remebered the disaster of Vietnam but at the time I felt I was in a minority. These days just about everybody wil say they were agin at the the time. I guess most, me included, don't like to think they were ever wrong on anything and memory turns minor qualms, which surely everyone must have had, into opposition in recall. I'm pretty much certain that wasn't the case with me.

I mentioned everybody having at least minor qualms because surely...
The measures against Afghanistan, which I didn't particilarly oppose, were not going well.
George W. Bush
Iraq clearly had nothing at all to do with Al Quaeda


First time I've seen the picture, gave me the shakes. :shocked: I vaguely remember people talking about the Vietnam War but don't really know anything about it.

Michael Rolls

saw the picture at the time, but it wasn't accompanied by klondikeke's information.
Thank you for the days, the days you gave me
[email protected]


It wasn't common knowledge at the time. First I knew of it was when I read an article recently and posted about it here.


yes a picture tells a thousand words, but that one obviously tells a thousand lies, at the time it was published as an officer dispatching a civilian... the gutter press once more telling lies whether they knew it or not... thanx for that K.


Very interesting..
I remember a black and white shot of an American crossing a river .. one of his arms is extended above his head and he is holding a baby in his hand .. In the other extended arm he is holding a rifle above his head..
I hope I remembered rightly..
Don't ask me.. I know nuffink..