Vietnam War casualtiesEstimates of casualties of the Vietnam War vary widely. Estimates include both civilian and military deaths in North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The war persisted from 1955 to 1975 and most of the fighting took place in South Vietnam; accordingly it suffered the most casualties. The war also spilled over into the neighboring countries of Cambodia and Laos which also endured casualties from aerial and ground fighting. Civilian deaths caused by both sides amounted to a significant percentage of total deaths. Civilian deaths were partly caused by assassinations, massacres and terror tactics. Civilian deaths were also caused by mortar and artillery, extensive aerial bombing and the use of firepower in military operations conducted in heavily populated areas. Some 365,000 Vietnamese civilians are estimated by one source to have died as a result of the war during the period of American involvement.
After I photographed the Democratic Convention in Chicago, which was very turbulent and contested, I wanted to photograph the future President. I worked for a little cooperative French agency, Gamma, which we had created a few years earlier. I arrived from Miami on the press plane that accompanied the candidate. We were positioned at a little airport in Sioux City. It was the morning. It was windy. Nixon left the plane.
I almost did not make the photo — the man with the flag and Nixon on top of the aircraft stairs. It was too much.
It was Larry Burrows who had to teach me how to load my first Leica M3; I got it as a perk having just had this image run as a vertical double truck in a 5-page spread in LIFE in the fall of ’65.
At the same time that Hello Dolly opened at Nha Trang airbase, a company of 173rd Airborne had walked into an ambush in Viet Cong base zone, known as the Iron Triangle. The sign had read “American who read this die.”
A class of prime youth shredded in seconds.
The dust-offs started coming within 30 minutes. I got a ride back to Ton San Nhut and was downtown in Room 401 of the Caravelle in another 30. Mostly, I remember carrying a badly wounded grunt whose leg came off and he almost bled out. The shot was made one-handed as we carried him out of the fire cone.