February 1st, 2009 Headsman
Around noon of February 1, 1968, in the opening days of the communist Tet Offensive, South Vietnamese General Nguyen Ngoc Loan summarily executed a Viet Cong prisoner on the streets of Saigon — and photographer Eddie Adams captured perhaps the war’s most unforgettable image.
An American cameraman also captured it in on celluloid. Caution: This clip shows … well, a man being shot in the head at point-blank range.
The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera … photographs do lie, even without manipulation.
For Adams, the lie was the omission of context — that the plainclothes Lem had allegedly just been caught having murdered not only South Vietnamese police but their civilian family members; that Loan was a good officer and not a cold-blooded killer.
But of course, the shot gained its deeper resonance from the growing disgust with the Vietnam War … and from its concise tableau of a century’s brutality. Here is a frozen image of Orwell’s boot stamping on a human face, forever.
Like any great work of art, Adams’ serendipitous photograph took on a life of its own … and a tapestry of meanings richer than its creator could ever have intended.
On this day..
- 1832: Three Nottingham rioters, for better governance - 2017
- 1871: John Hanlon, guilty but framed - 2016
- 1612: Bishop Conor O'Devany and Father Patrick O'Loughran - 2015
- 1947: Henry Rinnan, Norwegian collaborator - 2014
- 1816: Four sodomite sailors of the Africaine - 2013
- 2002: Daniel Pearl - 2012
- 1931: Severino Di Giovanni, anarchist - 2011
- 1924: Alikomiak and Tatimagana, Inuit - 2010
- 1932: Farabundo Marti - 2008
Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Borderline "Executions",Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Guerrillas,History,Martyrs,No Formal Charge,Notable Participants,Occupation and Colonialism,Popular Culture,Public Executions,Revolutionaries,Scandal,Shot,Soldiers,Summary Executions,USA,Vietnam,Wartime Executions
Tags: 1960s, 1968, battle of saigon, capitalism, communism, eddie adams, imperialism, journalism, nationalism, nguyen ngoc loan, nguyen van lem, photography, photojournalism, pulitzer prize, tet offensive, vietnam war