17 Vietnam War Photographs That Were Never Shown In History Class
The Vietnam War remains to this day, the most divisive conflict in which the United States was ever involved. It’s estimated that over 100.000 US soldiers died in it, but the number of civilian casualties and North Vietnamese forces killed combined totals well over one million deaths with some estimates going over 3 times that number.
Over 20 years of combat, roughly between 1955 and 1975 left astonishing images captured by brave men who endured terrible conditions and risked their lives to tell us show us what it was like in Vietnam when it all went down:
Many Vietnamese women fought in the war, mostly on the communist side. Here we can see two who were captured. They seem quite young and unable to cope with what lies ahead. One grabs her forehead in lament while the other looks down. They have been “tagged for identification purposes” and it is perhaps the tag on her right hand what the girl on the right is looking down upon. That tag will surely be transferred from her wrist to her toe but before that happens, much suffering shall be endured at the hands of interrogators who will do their best to make her betray her comrades.
Two South Vietnamese soldiers just took a chicken from a nearby village and are plucking its feathers to prepare a nice meal. They should not be stealing chickens from farmers who barely have enough to eat themselves, but unfortunately the US supplies nourishment only for its troops and most of the time, the South Vietnamese soldiers are left to fend for themselves.
A South Vietnamese officer returns home to a family murdered by the Vietcong. Holding his child in his arms he wonders if he failed his duty. What comes first? Family or Country? “Had I known they were in danger I would have stayed and protect them” the perplexity of his face seems to say. But, clearly he thought they were safe, after all he lived in the army base. What kind of people murder children? This is a war where many atrocities went unpunished and the Vietcong was ruthless. What the US troops underwent is nothing compared to what the Vietcong did to its own people.
A US helicopter is losing altitude and is about to crash nearby after a direct hit. Though the Soviets claimed – until recently- that they took no part on the conflict, they did provide the North Vietnamese with most of their armament, including rocket-propelled grenade launchers (RPGs). Kremlin declassified files now show they did take active part training North Vietnamese units and sometimes with logistics.
CAMOUFLAGED SOLDIERS ON THE MOVE
A squad in heavy camouflage moves across an open field. Judging by what appear to be M1 Garand semi-automatic rifles they could be US soldiers but it’s really hard to tell beneath all the camouflage.
ONTOS WREAKS HAVOC
An M50 “ONTOS” light-infantry tank wreaks havoc on North Vietnamese troops. A favorite of the US Marines, this light tank was equipped with 6 guns that could be fired in rapid succession to destroy an enemy tank. The blast produced was so powerful that it would break the windows of cars parked behind it.
Residents pack the bridge after a fire destroys most of the slums in the South Vietnamese capital. More than 3000 homes were burnt to ashes leaving over 25,000 people homeless.
BUDDHIST MONKS PRAY BEFORE PROTESTS
The Buddhists monks were against the South Vietnamese government and they protested the US involvement in Vietnam profusely. There were countless hunger strikes and inmolations, always preceded by prayer. This picture was taken in a Saigon temple an all these monks were about to begin a hunger strike.
VIETCONG SOLDIER CAPTURED UNDER A BED
The man in the picture seems hardly over 18 but he was a Vietcong guerrilla captured by South Vietnamese Marines. He was found under a bed having fled from the marines in Saigon after traveling over 50 miles with his unit to reach the capital for an attack.
LIBERATED NORTH VIETNAMESE SOLDIERS
A group of 36 North Vietnamese prisoners recently liberated from a South Vietnamese prison camp are about to start rowing across the Ben Hai River to join their comrades in the North. They were 40 originally but 4 decided to stay in the South.
GIRLS TRAIN TO KILL
Vietcong militia women undergoing training exercises in the field. Most of the women who fought in the Vietnam War were very young. Most either had to leave school or were too poor to attend in the first place.
THE USNS CARD ABOUT TO SINK
The USNS Card was a WWII aircraft carrier that was recommissioned for the Vietnam War, operated by a civilian crew while still property of the US Navy (hence the USNS designation). It took many helicopters to Vietnam. A Vietcong diver managed to place an explosive charge on the hull severely crippling the ship, which had to be towed to Yokohama for repairs.
NORTH VIETNAMESE SOLDIERS RELOCATING
A North Vietnamese army unit climbs beside a waterfall. There isn’t much information about this picture but nonetheless we can appreciate the stark contrast between the beautiful natural surroundings and the sinister-looking soldiers climbing up.
DRUG ADDICTS INDULGE
Commonplace in pre-war Saigon, the problem persisted throughout the conflict.
AUSTRALIAN VIETNAM WAR PROPAGANDA POSTER
Australia became belligerent in the war early on. In the beginning there seemed to be widespread support out of fear of communism spreading out in the region but it was short-lived. Over 60,000 Australians served in Vietnam. The final contingent assisted the evacuation of embassy personnel during the fall of Saigon in April, 1975.
THE LIVING AND THE DEAD – 1966
US Army soldiers pray for the dead while others move on in South Vietnam.
VIETCONG SNIPER CAPTURED
South Vietnamese soldiers capture a sniper after he spent 5 hours shooting everything that moved in Saigon. He was being escorted to a police truck when this picture was taken and we can appreciate the man has sustained an injure to the head.