Return to Vietnam

 
Flame track in action

I have to confess to something of an obsession with the Vietnam War, which most likely stems from the fact that pictures of the conflict began my lifelong love of photography. McCullin, Faas, Page, Huet, Burrows and so on: all those great photographers' work then spurred further interest in the war itself.

So whenever I stumble upon a website showing some pictures from the conflict, I usually can't resist and click to see what's on offer. This week I did just that and found the work of Charlie Haughey, who it turns out was a rifleman with the 25th Infantry Division who served in Vietnam from March 1968 to May the following year.

Start Quote

Charlie Haughey

I went to see the captain, and he asked me about my photography experience; I piled it pretty deep! Anything sounded like a better gig than walking point”

End Quote Charlie Haughey

Haughey was commissioned by his colonel to take photographs of the battalion for Army and civilian newspapers. The officer said: "You are not a combat photographer; this is a morale operation. If I see photos of my men in the papers, doing their job with honour, then you can do what you like in Vietnam."

The rifleman was stationed near Cu Chi and was part of Alpha Company, for whom he walked point or flank for 63 days. "On point, you work with the guy behind you. I didn't get to know people very well; we weren't like the band of brothers. It didn't pay to get to know people - we knew each other based on where we were from, or we had nicknames. Collins was from Chicago. He and I worked really well together. When we were on point together, I was up front, responsible for everything from the waist down - trip wires, booby traps, spider holes. He walked behind me, responsible for everything from the waist up. He flat out saved my life at least once, just from a little whistle or click or something."

His pictures of the unit have not been seen until now, having spent four decades in boxes in his home. Last year a chance meeting brought the negatives out into the open and eventually to a digital scanner with the work being catalogued by a team of volunteers. The work is now on show at the ADX Gallery in Portland, Oregon, in the north-west US.

The 28 prints are displayed in handmade frames, made by Charlie, who is now a retired carpenter.

You can follow the progress of the project and learn about Charlie Haughey's time in Vietnam on the Chieu Hoi Collection website.

An RTO (radio telephone operator) guides a Chinook delivering a sling load of materials and supplies at Fire Support Base Pershing, near Dau Tieng An RTO (radio telephone operator) guides a Chinook delivering a slingload of materials and supplies at Fire Support Base Pershing, near Dau Tieng
Soldier with bowed head Charlie's first response to this photo: "It was not uncommon to find anyone with a head bowed for a moment - more often when we were heading out than when we were coming back. Interesting that he has a flak jacket, he's taking precautions on both sides of the fence. M16, a steel pot, a flak jacket, and a prayer."
Soldiers fire a captured M2 60mm mortar Soldiers fire a captured M2 60mm mortar, originally a weapon produced by the United States for use in World War II and the Korean War. The mortar was captured on a patrol in a rice paddy, from Vietcong forces.
A Sergeant kneels on wet ground and checks his M16 A sergeant checking his M16.
An M60 operator pauses for a moment under the heavy load of machine gun ammunition An M60 machine-gun operator rests for a moment with his heavy load of ammunition. Members of the unit were all required to carry some type of ammunition or supplies, including bandoliers of bullets.
A Chinook rescues a downed Huey from a rice paddy near Trang Bang, January 1969 A Chinook rescues a downed Huey from a rice paddy near Trang Bang, January 1969
US soldiers patrol through a ghostly, defoliated rubber tree plantation US soldiers patrolling a ghostly, defoliated rubber tree plantation.
Vietnamese children in a school Vietnamese schoolchildren in a spartan classroom.
An alert, young M60 machine gun operator in the jungle An alert, young M60 machine-gun operator in the jungle.
Vietnamese children peer through a gate at Haughey's camera Vietnamese children peer at Haughey's lens.
Soldiers aboard an airborne Chinook Soldiers on an airborne Chinook with a bird's-eye view through the cargo sling door take advantage of a few moments "out of the war".
Staff Sergeant Edgar D Bledsoe, of Olive Branch, Illinois, cradles a critically ill Vietnamese infant Staff Sergeant Edgar D Bledsoe, of Olive Branch, Illinois, cradles a critically ill Vietnamese infant. The child was brought to Fire Support Base, Pershing. This image, with this caption, was originally published in Vol. 3 No. 53 of Tropic Lightning News, December 30, 1968.

All photographs copyright Charlie Haughey, A Weather Walked In/The Chieu Hoi Collection

 
Phil Coomes Article written by Phil Coomes Phil Coomes Picture editor

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 15.

    Some of the numbers from Vietnam are mind boggling

    Khe Sahn was a small marine base in the North of the country which had over 100,000 tons of bombs dropped around it as part of its defence
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Khe_Sanh

    When the US Vietnamisation program got going the equipment the USA sent over meant tiny South Vietnam had the fourth largest Air Force in the entire world

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 14.

    The whys etc are it was basically the fight against the march of 1960s communism

    Vietnam almost bankrupted the USA, Nixon had to take the dollar off the gold standard
    After Vietnam the commies knew that the Capitalists would fight them with major resources if required

    No attempt was made to invade North Vietnam in case another Korea was triggered

    As the marines say
    "First to go last to know"

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 13.

    This war was a gift from President Lyndon Baines Johnson. It was all for nothing . We never should have been there . The people of South Viet Nam did NOT support us.
    Hotel Company , Second Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment
    Operation Dodge City
    The Rocket Belt south of Danang.
    Nong Son - September 1968

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 12.

    @ 9.mountainlady
    these are not pictures of anyone being inhuman.
    =================
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_War_casualties

    MASH may have been a theatrical hit - but not for them there suffering.
    Take photos of a picnic by any means, but Vietnam was no picnic.

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 10.

    It seems that we are unable to live without enemies and that is its own lesson. As a youngster l recall as yesterday, Arnett's Bến Tre report of the fighting. The comment endures in altered form today and l still sit down to news of our casualties abroad. 45 years on.

    Taking pictures is easy. Taking good pictures is easy.
    Taking life is easier still. Click. Click. Click.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 9.

    To "Companion"....these are not pictures of anyone being inhuman. These are haunting pictures of young men who didn't want to be there doing the best they could. U14568146 said it the best.

  • rate this
    +30

    Comment number 8.

    Vietnam was the last war a "free press" could cover and is a fascinating subject for historical purposes

    Nowadays our nowhere-near-as-free press is "embedded" and hardly anything useful gets back home for historical purposes

    Time marches on !

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 7.

    "And no moves for me
    but to write down some few last words and make the dispersion,
    Vietnam, Vietnam, Vietnam, we’ve all been there."

    (Michael Herr _ Dispatches)

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 5.

    The officer said: "You are not a combat photographer; this is a morale operation. If I see photos of my men in the papers, doing their job with honour, then you can do what you like in Vietnam."
    ============
    Political point scoring diplomacy or dirty warmongering propaganda?

    For prosperity or a moments freeze for amusement?

    A work of art or pornographic display of mankind's inhumanity to man?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 4.

    A great eye for photography ,thanks,
    I have the deepest respect for the soldiers that fought in the Vietnam war.
    they have attracted a lot of bad press over the years,
    I say stand proud of what you were sent to do on behalf of your country
    as you did no more nor no less than was asked from you and as a Brit I salute you.
    Thank you for what you gave .
    and the sacrifice you all made

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 3.

    A beautiful and amazing country which I had the privilege to visit. There is a lot more to Vietnam than the American war. The food, the history, culture, smells, sights, natural beauty. A true assault on the sense. I recommend a visit before it is gripped by the tourist industry and bent into resort mediocrity in the same manner its neighbours, such as Thailand, have been.

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 2.

    Amazing photographs, but also very sad.

  • Comment number 1.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

 

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