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

    Comment number 235.

    The images are our history, our evolutions of process, practice, corruptions, justice and greed. People who worship money and measure it and dream about it and strive for it are amateurs driven by greed when the real drug is power, getting your way and doing as you please. The photographs ar a personal journey through life's glorious roundabout of war and peace. What will be already was.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    One consequence of America losing the Vietnam war was the Vietnamese boat people. Remember? South Koreans were fortunate that America won their war. If America and rest of us lose the war in Afghanistan the loser will be Afghani people. War is only bad when you are on the wrong side of it after history books are written. So much better if we side with the winner now when it matters the most.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    There is some here

    An interesting take on France as we are watching it begin a massive tit for tat class war which is covering up massive corruption and damn the economy, save our siverware and reputations. Classic France, tearing itself apart.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    "US backed South Vietnamese government was totally corrupt and killed more civilians than the NVA or VC."

    Corrupt - yes. But (again from Wiki, for a basic figure):
    N.Viet deaths caused by S.Viet. 1964-75
    50,000 (forced relocation/POWs/executions/shelling)

    Compared with 400,000-2.5m caused by N.Viet, which is 8-50 times more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    Off topic Re: Rhodie site: in amongst the progressively racist rant & choppy structure, there was actually much truth. Not the sort of truth that can be found on the Beeb/any mainstream media, as the facts don't conform with their established 'truth'; just knowledge from (rational) people who were there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    North Korea didn't conquer the South (so far) - how was that not a defeat for them?

    & Czechoslovakia...

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    Good for Charlie, but why in heck are we having a Vietnam retrospective in 2013?? Surely there are more prevalent and relevant issues on our own doorstep that need looking at! You'd swear the BBC had run out of stories to report, apart from the ones they have no choice but to report because the rest of the world's running them, like children killed in a nato raid in Afghanistan. Sheep we are!

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    110.The Lone Gunman
    Requiem is pretty expensive, but definitely looks worth it.

    "How commentators Served in Vietnam...ever been to Vietnam...were even alive when it happened?"

    Not having served/been there/been alive at the time doesn't automatically disqualify someone's views, though these can add something to knowledge from wide consumption of books/documentaries etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    "...war is hell.."

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    220 Rio Terry. You seem happy to pay your taxes (sic) so you can come on here and spout useless tirades about things you know little about. What you actually pay your licence fee for is evocative and thoughtful pieces such as this one, which one could not see hitting the light of day on Fox News or whatever other channel it is you may be referring to.

    There are some twisted comments on here !

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    Some daft comments here, why not read a book instead of writing rubbish you know nothing about? As for war photography, the war continued the journalistic/propagandist/personal tradition of recording conflicts from all sides. Plus it was an uncensored war, unlike todays conflicts, where the truth comes from leaked images/films.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    Socialism has been responsible for more deaths than any other creed in history, political or religious. I have always felt deeply ashamed that we pulled out of Vietnam and left the South Vietnamese to such a terrible fate. .

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    222. Liquidfire

    The vietnam war, iraq war, afgan war and any other war stand as a chilling reminder that war doesn't put a stop to any problems or evils. It just amplifies the problems and adds more. Not to mention the millions of innocents who lose lives but that's no big deal for you I guess.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    The final victory of N.Vietnam and their subsequent treatment of the South stands as a chilling reminder to resist socialist governments at all costs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    What amazes me is th twisted sense of patriotism in the US that led to a huge number of Americans who voluntarily enlisted themselves to fight these wars. Amazing that one can have so much hate and desire to kill someone from a place they hardly know anything about before landing there,

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    So, no mainstream subjects we can comment on. Just this. BBC, do you really think you are giving your funders a fair choice of subjects to comment on? Seems to me the Mods want any easy night so they can get their heads down and sleep. Pathetic. Why am I forced to pay my TV tax? About time it was shared across all the providers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    "These are great photos: evocative, moving and humane. There are no winners or losers in war, no right or wrong, just people who don't want to die."

    @215. Ignatzmouse

    No wrong? I'd argue Pol Pot was definitely wrong. So was Hitler. Ditto the Hutu's genocidal massacres in Rwanda. No wrong? No way! Look what happened in Libya and Syria, where those in power also abused it. Wrong my friend, wrong!

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    What about the rational comments in-between? :-P

    That's why these pictures of individuals are so important in the understanding of war's effects on the people involved.

    There's a photo-feed at, from - you may find something there.

    102.Crystal Ball
    Well said.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    Mushroompeople - what do you mean? If anything vietnam was the FIRST war a free press could cover - hence the war being a PR disaster. You seriously think the press had more freedom in the imperial or cold war era than it does now? IRA members weren't allowed to use their own voices on UK tv in the 90s... Please please brush up on history before assuming the current era must be the nadir

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    Anyone researched the reason the US went to war in Vietnam, or maybe why they were on their own in doing so? It was publicly stated "The Gulf of Tonkin" was a false flag incident exploited by the US. and Kissinger etc... thought they'd make the most of it. Disgusting beyond anyone's beliefs surely?


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