The Story Behind The Iconic “Saigon Execution”
The photograph of a young Viet fighter being shot down during Tet Offensive carried out by South Vietnamese general generated a fomented a large mass of the public. Categorized as one of the most iconic photographs of the 1968 Tet Offensive, it shows how a prisoner was being strolled down, when General Nguyen Ngoc Loan casually comes up to the young man, asks one of his subordinates to shoot him, and when he hesitates, the General shoots him in the temple.
The Saigon Execution
This photo was taken at the one-in-a-million perfect moment, just when the bullet was entering the man’s head, not only made this photo popular but also won it the Pulitzer Award. This photograph has been reproduced in multiple instances to depict the brutality of war and how the US has affected the Vietnam war.
The Real Truth
But what many people are unaware of are the circumstances under which this incident took place. By 1968, US was engrossed in the Vietnam war as much it could, the deployment of forces that began as a part-time thing turned out to be a full-time fight between the former US Armies and that of Viet Cong Guerillas and North Vietnamese regular forces.
The Clash of Forces
The Vietnam forces were fighting from the shadows of Southern Vietnam and the American forces were unable to determine the location. The US army has the primary objective to pacify the country by 1964 which was corroborated by the Lyndon administration who stated that resistance was lessening and the place would be safe and pacified soon enough.
Was He Lying?
This news was shortly dismissed by the Tet Offensive in the year 1968. There were attacks at around 100 places by troops made up of 80,000 communists. This stated that the guerrillas had extensive support regarding logistics and financially from South Vietnam. This stated that Lyndon was wrong or they simply lied.
General Loan was considered to be one of the best at what he did. He had exemplary work in North where he led the combat operations, and as a pilot, he rose to the rank of Brigadier General despite heavy influence of Nepotism in Saigon government. Loan’s loyalty towards the government was trouble even to the American forces where he was often a part of many interferences and led many combats against them.
The Icon of Anti-War Movement
The team of Loan were looking for an enemy fighter like Len, Captain Bay Loop. Though Len had disappeared before Tet and was caught red-handed for leading Viet Kong hit. Len’s death squad were already over with killing 34 people and to Len’s disadvantage he wasn’t wearing any uniforms. That day photographer Eddie Adams was looking for anything occasional when he saw soldiers dragging a civilian man, and he followed, ending up finding a photograph which was the icon of the anti-war movement.
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