Black Power

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Black Power Olympic Salute 1968

Another angle the salute is pictured

Behind the camera: AP Photographer
Where: 1968 Mexico City Olympics
Photo Summary: Tommie Smith on the gold medal platform, John Carlos on the bronze raising their fists in salute with silver medalist Peter Norman looking on
Picture Taken: October 17, 1968 Mexico City Olympics

The AP called it a Nazi-like salute, and Chicago columnist Brent Musburger called them “black-skinned storm troopers”, yet black America saw them as heroes. For many outside of America, Tommie Smith’s and John Carlos’s protest was their first introduction to “Black Power” and the clenched fist raised arm Black Power salute. Media editors denounced them as unpatriotic, and un-American yet Smith thought that was the point saying, “If I win I am an American, not a black American. But if I did something bad then they would say ‘a Negro’. We are black and we are proud of being black.”


Being Black, and facing the racism they and other Black Americans felt was what the protest was all about. Smith and Carlos each wore a black glove on opposite hands, and Smith’s raised right fist represented Black Power, while Carlos raised left fist represented Black Unity. Together, the raised black, gloved fists formed an arch of Unity and Power. Along with the gloves, the men wore black socks with no shoes to protest black poverty. Smith wore a black scarf that stood for black pride, and Carlos wore beads which he described, “The beads were for those individuals that were lynched, or killed that no-one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred. It was for those thrown off the side of the boats in the middle passage.” Having such an elaborate statement many people assumed that Carlos and Smith were close, yet they barely talked before and after the protest. They only worked out their statement during the two-hour wait for the medal ceremony. Smith comments on the relationship has said, “I don’t think John Carlos likes me, even now, [but] I don’t think Carlos likes very many people. That’s just his demeanour.”


John Wesley Carlos was born June 5, 1945 in Harlem, New York. One of five children he spent a lot of time across the road from his apartment at the Savoy Ballroom. The Savoy was a hot spot on the big band and jazz circuit. Carlos and his friends were always helping people out of cabs, singing dancing outside the club, “we were out there hustling,” he said. As a promising high school athlete, he was able to get a full track and field scholarship at East Texas State University (ETSU). His presence is attributed to ETSU winning their first Lone Star Conference Championship. After one year, he was lured to San Jose State College where he was trained by Lloyd (Bud) Winter a future National Track & Field Hall of Fame coach.
Tommie Smith was born in Clarksville, Texas on June 5, 1944. One of 12 children born into a farming family, Smith would often spend up to 10 hours a day helping in the fields. After his family moved to California he attended Lemoore High School where he set many track records, some of which still remain unbroken. His skill as a runner won him a scholarship at San Jose State. At San Jose State he won the national collegiate 220 yd title in 1967, and the AAU furlong as well. In 1968 he again won the AAU furlong getting him a spot on the Olympic team.

While both Smith and Carlos attended San Jose State, another former black athlete was teaching Sociology, Harry Edwards. Edwards noted that, “…the same social and racial injustices and discrimination that had dogged [his and other Black student’s] footsteps as freshmen at San Jose were still rampant on campus – racism in the fraternities and sororities, racism in housing, racism and out-and-out mistreatment in athletics, and a general lack of understanding of the problems of Afro-Americans by the college administration.” Edwards and others through protest were able to change a lot of conditions on campus. Through his results, he released the power Black Athlete’s held over America’s unofficial religion, sports. Edwards had been able to organize black players to boycott a football game forcing it to be cancelled, even though then-governor Reagan was willing to bring in the National Guard. The boycott became nationwide news because it was the first time in a 100 years of NCAA Division I history that a football game had been cancelled because of a campus protest. More threats against other sporting events were able to force change, including more Black faculty, desegregated school dorms and more Black student enrollment.

Olympic Project for Human Rights

It was this power in mind that Edwards, other Black athletes, and Civil Rights activists created the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR). The OPHR was originally created to boycott the 1968 Mexico City Olympics unless key demands where met:

  • 1) Return Muhammad Ali title which was stripped from him due to his anti-Vietnam War stance
  • 2) Remove Avery Brundage the President of the International Olympic Committee due to his supposed racist views
  • 3) As a show of solidarity with international black freedom struggles ban Rhodesia and South Africa due to their apartheid governments
  • South Africa and Rhodesia not showing up to the 1968 games and the attitude of most black athletes took the wind out of the boycott. Many athletes did not want to give up an event that they had been training their whole lives for. John Carlos recounted, “We first tried to have a boycott (of the games) but not everyone was down with that plan. A lot of athletes thought that winning medals would supersede or protect them from racism. But even if you won the medal, it ain’t going to save your momma. It ain’t going to save your sister or children. It might give you fifteen minutes of fame, but what about the rest of your life? I’m not saying that they didn’t have the right to follow their dreams, but to me the medal was nothing but the carrot on a stick.” OPHR decided to abandon the boycott plan, although some black athletes decided not to come, and called on black athletes to protest in their own ways.

    When the American athletes arrived in Mexico the media pressed them hard to reveal what type of protest they had planned. The US track coaches sought to assure reporters that there would be “no trouble whatever” and “there will be no demonstrations”. Carlos while pledging that he had no intention to disrupt the games also said, “But that does not mean we will not do something to accentuate the injustices that have been done to the black man in America. . . . If I win a gold medal, I will be up there to get it. I may throw it away afterward, but nothing is going to keep me from getting it.” The world didn’t need long to figure out what “something to accentuate the injustices” meant.

    Even before the medal ceremony, the black athletes caused a stir over when it became known that they didn’t want the Brundage to present any medals to them. It was thought to be an honor for the American president of IOC to present the medals yet the OPHR still detested him for his past actions that many thought were racist. When sprinters Jim Hines and Charlie Greene made it clear that they didn’t want Brundage to present their medals Brundage seeking to avoid controversy stayed away from the ceremony. British official Lord David Burghley instead handed Hines his gold medal and Greene his bronze. Tommie Smith also told the press that if he won a medal he didn’t want to get it from Brundage. Smith’s wife bought a pair of black gloves in case Brundage did show up.

    Even before their medal podium display, Smith and Carlos were making the news. Reporters took note of their unusual long black socks. Newsweek described them as ghetto pimp socks. Jesse Owens the famous black sprinter who beat the Nazi sprinters at the 1936 Olympic games was commentating at Mexico City. Labelled an “Uncle Tom” by the OPHR, he still had advice for Smith and Carlos: they should have shorter socks, below the calves, so as to not affect circulation. At the next race when he noticed that Carlos had indeed switched to shorter socks Owens remarked, “Maybe they’re listening to their uncle. I’m old enough to be their uncle, but I’m not their Tom. We don’t need this kind of stuff. We should just let the boys go out and compete.”

    The race

    Black Power Olympic Salute 1968

    Another angle the salute is pictured

    Curiosity on how black athletes would protest assured a huge TV viewing audience. Smith made it even bigger when in his first heat he tied the Olympic record, 20.3. The bar was raised a few heats later when Australian Peter Norman broke that record with his best print ever 20.2. Smith matched that time in another heat but also pulled a groin abductor muscle. Commentators worried that Smith might not be able to run in the final but in the final race, showing no pain, Smith crushed the world record with an unbelievable time of 19.83. The 20-second mark was not broken at the Olympics again until Carl Lewis at the 1984 LA Olympics. The upstart Aussie Peter Norman bested John Carlos to take the silver but Carlos would later say that he let Smith win because the gold was more important to Smith. Despite the excitement of the race it was at the medal ceremony where the real show would take place.

    As the American and Australian flags were raised with an estimated audience of 400 million looking on Smith and Carlos walked out to the medal podium wearing socks and holding one shoe in their hands. While the Star-Spangled Banner played they each raised their black, gloved fists into the air. Silver medalist Peter Norman, in solidarity, wore an OPHR badge that he took from Paul Hoffman in the stands (US rowing team member that supported the OPHR. For giving the badge he was almost kicked out of the Olympics). Smith recounted:

    “My whole life flashed in my face. I had two minutes to see everything. Oh man, I never felt such a rush of pride. Even hearing the Star-Spangled Banner was pride, even though it didn’t totally represent me. But it was the anthem which represented the country I represented, can you see that? They say we demeaned the flag. Hey, no way man. That’s my flag . . . that’s the American flag and I’m an American. But I couldn’t salute it in the accepted manner, because it didn’t represent me fully; only to the extent of asking me to be great on the running track, then obliging me to come home and be just another nigger.”

    In the stands Mrs. Smith laughed with her friends, “Wait, until Avery sees this, He’ll die.” Not everyone in stands was as supportive, while The Star-Spangled Banner played the audience booed and heckled the two. The Olympic officials never ones to break protocol never turned from the flags to see what all the fuss was about. As the athletes left the stadium the catcalls from the audience grew and Smith and Carlos raising their fists again in defiance.


    The IOC wanted them Smith and Carlos out of the games. At first, the US Olympic Committee refused to ban but when the IOC said the whole US track team would be kicked out, the USOC complied. The two were withdrawn from all future races and kicked out of the Village. Many of the athletes tried to show solidarity with the two. Wyomia Tyus upon taking the gold in the women’s 4×100 team said, “I’d like to say that we dedicate our relay win to John Carlos and Tommy Smith.” The all white Olympic Crew Team from Harvard even issued this statement “We -as individuals- have been concerned about the place of the black man in American society in their struggle for equal rights. As members of the US Olympic team, each of us has come to feel a moral commitment to support our black teammates in their efforts to dramatize the injustices and inequities which permeate our society.” More surprising was the actions of fellow Olympian, boxer George Foreman. Foreman, who won the gold, waved an American Flag on the podium and then bowed to the stadium crowd, actions seen by many as a show of anti-solidarity with Smith and Carlos.

    Peter Norman

    The other man on the podium, Peter Norman, also faced a storm when he returned to his home country of Australia. While he didn’t raise his fists he did wear a badge supporting Smith and Carlos’ actions. Even though he was a world-class athlete the Australians didn’t send him to the following games and he was treated like a sports pariah. Even during the Sydney Olympics, he was the only VIP sportsperson to be banned from taking the lap of honor at the 2000 Games. The Americans at the games, however, embraced his place in history and allowed him to use their facilities. In an interview in 2012 John Carlos said that:

    There’s no-one in the nation of Australia that should be honoured, recognized, appreciated more than Peter Norman for his humanitarian concerns, his character, his strength and his willingness to be a sacrificial lamb for justice. That’s what I would say to the people of Australia.

    The Australian Olympic Committee has had a decades-long policy of officially denying that it took part in any harsh treatment to Peter Norman as a result of his actions at the 1968 games but in August of 2012 the Australian government issued an official apology to Peter stating:

    “That this House; Recognises the extraordinary athletic achievements of the late Peter Norman, who won the silver medal in the 200 meters sprint running at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, in a time of 20.06 seconds, which still stands as the Australian record;

    Acknowledges the bravery of Peter Norman in donning an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on the podium, in solidarity with African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who gave the black power salute;

    Apologises to Peter Norman for the wrong done by Australia in failing to send him to the 1972 Munich Olympics, despite repeatedly qualifying; and Belatedly recognises the powerful role that Peter Norman played in furthering racial equality. — Australian statement

    Unfortunately, Peter was no longer around to hear of his redemption. In 2006 he underwent triple bypass surgery and then while mowing his lawn a month later was hit with a fatal heart attack on October 3, 2006. Morning his loos were his second wife, Ruth, their three children, and his first wife, Jan, and their two children.

    Return Home

    The two returned to the States to death threats and attacks on their homes. Smith visited his father who as always was working the fields. His dad couldn’t read, but people told him that his son had gotten into trouble in Mexico. Smith remembers how, “He kind of looked at me, looked up and down, and said in his southern drawl: ‘You know, I’ve been hearing a lot of things about you. Everybody been telling me you did something wrong. You stuck a hand up or hit somebody or something.’ I said that’s not truthful. He said: ‘Well, you’re telling me that and I’m going to believe you. You’re my son.’ First time I shook hands with him in my life.”

    With the death threats and attacks came a mixed blessing when after graduation Smith was given an honorable discharge from the army for “un-American activities”. Saving him from having to go and serve in Vietnam. “I was going to ‘Nam, I could see myself in rice paddies. I believe there’s a God. Sixty-eight had its downfall, but it had its protection for me. I might not be alive.” Carlos who had two brothers in service and they two were discharged after his protest.

    Carlos went on to have his best year in ’69 when he equalled the 100-yard record of 9.1, won the AAU 220-yard run and lead San Jose State to its first NCAA victory in the 100 and 220 4×110-yard relays. After track, he tried the NFL playing with the Philadelphia Eagles until a knee injury forced him out. He tried again in the Canadian Football League before retiring from football after two years. After a number of jobs in 1985, he became the Track & Field Coach, at Palm Springs, California High School.

    Tommie Smith track career saw him setting several world records and he also tried football, playing with the Cincinnati Bengals for three years. He went on to become a professor of sociology and track coach at Oberlin College in Ohio. He is now a faculty member at Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, California.

    “None of these kids know who I am,” Smith says of his young track protégés at the Santa Monica College. “They don’t have the slightest idea. To them, I’m just ‘coach’.” At a ceremony at San Jose State to honor their protest Smith comments, “What’s so surprising about it is, on a positive note, it’s the brainchild of a 23-year-old white student,” Smith said. It’s been almost 40 years since the two made their stand, made history. Thirty-five years have passed since two sprinters made a stand, made a difference, made history. “We still have a way to go,” Carlos said, “but we can see some distance for where we were.”

    Copyright info

    AP Images controls the copyright and publishing rights for this photo.

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    Assassination of Robert Kennedy

    Behind the camera: Bill Eppridge and Boris Yaro took similiar photos
    Where: Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles
    Photo Summary: Robert F Kennedy after he is shot. Hotel busboy Juan Ramero was shaking his hand when he was shot and was the first to help him
    Picture Taken: Shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968

    On June 5, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy was attending a successful campaign in the California primary elections while seeking the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. He had just finished giving a speech to supporters in the Ambassador Hotel and was on his way to another part of the hotel. He was crushed by the adoring crowd and while he was shaking hands with busboy Juan Ramero, twenty-four-year-old assassin Sirhan Sirhan fired all the bullets from his gun at Kennedy. When the crowds cleared two photographers snapped the above images of the busboy trying to help Kennedy.

    Robert F. Kennedy

    In 1968 five years had gone by since Robert F. Kennedy’s brother then President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. Since that time Robert F. Kennedy (also called Bobby) had been elected United States Senator seeking the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. The campaign had been going well and following the California primary, Kennedy was in second place with 393 delegates compared to vice president Hubert Humphrey’s 561. After giving a speech at the Ambassador Hotel’s Embassy Room ballroom, in the Mid-Wilshire district of Los Angles, he was walking through the kitchen when the assassin struck.
    Sirhan Sirhan managed to hit Bobby three times with the bullets fired from his gun. One entered his brain behind his right ear while the two others went in through the right armpit exiting from his chest and back of the neck. Soon after the picture was taken he was rushed to the Central Receiving Hospital in Los Angles about a mile away. Before he was lifted onto a stroller he was still conscious and was able to speak a few words. After being stabilized he was transferred to the Hospital of the Good Samaritan for surgery. The operation went through the night starting at 3:12 a.m. and lasting to 7:02 a.m. Despite the surgery, Kennedy died several hours later at 1:44 a.m. PDT on June 6, nearly 26 hours after the shooting.

    Sirhan Sirhan

    The assassin was one Sirhan Sirhan a strongly anti-Israeli Palestine Christian immigrant. He had moved to America when he was 12 and had lived in New York and California. Sirhan had developed an obsession with killing Bobby Kennedy and after his arrest, his diary and writing showed that he had severe mental issues. He was convicted on April 17, 1969, and the judge sentenced him to death. However he was removed off death row after a landmark case in the California Supreme Court, California v. Anderson, invalidated all pending death sentences imposed in California prior to 1972. He is still incarcerated at the California State Prison in Corcoran. On February 10, 2016, at his 15th parole hearing, Sirhan was denied parole again.

    Juan Ramero

    Ramero was 17 in 1968 but he idolized Kennedy and was thrilled that Bobby was staying at the hotel he worked for. When he was a child in Mexico, Bobby was worshiped by his family because he was a Catholic and a family man, and his brother John Kennedy had spoken of Hispanics as hardworking and family-oriented at a time when Hispanics were seen as nothing more than menial workers to be ignored. The night before he had promised to do extra work to get a chance to take a room-service call from the Kennedy suite. The call came and he had a chance to meet him in person. But it wasn’t enough and when Kennedy passed through the kitchen Ramero pushed through the crowds to get another handshake.
    While he was shaking Bobby’s hand he felt heat and saw Kennedy go down. Kneeling by his side he was captured in the photos above. When Ramero felt the back of Bobby’s head his hand came back covered in blood. Juan took his rosary beads and pushed them into Kennedy’s hands and as he knelt over him Ramero thought he heard Bobby. At the trial Ramero told the court that he saw the assassin:

    I thought there was a person that couldn’t wait to shake his hand, and I thought I was going to be interested to watch it, and so I was watching it and I … seen him put his — he put his arm like that and he shot two shots and then I saw a gun and then I turned around and I seen he was right in front of him (the senator) and I leaned down and put my hand to the back of [Kennedy’s] head and tried to give him some, whatever I could, aid, some aid; that is about all I could do.

    He an interview with TIME he remembers, “the doctors said it would have been impossible for him to speak, but with God as my witness, I swear Mr. Kennedy said either, ‘Is everybody O.K.?’ or ‘Everything’s going to be O.K.'”
    After the pictures were released he became a celebrity with mail pouring in from all over the world. But feeling uneasy with all the attention and after Juan’s stepfather told him no honorable man profits from another man’s tragedy he left. He travelled from town to town until 1974 when he settled down with his wife Elda and the two started a family in San Jose. As of 1998 Juan still lives with Elda and their three daughters, one son and four grandchildren. He is still scared from that evening and doesn’t talk about the pictures with his family and rarely does interviews but hopes that he can honor Bobby Kennedy by living in his spirit, working hard, honoring his God, and taking care of his family while living a life of tolerance and compassion.

    The Photographers

    Boris Yaro

    Boris Yaro's photo

    Boris Yaro’s photo

    Boris Yaro who was working for the LA Times was like Ramero a fan of the Kennedy clan he remembers that after hearing the shots:

    Bobby put both arms up and began to bob and weave like a boxer. At one point he put his head down almost to his knees, but the man with the gun kept lunging and firing, wounding five other people.
    I froze. “No,” I said to myself. “Not again. Not another Kennedy.”
    During my professional career I have been instructed to not touch things, especially at a crime scene. But as I watched the shooter go for his revolver, I broke the rule, crouched under the swinging arms and grabbed the gun. I was shocked to feel that the grip of the gun was smooth and very warm. Then someone took the weapon from me. I turned to see who, but all I saw were business suits and tuxedos. I figured it was probably a cop and turned back to Bobby, who in the darkness was sinking to the floor.
    Suddenly the area was lighted by a TV film camera and I started to make photos of Kennedy sprawled on the floor, a busboy near him.
    My mind was shrieking, “No . . . no, this can’t be. I’m here to make a photo for my wall.”
    Someone grabs my arm. It is a woman, and all I see is her face. Her mouth is making funny sounds. “Don’t take pictures,” she says. “I’m a photographer, and I’m not taking pictures!” She is pulling on my arm, trying to move the camera from my eye. I am shooting at a very slow shutter speed, and she has stopped me.
    I pull my arm from her grasp and growl, “Goddamn it, lady. This is history!”

    June 5, 1968 - Bill Eppridge - Then and now

    In 2012 did a series of photos of photographers and their iconic pictures

    Bill Eppridge

    In his book A Time it Was: Bobby Kennedy in the Sixties Eppridge remembers that he was assigned by LIFE to cover bobby’s 1968 campaign.

    [The] senator came off the stage. The bodyguard said, ‘Senator this way,’ pointing to the door, and … Bob Kennedy said, ‘No, this way’ and turned and went to the right, to the kitchen and he had no protection in front of him.”
    Then the shots rang out.
    “I got through the curtain into the kitchen and I first heard two shots, and I turned to my left and there was the senator lying there. And at that point my profession changed. I became a historian,” Eppridge says.
    What he saw was “almost like a crucifixion.” Eppridge says he took three frames of a white-shirted busboy holding Kennedy — the third one became the icon.

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    Martin Luther King Jr Killed

    Behind the camera: James Louw
    Where: Balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, USA
    Photo Summary: A mortally wounded Martin Luther King Jr surrounded by friends and aides. Marrell Mccullough appears to be holding him in his arms
    Picture Taken: Minutes after the bullet struck at 6:01 p.m. April 4, 1968

    By all accounts, King was in a jovial mood that April 4 day. While standing on the balcony he joked with friends and colleagues while he waited for his jacket. At 6:01 a shot rang out, hitting King in the side of the face. Friends rushed to his side and desperately tried to stop the bleeding. Police soon appeared on the scene guns drawn asking where the shot came from. Those on the balcony pointed in the direction of an old run down hotel across the street. That moment was captured by photographer, James Louw, and now lives in infamy as King’s death shot.

    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was the most famous leader of the American civil rights movement, a political activist, and a Southern Baptist minister. In 1964, King became the youngest man to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (for his work as a peacemaker, promoting nonviolence and equal treatment for different races). In 1977, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter. In 1986, Martin Luther King Day was established as a United States holiday, only the fourth Federal holiday to honor an individual (the other three being in honor of Jesus of Nazareth, George Washington, and Christopher Columbus). In 2004, King was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Considered by many as one of the greatest public speakers in U.S. history, Dr. King often called for personal responsibility in fostering world peace. King’s most influential and well-known public address is the “I Have A Dream” speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

    Garbage Strike

    In late March 1968, Dr. King went to Memphis, Tennessee in support of the black garbage workers of AFSCME Local 1733, who had been on strike since March 12 for higher wages and better treatment: for example, African American workers, paid $1.70 per hour, were not paid when sent home because of inclement weather (unlike white workers). The night before on April 3, Dr. King returned to Memphis and addressed a rally at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple, delivering his famous I’ve been to the Mountaintop address. After the assassination, the city quickly, quietly, and on favorable terms settled the strike.

    In High Spirits

    This is Ralph, this is Ralph, don’t be afraid.
    -Reverend Abernathy to King

    The owner of the Lorraine Motel, Walter Bailey, where King was staying claimed that King was a frequent guest at the establishment and that Reverend Ralph Abernathy, told the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) under oath that he and Dr. King stayed in room 306 at the Lorraine so often that it was referred to as the “King-Abernathy suite.” Bailey also remembers that on that fateful day, April 4, 1968, King was especially happy and while he was getting ready was, “teasing and cutting up” those present. One of King’s best friends and number two man in the SCLC, Reverend Abernathy, remembers that around 1 that day he and King had fried catfish for lunch and then Abernathy had a nap waking around 4 p.m. to King on the phone asking him to come over to his Brother’s, who was travelling with them, room.
    When Abernathy arrived King told him that dinner was set for 6 p.m. as they had been invited for prime rib roast and soul food such as chitterlings, greens, pig’s feet and blackeyed peas at the local Rev.
    Samuel “Billy” Kyles house.

    From right to left Hosea Williams, Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Ralph David Abernaty posing for pictures on April 3, 1968. They are on the same Lorraine Motel balcony that Dr. King would be killed on the next day.

    While the two got ready back in their room 306 Rev Kyles appeared and told them to get a move on or they would be late for the dinner. Dr. King had to assure Kyles that he had telephoned the preacher’s home and that Mrs. Kyles had said dinner was not until 6. “We are not going to mess up her program,” said Dr. King.
    King and Kyles went to the balcony that overlooked the motel parking lot and swimming pool. There was a crowd of people present getting ready to go for dinner. King greeted the people below and from the second floor, Rev Kyles had a short conversation with the SCLC attorney Chauncey Eskridge who had been in Federal court most of the day trying to solve some legal problems with the strike protest.
    Other SCLC members were in the courtyard including advance team members Rev. James Orange and James Bevel. They had been sent ahead of time to deal with a black militant group called, The Invaders. The Invaders were pushing for violence something King deplored. In fact, Orange had just arrived with Invader member, Marrell McCullough, who was, in fact, an undercover agent working as a mole in the Invader group.
    King’s chauffeur, Solomon Jones, who had been beside King’s limo all day looked up and noticed that King didn’t have a jacket and called up that King should put on a jacket as it was getting cold. Witnesses recall that Dr. King smiled back at his driver and said, “Solomon, you really know how to take good care of me.” They were about to go when Abernathy decided to slip back into the hotel for some aftershave while King waited on the balcony chatting to members of his entourage below.

    At 6:01 p.m., as Dr. King stood behind the iron balcony railing in front of room 306, the report of a high-powered rifle cracked the air. A slug tore into the right side of his face, violently throwing him backward.
    At the mirror in room 306, Abernathy poured some cologne into his hands. As he lifted the lotion to his face, he heard what sounded like a “firecracker.” He jumped, looked out the door to the balcony and saw that Dr. King had fallen backward. Only his feet were visible, one foot protruding through the ironwork of the balcony railing. According to Abernathy, the bullet was so powerful it twisted Dr. King’s body so that he fell diagonally backward. As Abernathy rushed out to aid his dying friend, he heard the cries and groans of people in the courtyard below.
    Just below the balcony, Jones recalled that Young and Bevel shoved him to the ground just after the firecracker sound. He looked up and saw Abernathy come out of the room and then realized that the prone Dr. King had been shot. Lee, who had been talking with Young and Bevel, took cover behind a car and then noticed Dr. King’s feet protruding through the balcony railing.
    Memphis undercover policeman McCullough recalled that immediately before he heard the shot, he saw Dr. King alone on the balcony outside room 306, facing a row of dilapidated buildings on Mulberry Street. As he turned away from Dr. King and began to walk toward his car, McCullough, an Army veteran, heard an explosive sound, which he assumed was a gunshot. He looked back and saw Dr. King grasp his throat and fall backward. According to McCullough’s account, he bolted up the balcony steps as others in the courtyard hit the ground. When he got to Dr. King’s prone figure, the massive face wound was bleeding profusely and a sulphurous odor like gunpowder, perhaps Dr. King’s depilatory, permeated the air. McCullough took a towel from a housekeeping tray and tried to stem the flow of blood.
    Eskridge had heard a “zing” and looked up toward the balcony. He saw that Dr. King was down, and as Abernathy walked out onto the balcony, Eskridge heard him cry out “Oh my God, Martin’s been shot.” A woman screamed.
    Abernathy recalled that when he walked out on the balcony, he had to step over his mortally wounded friend.
    …the bullet had entered his right cheek and I patted his left cheek, consoled him, and got his attention by saying, “This is Ralph, this is Ralph, don’t be afraid.”
    Kyles, who had started to walk toward his car, ran back to room 306. Young leaped up the stairs from the courtyard to Dr. King, whom he found lying face up, rapidly losing blood from the wound. Young checked Dr. King’s pulse and, as Abernathy recalled, said, “Ralph, it’s all over.”
    “Don’t say that, don’t say that,” Abernathy responded.

    Kyles ran back to room 306 to call an ambulance but the switchboard operator, the motel owner’s wife, wasn’t at her desk. Kyles would later find out that she had gone out to the parking lot so that she could see Dr. King. When she saw what happened, she collapsed with a heart attack and would later pass away as a result.
    Having no luck with the motel phones Kyles ran onto the balcony and noticed police in the courtyard screamed for them to call an ambulance on their radios. While waiting for it to come he took a spread from one of the motel beds and covered him from his neck down. He also took a crushed cigarette from his hand. Dr. King never smoked in public as he didn’t want the kids to see him smoking.
    A King biographer, Taylor Branch, claims that King was still conscious while on the balcony and that his last words were to Ben Branch (no relation to Taylor Branch) a singer that was going to play that night: “Ben, make sure you play ‘Precious Lord, Take My Hand,’ in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty.”
    Rev Abernathy kneeling over his friend tried desperately to stop the bleeding. Around 5 mins after King had been shot an ambulance arrived and took him away to St. Joseph’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m.

    Jesse Jackson is Born

    People freaked out and did strange things
    -Andrew Young

    King’s wound produced a huge amount of blood and after the ambulance took away his body all that was left a huge pool of King’s blood. Ralph Abernathy in a state of shock grabbed a jar and started scraping up the blood, crying how it was King’s blood and precious, “This blood was shed for us.”
    Jesse Jackson also still in shock had by this time made his way to the balcony from where he was hiding down by the pool. Andrew Young remembers seeing Jackson dip his hands in the huge pool of blood and after raising them to the sky wiped them on his shirt, “people freaked out and did strange things … it was_ it was_ I mean, what do you do in a moment like that”?
    The main players in the SCLC quickly followed Kind to the hospital leaving Jesse Jackson behind in shock. However, it was the tragedy of King’s death that the star of Jesse Jackson was born. Media quickly swarmed the hotel where King had been shot and they quickly focused on the young SCLC member with King’s blood all over his shirt. With the rest of the SCLC off at the hospital Jesse became the media spokesman:

    The black people’s leader, our Moses, the once in a 400 or 500-year leader has been taken from us by hatred and bitterness. Even as I stand at this hour, I_ I cannot even allow hate to enter my heart at this time, for it was sickness, not meanness, that killed him.
    People were_ some were in pandemonium, some were in shock, some were crying, hollering, “Oh, God!” And I immediately started running upstairs to where he was and I caught his head and I tried to feel his head and I asked him, I said, “Dr. King, do you hear me? Dr. King, do you hear me?” And he didn’t say anything and I tried to hold his head. — Jesse Jackson

    While the rest of SCLC was back at the motel trying to figure out the next step, Jesse Jackson quickly made his way back to Chicago where hours after King’s death he appeared on the Today show with his bloody shirt while a newly hired booking agent got him spots on other TV shows. Overnight Jesse Jackson became a nationally known figure of the civil rights movement.

    Country in Mourning

    The assassination led to a nationwide wave of riots in more than 60 cities. Five days later, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a national day of mourning for the lost civil rights leader. A crowd of 300,000 attended his funeral that same day. Vice-President Hubert Humphrey attended on behalf of Lyndon B. Johnson, who was meeting with several advisers and cabinet officers on the Vietnam War in Camp David.

    The Lone Gunman?

    Ray was the killer but that he didn’t act alone
    Conclusion of U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations

    Two months after King’s death, escaped convict James Earl Ray was captured at London Heathrow Airport while trying to leave the United Kingdom on a false Canadian passport in the name of Ramon George Sneyd. Ray was quickly extradited to Tennessee and charged with King’s murder, confessing to the assassination on March 10, 1969 (though he recanted this confession three days later). Later, Ray would be sentenced to a 99-year prison term.
    On the advice of his attorney Percy Foreman, Ray took a guilty plea to avoid a trial conviction and thus the possibility of receiving the death penalty. Ray fired Foreman as his attorney (from then on derisively calling him “Percy Fourflusher”) claiming that a man he met in Montreal, Canada with the alias “Raoul” was involved, as was his brother Johnny, but not himself, further asserting that although he didn’t “personally shoot Dr. King,” hinting at a conspiracy he may have been “partially responsible without knowing it”. He spent the remainder of his life attempting (unsuccessfully) to withdraw his guilty plea and secure the trial he never had.
    There was much attention devoted to the identity of Raoul and the involvement of Ray’s brother, Jerry Ray. One book by William Bradford Huie, They Slew The Dreamer, labels Raoul as George Ben Edmondson. Edmondson was a convict who learned computer programming in a Jefferson City prison and escaped eventually making his way to Canada where he worked for the West German Pavilion at Expo ’67 in Montreal. Nothing else was made of the connection and Edmondson was released and returned to Canada but the media attention by the time of his release had died out and nothing was followed up. Edmondson himself saw the allegation as ridiculous. Another theory offered by a 1977 New Times magazine article suggested that Jerry Ray (James’ brother) and “Raoul” were one and the same. State prosecutors in Memphis claimed to have investigated Raoul and did find the individual but insisted that he had nothing to do with the killing and was working on the day he was shot.
    U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations investigated the Kennedy and King assassinations released a report in 1978 that Ray was the killer but that he didn’t act alone. They concluded that a group of white supremacists in St. Louis, reportedly with a $50,000 bounty on King’s head, might have been involved, too. The house committee’s full report is sealed until the year 2029.

    On June 10, 1977, shortly after Ray had testified to the House Select Committee on Assassinations that he did not shoot King, he and six other convicts escaped from Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Petros, Tennessee. They were recaptured on June 13 and returned to prison. More years were then added to his sentence for attempting to escape from the penitentiary. Ray died in prison on April 23, 1998, at the age of 70 from complications related to kidney disease, caused by hepatitis C probably contracted as a result of a blood transfusion given after a stabbing while at Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. It was also confirmed in the autopsy that he died of liver failure.

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    Vietnam Execution

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    Eddie Adams Vietnam Execution

    Behind the camera: Eddie Adams
    Where: In Cholon, the Chinese section of Saigon, Vietnam
    Photo Summary: General Nguyen Ngoc Loan killing Vietcong operative Nguyen Van Lem
    Picture Taken: Feb 1, 1968

    After Nguyen Ngoc Loan raised his sidearm and shot Vietcong operative Nguyen Van Lem in the head he walked over to the reporters and told them that, “These guys kill a lot of our people, and I think Buddha will forgive me.” Captured on NBC TV cameras and by AP photographer Eddie Adams, the picture and film footage flashed around the world and quickly became a symbol of the Vietnam War’s brutality. Eddie Adams’ picture was especially striking, as the moment frozen is one almost at the instant of death. Taken a split second after the trigger was pulled, Lem’s final expression is one of pain as the bullet rips through his head. A closer look of the photo actually reveals the bullet exiting his skull.

    Eddie Adams: The Execution of a Viet Cong Guerilla, 1968

    With Color

    Nguyen Ngoc Loan

    “Two people died in that photograph: the recipient of the bullet and General Nguyen Ngoc Loan” – Eddie Adams. Nguyen Ngoc Loan was one of 11 children born to an affluent family in the ancient city of Hue. He finished university at the top of his class and trained as a jet pilot in the South Vietnamese Air Force. It was in the air force that he meets, Nguyen Cao Ky, the flamboyant pilot who once flew a helicopter into the courtyard of his girlfriend’s house to impress her. Ky would later become Prime Minister of South Vietnam from 1965 to 1967, and then Vice President until his retirement from politics in 1971. When in power Ky Surrounded himself with trusted men including his friend, Nguyen Ngoc Loan who he put in charge of the national police. As police chief Loan immediately gained a reputation among reporters for his anger and hair-trigger temper when the Vietcong struck civilian targets. 

    Nguyen Van Lem

    The guy killed one of … Loan’s officers and wiped out his whole family
    -Eddie Adams

    The prisoner whose last instant is captured in Adam’s shot was Nguyen Van Lem. A Viet Cong operative, who like other Viet Cong agents went by the secret name of Captain Bay Lop (Lop was his wife’s first name). His wife, who still lives in Saigon (Now Ho Chi Minh City), confirms that Lem was a member of the Vietcong and that he disappeared shortly before the Tet Offensive never to return. Lem’s role in the Viet Cong is murky. Most reports give him the role of a Captain in a Viet Cong assassination and revenge platoon responsible for the killing of South Vietnamese policemen and their families. Eddie Adams was told by Loan that Lem had killed one of Loan’s friends and his family, “They found out that [Lem] was the same guy who killed one of his —uh—Loan’s officers and wiped out his whole family.” Yet facing international pressure when the picture and footage aired Vice President Ky, said the prisoner had not been in the Viet Cong but was “a very high ranking” communist political official. History hasn’t clarified Lem’s role in the Vietcong and the Vietnamese government has never acknowledged his role in the war. Lem’s widow and children lived in poverty for years before being discovered by a Japanese TV crew living in a field. It was only then that the Vietnamese government provided her shelter. 

    Taking the picture

    He was a hero … very well loved by the Vietnamese
    -Eddie Adams on General Loan

    Adams, the man who captured Lem’s final instant was a former Marine photographer in the Korean War. Working for AP, he had arrived in Vietnam a few weeks before the Tet Offensive. This was his third tour; the first was when marines initially touched down in Vietnam in 1965. On the second day of the Tet Offensive Eddie heard reports of fighting near the Cholon, the Chinese section of the capital. The AP and NBC were office neighbors and often pooled resources when reporting the war. So Eddie teamed up with one of NBC’s cameramen, Vo Su, and went to check out the location where the fighting was reported. 
    The two shared a vehicle but as they got closer started to proceed on foot. Hal Buell, Eddie’s boss, tells what happened next: 

    Adams watched as two Vietnamese soldiers pulled a prisoner out of a doorway at the end of the street. The soldiers then pushed and pulled what appeared to be a Viet Cong in a plaid shirt, his arms tied behind his back. They escorted the man toward the spot where Adams and Vo Su were located.
    “Eddie Adams said, ‘I just followed the three of them as they walked towards us, making an occasional picture. When they were close – maybe five feet away – the soldiers stopped and backed away. I saw a man walk into my camera viewfinder from the left. He took a pistol out of his holster and raised it. I had no idea he would shoot. It was common to hold a pistol to the head of prisoners during questioning. So I prepared to make that picture – the threat, the interrogation. But it didn’t happen. The man just pulled a pistol out of his holster, raised it to the VC’s head and shot him in the temple. I made a picture at the same time.’ “The prisoner fell to the pavement, blood gushing,” Buell, quoting Eddie. “After a few more pictures of the dead man, Adams left.


    Video Footage

    NBC also acquired film footage of the incident, thanks to the South Vietnamese journalist with Adams, Vo Suu, a cameraman for NBC correspondent Howard Tuckner. The color footage of the execution filmed by Vo Suu was shown to a stunned America already shocked by images of a supposed “defeated” on the offensive during the Tet attack.
    After the picture and footage flashed across the world there were cries for Loan to be charged with War Crimes for his summary execution of Lem. Loan’s execution would have violated the Geneva Conventions for captured soldiers or Prisoners of War (POWs) if Lem had been wearing a military uniform. Since Lem was caught wearing civilian clothes, a plaid shirt and black shorts, Loan was only restricted by the laws of the South Vietnamese government, which allowed the use of such harsh measures.

    After the War


    His Vietnam execution shot won Eddie Adams the Pulitzer Prize for the Associated Press in 1969. He has always felt guilty over his role in demonizing Loan. After the picture was released in 1969 the AP assigned Adams to follow Loan around Vietnam. In this time Adams remembers, “I . . . found out the guy was very well loved by the Vietnamese, you know. He was a hero to them . . . and it just saddens me that none of this has really come out.”
    Adams would later do a series of shots of 48 Vietnamese boat people who had managed to get to Thailand in a small 30ft boat, only to be towed back out to sea by Thai military officials. His reports and picture convinced President Jimmy Carter to grant asylum to over 200,000 Vietnamese boat people. “I would have rather won the Pulitzer for something like that. It did some good and nobody got hurt.” 

    General Loan Taken out of Action

    The guy was a hero. America should be crying
    -Eddie Adams on hearing of Loan’s death

    In May 1968 only a few months after the execution picture, now, Brigadier General Loan was seriously wounded. While leading the charge against a Viet Cong strong point a machine gun burst had ripped off his leg. Once again a photograph captured Loan. This time the general was bleeding profusely while the broad-shouldered Australian war correspondent, Pat Burgess, carried him back to his lines. 
    Loan was taken to Australia for treatment but when it was discovered who he was there was such an outcry from the Australian public he was moved to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. After recovering from his injuries the one-legged Loan returned to Saigon where because he had been relieved of his command due to his injuries devoted his time to set up hospitals and the helping Vietnamese war orphans. 

    General to Pizza Cook

    When South Vietnam fell to the north in 1975, Loan at almost the last moment made it out of the country on a South Vietnamese plane after being denied help by the fleeing Americans. He settled in the United States eventually opening a pizzeria in northern Virginia. He lived a quiet life until he was forced to close his restaurant in 1991 when his identity was discovered. In 1998, at 67, he died of cancer but is survived by his four children his wife, Chinh Mai; and nine grandchildren. “The guy was a hero. America should be crying,” Eddie Adams response when he learned of Loan’s death. 


    I won a Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for a photograph of one man shooting another … The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still, photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths. What the photograph didn’t say was, “What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American soldiers?” General Loan was what you would call a real warrior, admired by his troops. I’m not saying what he did was right, but you have to put yourself in his position.  

    …This picture really messed up his life. He never blamed me. He told me if I hadn’t taken the picture, someone else would have, but I’ve felt bad for him and his family for a long time. I had kept in contact with him; the last time we spoke was about six months ago when he was very ill.
    I sent flowers when I heard that he had died and wrote, “I’m sorry. There are tears in my eyes.”
    –Eddie Adams

    Life After the Picture

    Eddie Adams born on June 12, 1933, in New Kensington, Pennsylvania has covered 13 wars but has also become famous as a magazine cover photographer. His pictures have been seen on magazines and newspaper covers around the world including Time, Newsweek, Life, Paris Match, Parade, Penthouse, Vogue, The London Sunday Times Magazine, The New York Times, Stern and Vanity Fair. (Yes Penthouse! He shot a number of “Pets” in the 70s) He has shot cover shots for some of the most famous people in the world, presidents Richard Nixon to President Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev, Anwar Sadat, Deng Xiaoping, Fidel Castro and Pope John Paul II. In 1988 he started an annual photo event, Barnstorm: The Eddie Adams Photojournalism Workshop. For four days the workshop brings together newbies and seasoned pros in the Photojournalism field for photography, editing tips and networking. 
    Eddie Adams himself lived to 71 when on September 18, 2004, he died from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. The Vietnam war correspondent who carried the wounded Loan to safety, Pat Burgess, also died from painful sclerosis of the nervous system, similar to the type Eddie Adams had.
    The North Vietnamese failed to achieve any of their goals with the Tet Offensive. The attack was a military disaster for the Vietnamese and Vietcong forces where never able to return to the pre-Tet strength. However, in the eyes of the American pubic, it seemed like America had been the one that had been dealt a serious blow. The Offensive contradicted the message from the White House that the USA was winning. The execution photograph was a part of the media presentation of the Tet Offensive and seemed to present a battle that had been reduced to desperation and savagery. Yet for all the emotional impact that the film and picture had, the event had little effect on the presence of American soldiers in Vietnam. American G.I.s stayed for another five years. The American government still continued funding the South Vietnamese for another seven years, until 1975; the same year South Vietnam fell. 

    Copyright info

    The copyright for this image is handled by AP Images.

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    And babies

    Behind the camera: Ronald L. Haeberle
    Where: Sơn Mỹ village, Sơn Tịnh district of South Vietnam
    Photo Summary: Victims of the My Lai massacre
    Picture Taken: March 16, 1968

    In the early 70s, a poster was created to protest the Vietnam War. It combined photos taken by U.S. Army combat photographer Ronald L. Haeberle and a quote from a Mike Wallace CBS News television interview. Due to the ambiguous copyright status of the photo, it has appeared in numerous media including newspapers, magazines, poster runs, etc.

    Creating the poster

    In 1970 a group of Vietnam War activists called the Art Worker’s Coalition (AWC) created the And babies poster. AWC members Irving Petlin, Jon Hedricks, and Fraser Dougherty took text from an ABC interview, “And babies? And babies” and overlaid it onto the Haeberle’s photo. Peter Brandt donated enough paper for fifty thousand copies of the poster. While printing the printer staff showed intense hostility towards the AWC as the blue-collar workers were patriotic to the core and viewed any attack on government policy as an attack on the country. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) initially agreed to distribute the poster as a political statement that it was outraged by the My Lai massacre. Another obstacle encountered was when it went to MoMA directors William S. Paley and Nelson Rockefeller vetoed distributing it under the policy that the MoMA could not commit, “to any position on any matter not directly related to a specific function of the museum.” While they refused to fund the distribution they relented to allow independent distribution but the MoMA name could be used as the source of the creation. The poster was quickly snapped up and was spread and reproduced all over the world.

    Exposing the photo

    Only one week from finishing his tour of duty Ronald Haeberle was an Army photographer (31st Public Information Detachment) when on March 16, 1968, he accompanied Charlie Company of 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division on an operation to the Sơn Mỹ village, Sơn Tịnh district of South Vietnam. On that day the Americans killed around three to five hundred villagers in what would become known as the My Lai Massacre. Haeberle later testified that he personally saw about 30 different American soldiers kill about 100 civilians. He recalled that he saw “Guys were about to shoot [the villagers]. I yelled, ‘hold it’, and shot my picture. As I walked away, I heard M16s open up. From the corner of my eye, I saw bodies falling, but I didn’t turn to look.” In another interview, he remembers that he ” didn’t make it to certain parts of the village where other things were going on, the rapes and the cutting of tongues and scalping and all that stuff. I didn’t see any of that.
    The massacre would go unnoticed by the public until Haeberle haunted by his role in the event started to publish his pictures and investigative journalist Seymour Hersh took up the story after collaborating Haeberle’s pictures with the interviews from those involved in the massacre. Hersh tried to get his story published but most refused to believe that the event actually happened. Then a small publication the, The Plain Dealer, the major daily newspaper of Cleveland, Ohio was approached by Haeberle. Mike Roberts, a Plain Dealer Washington bureau reporter remembers that “No one believed [Hersh’s story] Bill Ware, the [Plain Dealer’s] executive editor, called; he wasn’t sure if we should go with it. Almost simultaneously, this kid comes forward with these pictures — Haeberle’s photographs legitimized the story.” In the course of verifying Haeberle story an Army prosecutor named Aubrey Daniel called and in strong language suggested that the paper halt publication of the photos. Another reporter at the paper remembered “Daniel told us, ‘You have no right to run those photos because [Haeberle] was using an Army camera,… And we told him he’d had his own camera, too.”
    Eventually, 20 months after Charlie Company had mowed down hundreds of Vietnamese Hersh’s story was published and was picked up on the wire by over 30 publications. Around the same time, Haeberle got his gory photos published in LIFE magazine for $20,000. The media coverage combined with the efforts of soldier Ron Ridenhour exposed the massacre to the world. Ridenhour had found out about the event through other soldiers and when he returned to America started a letter campaign that was mostly ignored until Congressman Morris Udall (D) started to investigate. For his persistence in trying to get the story published Seymour Hersh received the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting.

    ABC Interview

    On December 14, 1969, Mike Wallace, with CBS News, did a television interview with one of the soldiers, Paul Meadlo, who participated in the massacre. The text for the poster was taken from this interview:

    Q:How many people did you round up?
    A:Well, there was about forty, fifty people that we gathered in the center of the village. And we placed them in there, and it was like a little island, right there in the center of the village, I7d say … And …
    Q:What kind of people – men, women, children?
    A:Men, women, children.
    A:Babies. And we huddled them up. We made them squat down and Lieutenant Calley came over and said, “You know what to do with them don’t you?” And I said yes. So I took it for granted that he just wanted us to watch them. And he left, and came back about ten or fifteen minutes later and said, “How come you ain’t killed them yet?” And I told him that I didn’t think you wanted us to kill them, that you just wanted us to guard them. He said, “No, I want them dead.” So-
    Q:He told this to all of you, or to you particularly?
    A:Well, I was facing him. So, but the other three, four, guys heard it and so he stepped back about ten, fifteen feet, and he started shooting them. And he told me to start shooting. So I started shooting, I poured about four clips into the group.
    Q:You fired four clips from your …
    Q:And that’s about how many clips – I mean, how many –
    A:I carried seventeen rounds to each clip.
    Q:So you fired something like sixty-seven shots?
    Q:And you killed how many? At that time?
    A:Well, I fired them automatic, so you can’t know hom any you killed ’cause they were going fast. So I might have killed ten or fifteen of them.
    A:Men, women and children?
    Q:Men, women and children.
    A:And babies?
    Q:and babies.

    Copy right status

    Ronald L. Haeberle took the photo while in the American military as a US army combat photographer. As such any work, he did as a government employee should fall into the public domain. However, Haeberle used multiple cameras; the first was his black and white Army issued camera and the second was his personal camera that used color film. Therefore the copyright is uncertain as he used his own camera to take the, “And babies”, poster photo. Further clouding the status of the photo is that text is overlapped over of the photo making it an altered original work of art, much like the more modern Fairey Obama Poster. Regardless of the poster status, just the photo was published by Time/Life and Haeberle granted reproduction rights to the AWC without charge on December 16, 1970.

    John Morris, the photo editor for The New York Times at the time remembers:

    In late morning, we received word that London papers, copying the photos from The Plain Dealer, were going ahead without payment, ignoring the copyright. The New York Post followed, in its early afternoon edition. Rosenthal decreed that it would now be ridiculous for The Times to pay. We would publish “as a matter of public interest.” The next day, November 22, [1969] The Times ran one My Lai picture on page three—downplayed to avoid sensationalism.


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    Vietnam – No 13

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    ART GREENSPON in Vietnam
    Behind the camera: Art Greenspon
    Where: Ashau Valley near Hue, Vietnam
    Photo Summary: Soldier with hands raised directing a medical evacuation helicopter to remove wounded men of A Company, 101st Airborne Division
    Picture Taken: April 01, 1968 3:00 PM

    Art Greenspon, who was then 26-years old, had travelled to Vietnam and was promptly hired as an AP stringer. While stationed with American 101st Airborne Division near Hue he captured this picture of a man with his hands raised directing a medical evacuation helicopter to remove wounded men of A Company, 101st Airborne.

    The picture

    The Ashau Valley near Hue, Vietnam was one of the main thoroughfares of the Ho Chi Ming Trail, a supply line that provided weapons and supplies to the Vietcong fighting Western-backed forces in South Vietnam. As such South Vietnamese forces often backed by American units frequently patrolled the valley seeking to stop the flow of war material.
    During one such American 5-day patrol a firefight between communist fighters and the 101st Airborne troops resulted in a number of wounded. While covering the evac Art Greenspon took this picture.
    When the image was sent back to the States and hit the wire famed photographer Douglas Duncan proclaimed that it was a “masterpiece” and the best picture of the war yet.

    Greenspon’s shot is, of course, anchored upon the solider – head thrown back arms reaching toward the heaven … and help .. silhouetted against the dust of battle deep in the Vietnam Forest. He represents all soldiers in every war: the fact that he is guiding a rescue chopper is irrelevant … I salute this masterpiece. –Douglas Duncan

    While covering the war, on May 5, 1968, later a bullet passed through a LIFE photographer’s hand before hitting Greenspon between the eyes. He returned to New York to recover from the shoot.

    Possible identification

    A few days later during this battle Tim Lickness, from the 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division was handling medical evacuations. After a helo was hit by enemy fire and crashed he organized a rescue mission to get the surviving crew members. As he did participate in medical evacuations after April 1st, he might be one of the people in this picture.


    Platoon Greenspon comparison

    Movie still from Platoon and the Greenspon shot

    Movie Director Oliver Stone created one of the most iconic Vietnam War movies, Platoon. A veteran of the war himself Oliver Stone struggled to recreate his experiences in Vietnam. He was inspired by Greenspon’s image and created a memorable scene where Willem Dafoe’s character, Elias Barnes, is hit by enemy fire and throws his hands in the air, Christ-like, as he collapses in death. David Parsons a professor of the University of New York describes Stone’s effort of replicating this scene as trying to change the image of the American GI from aggressor to victim of the Vietnam War.

    As the immediate politics of the war waned in the 1980s, American popular culture began to explore its human costs in different terms, most often locating the war’s tragedy in the experiences and suffering of American combat troops. In this version of the Vietnam War narrative, Americans themselves become posed (both literally and metaphorically) as victims, helpless to even comprehend the scope of the tragedy that has befallen them.

    Coypright Info

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