Stretcher in the Mud

THE BATTLE OF PASSCHENDAELE, JULY-NOVEMBER 1917 (Q 5935) Battle of Pilckem Ridge. Stretcher bearers struggle in mud up to their knees to carry a wounded man to safety near Boesinghe, 1 August 1917.

Behind the camera: John Warwick Brooke
Where: Boezinge is a village north of the city of Ypres in West Flanders, Belgium
Photo Summary: Seven British soldiers struggle carrying a wounded man on a stretcher during the Battle of Pilckem Ridge, World War I
IWM Code: IWM Q 5935
Picture Taken: August 1, 1917

“I died in hell – they called it Passchendaele”

World War I poet soldier Siegfried Sassoon 

During the First World War the Battle of Pilckem Ridge was the opening slavo for the Third Battle of Ypres also known as the Battle of Passchendaele. By the summer of 1917 the war had been going on for three years. Behind the front lines war photographer Lieutenant John Warwick Brooke took this iconic photo of the total destruction, mud and horror that hampered the Allied effort.

Lieutenant John Warwick Brooke

Before the war photographer Lieutenant John Warwick Brooke had worked at the Topical Press Agency a British media company that had opened in 1903. At its peak, the company had hundreds of photographers that would take and sell photos to newspapers and consumers of stock photography.

Brooke had been sent to the Western Front in 1916 as an official photographer. During his stay on various battlefronts, he took over 4,000 photos of the British war effort on the Western Front. His mission was to take as many, with as much variety as he could. Covering an army of over 2 million he took some of the most iconic and memorable photos of WWI.

Battle of Pilckem Ridge

On July 31, 1917, the Battle of Pilckem Ridge started with a symphony of artillery that laid waste to German trenches, and supply lines. Starting early in the morning British soldiers streamed into no man’s land where the British guns had pounded the German defences. Then the barrage began to creep forward at 90 metres a minute, to which the Allied soldiers would cautiously follow. The Allies meet most of their objectives, took thousands of German prisoners and advanced almost 3 kilometres at a cost of 31,850 casualties. The Generals at the time thought it was a huge success.

Hoping to build on the momentum of the advance the British planned further attacks but these quickly bogged down as the region became a victim of the weather. Huge rains drenched the flat, cratered, and broken landscape turning the area into a moonscape of mud and shell holes that would swallow men, horses and equipment.

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War Is Hell

Behind the camera: Horst Faas
Where: Phouc Vinh airstrip in South Vietnam
Photo Summary: 173rd Airborne Brigade Battalion member Larry Wayne Chaffin on guard duty at the Phouc Vinh airstrip
Picture Taken: June 18, 1965

Horst Faas was an infamous war photographer that shot extensively through the Vietnam War theater. With another author he published a book on his and other photojournalist’s time in South East Asia titled, Requiem: By the Photographers Who Died in Vietnam and Indochina He captured the War Is Hell image while touring South Vietnam in 1965. The picture was always left uncaptioned and the face unidentified until it was revealed that the man was Larry Wayne Chaffin.

Larry Wayne Chaffin


173rd Airborne Brigade Battalion member Larry Wayne Chaffin during the Vietnam War, Phouc Vinh airstrip in South Vietnam 1014 × 1500 June 18, 1965 by Horst Faas

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The family of Larry Wayne Chaffin claims that the man in this photo is their father. Research into the photo by the AP revealed that Fass added in his notes:

the unidentified Army soldier picture was shot June 18, 1965, and the soldier was with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Battalion on defense duty at Phouc Vinh airstrip in South Vietnam.

All match-up with Chaffin’s war record and where he was deployed. According to the 173rd’s records on June 18, 1965, the units were sent to the town of Dong Xoai north of War Zone “D” after reports of Viet Cong activity. There was no contact and so they returned to their base but that the deployment was successful as the Americans were able to deploy a battalion task force within hours.

Later when Chaffin was discharged from the army his wife, Fran Chaffin Morrison, met him at the airport. She remembers that after getting off his plane he showed this portrait in a Stars and Stripes publication to which he joked that this “picture is going to make me rich sometime.”
Like a lot of Vietnam Vets, he had trouble adjusting to life back home and died at the age of 39 from complications that arose from diabetes. The family is convinced that diabetes was a result of his exposure to the infamous Agent Orange, a defoliant agent used in Vietnam and linked to multiple health issues. He died December 3, 1985, and is buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis.

Horst Fass


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Fass was born in Germany and started his photography career at 21. During the Vietnam War, he was a photo-editor as well as a photojournalist. He was instrumental at getting two of the most famous Vietnam War pictures published the Vietnam Execution and the shot of naked Vietnamese girl running down the road. He 1967 an injury after he was hit by an RPG almost ended his life and left him with serious injuries to his legs. As chief photographer for the Associated Press (AP) in Saigon he won the 1965 Pulitzer Prize and then in 1972 Faas won a second Pulitzer Prize for his pictures of torture and executions in Bangladesh.

He was based in South Vietnam until 1974, in 1976 he moved to London and worked at the AP office until 2004. In addition to Requiem: By the Photographers Who Died in Vietnam and Indochina he also co-wrote, Lost Over Laos: A True Story Of Tragedy, Mystery, And Friendship He died Thursday May 10, 2012, he was 79.

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