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.


Colourization by DB Colour
Colourized by DOUG
Colourized by the IWM

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WWI Christmas Truce Football Match

Behind the camera: WWI Photographer
Where: Salonika, Greece
Photo Summary: Officers and men of 26th Divisional Ammunition Train playing football
Picture Taken: December 25, 1915

By Christmas 1914 World War I had been raging for months. The fighting saw the new industrial style of warfare involving machine guns that mowed down hundreds of soldiers in seconds. This meant that the men lived out of sight in wet, cold and diseased trenches. Soldiers huddled against the cold on Christmas were surprised when German soldiers starting singing. Allied soldiers sang back. Singing led to shouting, shouting led to brief encounters in no-ones land which led to a full-on truce and soldiers intermingling on both sides for much of the 1914 Christmas and Boxing day. Yet this picture didn’t take place in 1914 or even in Western Europe. This image is of officers and men of 26th Divisional Ammunition Train playing football a year after the Christmas truce, December 25th, 1915 in another theatre of war Salonika, Greece.

1914 Christmas Truce

British and German soldiers pictured in No Mans Land during Christmas Truce 1914

British and German soldiers pictured in No Mans Land

Six months into World War I the war was not going well for either side. Modern warfare meant that both sides had to hide in trenches from deadly machine guns that could put up a wall of deadly bullets blocking any attempted attack. Meanwhile, enemy snipers waited to put a hole in anyone exposing their head over the lip of the trench. Often the men, in their trenches, were knee deep in freezing water as they waited, never knowing when the other side would attack.

Facing the British in many parts of the Western Front were German soldiers who had often lived and worked in the United Kingdom. With good English, they sang to the British who replied in kind with Christmas songs of their own. Soon men infected with this Christmas cheer ventured above the trenches an action that just hours earlier would have meant a gift of a bullet in the head. The truce didn’t happen everywhere with some battles and the inevitable causalities even taking place on Christmas. Erik Sass tells us that:

According to British eyewitnesses, German troops from Saxony were often eager to fraternize, perhaps because of their shared ethnic heritage with the Anglo-Saxons, whereas Prussian troops were much less likely to make any friendly gestures, if only because they were under the stern supervision of committed Prussian officers. Meanwhile, on the Allied side, French troops were understandably also less inclined to fraternize with invaders occupying their own homeland – indeed, in some cases, their own homes. And regardless of nationality, some individuals simply seemed unable to put aside their personal hatred of the enemy. A Bavarian dispatch runner, Adolf Hitler, voiced strong disapproval of the truce, according to one of his fellow dispatch runners, who later recounted: “He said, ‘Something like this should not even be up for discussion during wartime.’”

The professional Indian soldiers on the front lines were horrified at their British comrade’s interactions with the Germans,

Belgian, Indian and French troops who witnessed episodes of fraternisation were at best puzzled and at worst very angry that British troops were being friendly towards the Germans.

While some French did observe a Christmas Truce after the war any stories of French soldiers taking part in the truce were censored and covered up.

In France, not a word was written on the subject. The newspapers had become tools enabling the army and authorities to spread propaganda. In the country that had given the world human rights, the press was no longer free.

Even in 2004 Frenchmen who took part in the Truce were still regarded as traitors and when a film producer asked to have French military cooperation in the remaking of the Truce for film, a vocal group vetoed the idea saying the French military would never be “involved in a film about rebels.”

Christmas Truce Football Match 1914 England vs Germany

Celebration of the football game using the photo from Greece 1915

The Football Game

A certain mythology has grown up around the Christmas truce and one of the more popular urban legends was that there was a semi-formal soccer match between the two sides. As Dan Snow tells us,

There wasn’t a single organised football match between German and British sides. There may have been small-scale kick-abouts – but these were just one of many different activities men took the time to enjoy.

This articles’ photo which is used quite extensively as proof that a game took place actually happened a year later on Christmas 1915, halfway around the world at a British base in Salonika, Greece.

During the 1914 Christmas Truce, instead of football, the men were more much more interested in recovering the bodies of their comrades which had often sat rotting away in no man’s land for months.

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Soldiers at the Western Wall

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Behind the camera: David Rubinger
Where: In front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem
Photo Summary: From left to right Zion Karasanti, Yitzhak Yifat and Haim Oshri standing looking at the Wall
Picture Taken: June 7, 1967

As the Six-Day War (Fought between June 5 and 10, 1967) raged between Israel and the neighboring Arab States Israeli photo journalist, David Rubinger, heard that something big was going on in Jerusalem. By helicopter, car and on foot he rushed to a divided city that Israeli paratroopers had overrun. When he got to the western wall he saw three paratroopers and told them to look up. Lying down on the ground he took this iconic shot.

The Six Day War

1967 Six Day War - The Jordan salient

IDF movements in the West Bank

Leading up to 1967 Six Day War Israel and the surrounding Arab states, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria were under a period of escalating tension and small border raids. Israel decided that the Arab states were eventually going to attack and so decided to take the initiative and launch a full-scale invasion of the surrounding territory. The resulting attack, coined the Six Day War, devastated the states surrounding Israel, while also seizing the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria. In the words of David Rubinger, “we went from being doomed to having an empire. It was like a condemned man with the noose around his neck suddenly being told that not only was he going to live he was going to be the king.”

The Three

Rubinger captured and immortalized the three paratroopers, Zion Karasenti, Yitzak Yifat and Haim Oshri. They had just fought a brutal engagement, the Battle of Ammunition Hill where Israeli forces overran Jordanian forces in intense hand to hand combat. Karasenti remembers that the “Jordanians couldn’t get away, but they kept on fighting to the last man.” All three commented on how brave the Jordanians were in battle. The attack fell to the Israeli 3rd company of the 66th Battalion, of the Paratroopers Brigade’s reserve force (55th Brigade), and during the battle, a force of the 2nd company joined the fighting. During the battle 71 Jordanian soldiers and 36 Israelis were killed.

Zion Karasenti

Zion Karasenti remembers in an interview there was fierce fighting when the Israelis engaged the Jordanians.

I had finally been mobilized, and almost all of the reservists in my unit were already in combat, I remember my mother’s fear — and her tears. I knew our country had no choice, and I had to do my duty to defend it. [During the fighting] There was a passage covered with barbed wire, I jumped on it and helped others to cross. I felt no pain. We went into the trenches. They were not very deep, but they were quite narrow. [After the fighting Karasanti walked to the Western Wall]

I saw an Israeli soldier in the area– I had no idea where she came from. I asked her, ‘Where am I?’ She said, ‘This is the Western Wall.’ Then, before disappearing, she gave me a postcard and told me to write to my parents. I thought I had dreamed it. But years later, I met this woman. She was a soldier in the IDF Postal Corps.”

Karasenti would be around 70 in 2013 and worked as a director and choreographer. He lives in Afula.

Yitzhak Yifat

In the rushed nature of the war, Yitzhak Yifat actually had a toothache for most of the war, before the battle to take Ammunition Hill he had some dental work and actually fought with his face still numb from local anesthesia.

It was face-to-face fighting. I fought like a tiger. My friend was shot in the backside and he was about to be shot again by a Jordanian. I shot him. Another Jordanian saw I was out of bullets and he charged at me with a bayonet. I don’t know how I did it, but I took his gun and shot him with it. It was brutal, and a sad victory. I lost many friends. After the fighting, we built a memorial to our friends – and one to the Jordanians, in honour of their bravery.

Entering the Old City wasn’t such a big deal to me as it was to some. I wonder now if it was all worth it: it seems so complicated and our leaders have no vision for the future. I am glad we liberated Jerusalem and it should remain united under our sovereignty, but everyone, from any religion, should be allowed to visit. I’m angry about what the religious [Orthodox] have done to the Western Wall, dividing it between the sexes and imposing their rules on it.

Yitzhak Yifat would be 70 in 2013 and studied to become a gynecologist and obstetrician.

Haim Oshri

Oshri was a Yemeni Jew born in 1944 and emigrated to Israel in 1949 after it was created in the War of Independence. In an interview he remembers

The battle for Ammunition Hill was the worst moment of the war. There wasn’t a plan – we were just told to attack. The Jordanians were brave soldiers. Now it makes me angry to think of all the unnecessary casualties. If we had taken more time to plan, there would have been far fewer casualties.

As an Orthodox Jew it was special for me to be involved in the fight for Jerusalem. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Poland or Yemen, Jerusalem is our common bond. Every day we pray three times to Jerusalem, and I could never have imagined the magic of seeing the Kotel [Western Wall] for the first time.

David Rubinger Taking the Picture

The three men, Then and in 2007, AP IMAGES

The three men, Then and in 2007, AP IMAGES

David Rubinger was born in Vienna, Austria in 1924. As the Nazis overtook Europe he was able to escape to Palestine while his father made his way to England. His mother was not so lucky and died during the Holocaust. Settling in a Jordan Valley kibbutz he broke into photojournalism working at a number of Israeli papers until he was hired by Time-Life in 1954.

When the Six-Day War broke out Rubinger was covering the fighting in the Sinai and heard over the radio that something big was going to happen in Jerusalem. He was able to hitch a ride aboard a helicopter, for the wounded, to his car and then he drove the rest of the way, even picking up a hitchhiking soldier so that he could drive for a while so that Rubinger could catch up on some sleep. He remembers that when he heard the city had fallen to the Israelis he rushed to Wailing Wall and saw the three paratroopers. He directed them to look up while

I lay down to take the picture of the paratroopers because there was barely three metres between the Wailing Wall and the houses next to it. When I developed the film, I didn’t think much of the picture…

[He also took an emotional photo of Shlomo Goren, the chief army chaplain, with a shofar and a Torah scroll] I thought this was the picture, I was crying when I took it. I came back home, developed the film and showed the pictures to my wife, Annie. I said, ‘Look at this fantastic picture of Rabbi Goren.’ She said, ‘Yes, but the one with the three soldiers is better.’ I said, ‘It’s just three soldiers.’ It turned out Annie was right.”

…I gave it to the army. They passed it on to the government press office which then distributed it to everyone for virtually nothing. I still don’t think it’s a great picture, but often iconic pictures are created by the media and what people read into them.

To get front line access Rubinger and other photojournalists had made an agreement to share any photos he took.  When he sent this photo to them they immediately saw the potential and started printing millions of copies that they sold for pennies.  These printings and pirate copying spread it around the world and made it an iconic image.  Rubinger recounts, “I was very upset but, in retrospect, I have to be grateful to everybody who stole the picture. That’s what made it famous.”

Rubinger continued with his job at Time-Life and in published a book, Israel Through My Lens: Sixty Years As a Photojournalist. With his wife Anni the couple had two children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Two years after his wife died Rubinger met a widower Ziona Spivak who he had a relationship with until on the eve of the first Paul Goldman exhibition was to open in Detroit she was found murdered by her gardener. Rubinger was going to cancel the trip but “I came to the conclusion that, if I surrender to the mood, that there’s nothing more to live for, the body will follow the mind in a very short while. I made myself call Spencer and say ‘I’m coming.’ Thanks to that, I got out of it.”


Copyright for held by AP Images Soldiers at the Western Wall by David Rubinger

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Starving Sudanese girl

Behind the camera: Kevin Carter
Where: Ayod, Sudan (Now South Sudan)
Photo Summary: Young Sudanese girl crawling to the food station
Picture Taken: March 1993

In March of 1993 the combination of civil war, drought had created famine conditions throughout Southern Sudan. Reporting on the starving people Kevin Carter and other journalists flew into Ayod, Sudan (Now in the newly created country of South Sudan) where he took this famous picture of a young Sudanese girl crawling to the food station. For the image he won the 1994 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Feature Photography.

Taking the image

In 1983 the East African Famine had struck the whole region leaving millions starving in Africa. Carter was anxious to cover the event and took a leave of absence from his newspaper job and borrowed money to pay for the flight. At Ayod, Sudan a small village that became a food aid station, starving people from hundreds of kilometers away staggered into the camp to get food but were still dying at an incredible rate of twenty an hour. Seeing such horror Carter went out into the open bush outside the camp where he heard a whimper and walking towards the sound found the young girl resting on the ground. A vulture settled down nearby and Carter waited twenty minutes hoping it would spread its wings allowing him to snap a better picture. When the bird didn’t comply he snapped the now infamous shot and then shooed away the vulture. Distraught at not being able to help any of the people at Ayod he sat under a tree and cried in despair.


Returning from Ayod Carter was able to sell the image to the New York Times who published it on March 26, 1993. Almost immediately people phoned and wrote to the newspaper asking about the fate of the small girl. When it was learned that the journalist didn’t help the girl and that her fate was unknown people accused him of exploiting the desperate scene even though at the briefing in Sudan the journalists were warned that touching any of the famine victims was strictly forbidden. American papers like the St. Petersburg (The Florida city) Times slammed Carter saying “The man adjusting his lens to take just the right frame of her suffering, might just as well be a predator, another vulture on the scene.” Carter took the criticism harshly and spiralled into depression and drug use.

Kevin Carter

Carter was born in 1960 in South Africa during the height of apartheid. As a child, he saw how the injustice at how the state dealt with blacks and became outraged. He got a job as a photographer and quickly made a name for himself when he took a number of pictures of the anti-apartheid demonstrations and violent incidents in South Africa. He quickly fell into a group of like-minded individuals and “They put themselves in face of danger, were arrested numerous times, but never quit. They literally were willing to sacrifice themselves for what they believed in,” says American photojournalist James Nachtwey, who often worked with Carter and his group of friends.
Travelling in groups for safety Carter and his three friends Ken Oosterbroek, Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva covered the intense violence of the country as groups vied for power and fought the apartheid state. They became infamous for getting in the thick of things and were known as the The Bang-Bang Club
Carter had a number of pictures published but what he was seeing in the violence of the townships was affecting his mental stability. He resorted to drugs to dull the pain and to forget the horrors he saw. He found a brief respite after winning the 1994 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Feature Photography and was headhunted by the prestigious photo agencies but after a number of bungled assignments, the death of Bang Bang member Ken Oosterbroek and mounting debts he became even more depressed and despondent. On Wednesday, July 27, 1994, Carter drove his vehicle to his childhood neighborhood ran a hose from the exhaust to the cab and killed himself via carbon monoxide poisoning. His suicide note wrote that he was “depressed . . . without phone . . . money for rent . . . money for child support . . . money for debts . . . money!!! . . . I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings & corpses & anger & pain . . . of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners . . . ” And then this: “I have gone to join Ken if I am that lucky.”

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Killer Man

Behind the camera: CW4 Ruben Dominguez
Where: 75th Ranger Regiment
Photo Summary: Military poster
Picture Taken: 1985
This image is in the public domain because it was taken by a federal employee

I’m not the killer man…

This image although not world renowned in any sort of way is in fact iconic within a particular class. The United States Special Forces. Particularly the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment. The 75th Ranger Regiment is now a special operations combat formation within the U.S. Army Special Operation Command (USASOC). The Ranger Regiment traces its lineage to three of six battalions raised in WWII, and to the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional)—known as “Merrill’s Marauders,” and then redesignated as the 475th Infantry, then later as the 75th Infantry. The 61 day Ranger school/leadership course, located at Fort Benning Georgia, is notoriously difficult often boasting a 70-80% attrition rate. The course emphasizes leadership and small unit tactics.

The Poster

The Poster of “I’m not the Killer man…” was commissioned in 1985 by the then Regimental Commander, Colonel Joseph “Smoking Joe” Stringham. It was originally thought of as an incentive or bonus that a soldier would get upon joining the Ranger unit. Each poster would be signed by the Regimental Commander, the Deputy Commander and the Regimental Sergeant Major.
Colonel Stringham then went to the Fort Benning TASC (Training and Audio Visual Support Center) office to place an order to have the poster printed. However, TASC, for whatever reason, told him that they couldn’t print the poster. Colonel Stringham then flew TDY (Temporary Duty) to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and spoke to the 4th Psychological Operations (4th PSYOPS) mobile printing press who ended up printing 3000 copies of the poster for the Colonel.
The posters remained on display within Ranger offices and in the barracks, with the original poster, drawn on butcher block paper, in the Regimental Ranger Headquarters until the next Regimental Commander, Colonel Taylor, took command. He thought the poster displayed a negative image of the U.S. Army Rangers and all Regimental Rangers were then required to take down the posters.

The Poster’s Concept and Inception

The “Killer Man” Poster as it has come to be called was designed and drawn by now retired CW4 Ruben Dominguez. Dominguez had spent four years in the United States Marine Corps in the infantry (0311) and as a small arms repair man (2111). He had left the USMC in 1984 and joined the Army principally because he wanted to be a paratrooper, and was picked up by the Ranger Regiment as an Infantryman (11B)/Draftsman due to his architectural background.
According to his recount of the genesis of the “Killer Man” Poster: “It was a weekend and I was frustrated. Drawing being one of my past times, I commenced to take out my frustration on paper. I began drawing the Ranger in a Captain America stance and modified it to reflect the Ranger holding the Ranger Crest Shield. It was my concept of what a Ranger is…an individual that takes up more of the share than others do, i.e. the large ruck sack with all the tools a warrior lives by…..armed to the hilt. Instead of the M-16, he holds the M-60 Machinegun. Being an avid admirer of the Ghurkas of Nepal and their honorable history, I drew him holding a “Kukri” knife. And considering that I personally believe that the United States flag is by far the most beautiful flag on this earth, I expressed my patriotism by drawing the American flags behind the Ranger as he charges forward into battle.”
While Dominguez was in his office sketchy the image out, Command Sergeant Major Cobb came in and made it clear that “That’s it! That’s what the old man wants!” He was referring to Colonel Stringham and his desire for a motivating and aggressive poster depicting his ideal Ranger Warrior.
A brief discussion then ensued in which CSM Cobb decide the poster needed a slogan. The following words would be printed across the top and bottom of the poster, and would come to be something of a mantra in the Ranger community.
“I’m not the Killer man, I’m the Killer man’s son, But I’ll do the Killing till the Killer man comes.”
This was a direct quote from then President of the United States, Ronald Reagan.

CW4 Dominguez

As the Rangers Regimental Draftsman, Dominguez had been responsible for streamlining the Ranger scroll design to ensure uniformity across the Ranger Regiment and Ranger Battalions. All uniformity guidelines i.e. diagrams of how the Ranger beret should be worn etc, were all his responsibility. In 1987 Dominguez left the Ranger Regiment and the Infantry and joined Counterintelligence. He retired in 2010 and currently works as a civilian/military contractor.

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Escaping over the Taedong Bridge

Behind the camera: Max Desfor
Where: A bridge on the Taedong River that runs through the city of Pyongyang, North Korea
Photo Summary: Labelled Flight of Refugees Across Wrecked Bridge in Korea the image shows refugees fleeing the North Koreans over a bridge on the Taedong River
Picture Taken: December 4, 1950

Late 1950 in the Korean War saw the direct entry of China into the Korean War. North Korean forces along with huge numbers of Chinese reinforcements not only broke the United Nations advance but sent them reeling. American forces, who made up the most of the United Nations forces, started the longest retreat in U.S. military history. As UN forces retreated so to did Korean civilians, with thousands fleeing from the advancing communist forces. Near the North Korean capital of Pyongyang AP photographer Max Desfor took this picture on a freezing December day as Korean refugees struggled across the ruined bridge. The image went on to win the 1951 Pulitzer Prize for photography.

Covering Korea

When he heard war had broken out in Korea 36-year-old Max Desfor volunteered at his work in the AP news service to cover the war. His supervisor initially tried to dissuade him from going as he didn’t think the war last two weeks. Desfor persisted and joined United Nations forces as they retreated from the North Koreans in the initial stages of the War. He was free to roam the various army groups and remembers that “embedding was not a term we used in Korea. We were not directed as to whom to go with. We were completely on our own.
He took part in a number of operations and after the hugely successful Inchon landing that forced the North Koreans into retreat, he took part in a parachute jump with the 187th Regimental combat team. “It was just about mid-way from Seoul to Pyongyang when I heard of a parachute jump that was going to take place… it was incredible – what an experience it is to make a parachute jump,” said the photographer. Even though the United Nations had by late 1950 occupied most of North Korea the direct involvement of China into the war changed everything. A string of battles broke the UN advance and they forced to retreat before the combined forces of the Chinese and North Koreans.

Taking the photo

Retreating with United Nations forces Desfor remembers stumbling upon an incredible scene in the freezing weather of December of 1950. In a the book Remembering the Forgotten War Desfor recalls:

I liberated a jeep from someone and joined the retreat. With me were [Tom Lambert (AP) and Homer Bigart(NY Times)] and an army signal corpsman. We crossed the Taedong River on a pontoon bridge that had just been hastily erected by the army engineers … On the south side of the river … [civilians] were walking across where the ice was solid and clogged the river. A little farther upstream, where the water was still open, they were crossing in small boats. As we jeeped farther southward … I saw what had been a sturdy span across the river, obviously recently destroyed by aerial bombs … with Koreans fleeing from the north bank of the Taedong River, crawling through and into and above and onto the broken-down bridge, it was like ants crawling through the girders. They carried what little possessions they had on their heads or strapped to their shoulders, and on the north side I saw thousands more lined up waiting to do the same thing, waiting to crawl and join the rest of them.

Desfor actually had trouble working his camera due to the plummeting temperatures. Falling off the bridge into the freezing river was likely a death sentence yet the thousands of refugees kept streaming across the bridge. Years after the war Desfor was struck by the “deathly silence” of the scene. The reporters continued on their way to what was left of the airport and put his film on the last Air Force Plane. He could have been evacuated with his film but decided to keep reporting the retreat. He did, however, get word to Bill Achatz the photo editor in AP Tokyo to look out for the film. Achatz got the film and transmitted it to the States on December 5, 1950.

Max Desfor

Desfor was born in 1914 and was an Associated Press photographer. He covered the Pacific Theater during World War II and was one of the photographers that photographed the Enola Gay crew when it returned from the Hiroshima Atomic Bombing. He was also able to record the Japanese surrender in 1945. After World War II he covered the Indonesian National Revolution in 1946 and the Indian Pakistan Kashmir War in 1947. In 1950 he returned to America after being stationed with his family in Rome, Italy. When war broke out he volunteered to cover the war taking a number of photos but it was this image that won him a Pulitzer Prize. In 1936 he married Clara Mehl until 1994 when she was taken from him in a horrible car accident. He lived another two decades after his wife’s death, dying himself at his Silver Spring, Maryland home on February 19, 2018, at the age of 104.


For this image the Korean War Refugees Flee by Max Desfor the copyright held by AP Images

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Falling Soldier

Behind the camera: Robert Capa
Where: It was for decades thought that the shot was taken at Cerro Muriano on the Cordoba Front. However new research has determined that the photo was taken 30 miles (50 km) away, near Espejo, a Cordoban town
Photo Summary: A Spanish Republican (Loyalist) soldier supposedly the moment he is struck by a bullet. The soldier was identified as Federico Borrell García based on the assumption the photo was taken at Cerro Muriano.
Picture Taken: September 5, 1936 around 5:00PM

Robert Capa, a photo journalist, arrived in Spain in August 1936 to cover the Spanish Civil War, which had broken out a few weeks before. During his coverage as a war photographer, he took the famous Falling Soldier image. The image came to symbolize the Civil War between the Spanish government and General Francisco Franco’s fascist rebels. In World War II Capa would later take another famous image on the D-day Normandy beaches.

Taking the photo


The subject of the photo taken before his "death shot". He is standing on the far left

The original title was Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936. The Falling Soldier was first published in the September 23, 1936, issue of the French magazine Vu. The Vu article read, “With lively step, breasting the wind, clenching their rifles, they ran down the slope covered with thick stubble. Suddenly their soaring was interrupted, a bullet whistled — a fratricidal bullet — and their blood was drunk by their native soil.” There was no mention in the article on where the picture was taken. Then on July 12, 1937, Life magazine published an article with the Capa image and the caption, “Robert Capa’s camera catches a Spanish soldier the instant he is dropped by a bullet through the head in front of Córdoba.”

Robert Capa

Robert Capa was born on October 22, 1913. He was born with the name Endre Ernő Friedmann in Budapest, Hungary. When he was 18 he left Hungary for Germany but when the Nazis took power he emigrated again to Paris. It from Paris that he went to Spain to cover the Spanish Civil War. After Franco defeated the Republic Capa returned to France until the Nazi invasion upon where he left for America. He went on to become a celebrated war photographer covering five different wars: the Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II across Europe (He was the only “enemy alien” photographer for the Allies), the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and the First Indochina War. His two most famous pictures are the Fallen Solider and his image of the 1944 D-day Normandy invasion. In 1947, Capa co-founded Magnum Photos with, among others, the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. Magnum Photos was the first cooperative agency for worldwide freelance photographers. In 1947 Capa travelled to the Soviet Union with his friend, John Steinbeck. When he was leaving the country Soviet officials wanted to look through his undeveloped images. Capa refused to give them access unless Yevgeny Khaldei developed them. Capa had befriended the photographer while the two covered the Potsdam Conference and the Nuremberg Trials together. Both men were hard-drinkers and recognized as playboy lady killers.
On May 25, 1954, at 2:55 p.m. Capa was with a French regiment in Vietnam when he left his jeep to take some photos. While walking up the road he stepped on a land-mine and lost his leg. He was quickly rushed to a small field hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival due to massive trauma and loss of blood.


The hand of the solider supposedly showing his hand in a death grip.

The hand of the solider supposedly showing his hand in a death grip.

Starting in the 70s historians began to question the authenticity of, Fallen Solider’s image. Much of the confusion revolves around Capa’s inexperience as a photographer. The Spanish Civil war was his first and he often didn’t caption or take notes about where and when he took his photos. His editors many times had to guess where his pictures were taken. Further complicating things is that there is no negative of “Falling Soldier” known to exist.
The first accusations came from O.D. Gallagher, a South African-born journalist who was also covering the war. In an interview he gave for the book, The First Casualty: From the Crimea to Vietnam; The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist, and Myth Maker (1975) Gallagher claims that “at one stage of the war he and Capa were sharing a hotel room. … there had been little action for several days, and Capa and others complained to the Republican officers that he could not get any pictures. Finally … a Republican officer told them he would detail some troops to go with Capa to some trenches nearby, and they would stage some manoeuvres for them to photograph.” However, Gallagher’s account was discounted when in a later interview for another book the 1978 Jorge Lewinski work, The Camera at War, Gallagher claimed that Franco’s troops, not Republican ones, had staged the photo. Controversy has continued to surround the image. The most recent accusations have been levelled by research carried out by José Manuel Susperregui for his book “Shadows of Photography”.
Susperregui by studying the background images of the surrounding hillsides was able to determine that the image took place near a village called Espejo. There was some intense combat near Espejo in late September but no fighting occurred around the 5th of that month when Capa was in the region. This lead Susperregui to conclude that the photo was staged because there were no battles when the picture was taken. Capa’s supporters have replied that the image might be of a sniper hit behind enemy lines but Susperregui disregards these criticisms because there was no documented use of snipers on that battlefront.
When the Gallagher debate emerged the issue was resolved when in August 1996, Rita Grosvenor, a British journalist reported that Spanish historians were able to determine that on September 5, 1936, the only soldier that was killed in battle at Cerro Muriano was one Federico Borrell García. Borrell’s younger brother, Everisto, confirmed the identification. However, Susperregui in his research noted that the Cerro Muriano battleground was in “a wooded area, with century-old trees,” not at all like the open hillside shown in Capa’s photograph. He backs this up with an obscure anarchist magazine article first published in 1937 that states Borrell was hit while positioned “behind a tree”. The article quotes fellow soldiers saying they remember that “I can still see him stretched out behind the tree that served as his barricade, with his unruly hair falling over his face and a trickle of blood dripping from his mouth.”
Magnum Photos the company that Mr. Capa was a co-founder of has used the 1996 revelation of the identity Federico Borrell García as the final proof that the photo was authentic. Although they have not responded to Susperregui’s accusation there has been some recent forensic evidence that supports the photo is indeed one of a man dying.
When asked to view the images, Captain Robert L. Franks, the chief homicide detective of the Memphis Police Department, made an interesting observation. Zooming in on the left hand you can observe that the fingers form a claw with fingers curled towards the palm. This indicates that there is some sort of muscle spasm. It is almost impossible for any person to resist the impulse of while falling to splay your fingers and stick out your wrist to break your fall. To claim that Capa trained the man to fake that reflex seems unlikely.

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Copyright to this photo is managed by Magnum: Fallen Soldier by Robert Capa

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Aid From The Padre

Behind the camera: Hector Rondon
Where: Puerto Cabello, Venezuela during the El Porteñazo uprising
Photo Summary: Navy chaplain Luis Padillo holding a wounded soldier as sniper bullets hit the ground around him
Picture Taken: June 4, 1962

Hector Rondon was covering the short-lived El Porteñazo uprising that took place in June 1962. Lasting for four days (2 June 1962 – 6 June 1962) naval units of the Venezuelan military rebelled taking the city of Puerto Cabello and its Solano Castle. The uprising against the Venezuelan government of Rómulo Betancourt was quickly crushed but not before Hector Rondon was able to capture this iconic photo which earned him the 1963 Pulitzer Prize for Photography.

Taking the photo

While working in the Venezuela city of Caracas Hector Rondon heard of the Porteñazo uprising in the city of Puerto Cabello about 60 miles (97 km) away. A month earlier another uprising against the Betancourt government called, El Carupanazo, in Carúpano city, had been successively put down. Wanting to cover this second rebellion he raced to Puerto Cabello and arrived at the same time as government tanks were about to engage the Porteñazo rebels.

Men lying on the ground

Another image from the same time

I found myself in solid lead for forty-five minutes … I was flattened against the wall while bullets were flying, when the priest appeared. The truth is, I don’t know how I took those pictures, lying on the ground.
Rondon shot the government soldier crawling his way up Navy chaplain Luis Padillo’s robe as Padillo looks in the direction of the rebel sniper fire. Government forces quickly took control of the town and over two days pounded the remaining rebels, that had taken cover in the Solano Castle, into submission. A handful that weren’t captured or killed were able to escape into the jungle.

Hector Rondon

Man helping a soldier

Other pictures Hector took took

Hector Rondon was born on November 25, 1933, in Bruzual, Venezuela. He worked at a glass factory, joined the military and then worked as a taxi driver before in 1955 he became the official Los Togues regional photographer for the city and state officials. In 1959 he joined the Caracas Newspaper, La Republica, as its photographer. He was the second non-American to win the Pulitzer Prize for photography.


The copyright for this image is managed by AP IMAGES

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