A Book of Photographs

The Sole Proprietor bought a book through Amazon.com called Requiem by two photographers, one named Horst Fass who was the AP's chief photographer for Southeast Asia from 1962 to 1974 and Tim Page who photographed the Vietnam war for AP, UPI and Paris Match.

The Sole Proprietor knew a number of photographers, worked with a number of photographers in Seattle during the early stages of the Vietnam war. They were young, they were good and they were ambitious. He doesn't know if any of them went to Vietnam as correspondents, but he knew through them the options available to them in that world for success and fame as photographers and covering the Vietnam war was one of them.

The Sole Proprietor was not thinking of becoming a photographer because in the late 1960's he was an Infantry lieutenant preparing to visit Vietnam in a different capacity. Who, when he was ready to rotate to Vietnam, was diverted to Korea because a spy ship named the Pueblo was captured by the North Koreans and the American army in Korea was short of young lieutenants on the line.

Still, Vietnam had its effect. A good friend who rotated out of the battalion just before him landed in country one day before Tet and spent the next nine months recovering in a military hospital in Japan. The two lieutenants who had rotated out of his battalion before that were already dead, neither living more than 30 days after their arrival.

The Sole Proprietor was 25 when he was diverted to Korea. He was young and stupid with a head full of cement, but even he understood by then that he was lucky. Very lucky and he, like the rest of his generation, has retained a painful memory of that war, participant or not, and this book Requiem brings back those recollections.

Requiem depicts the war through the lenses of the 135 photographers known to have died in Vietnam, from Robert Capa, the great World War II photographer who landed with the American forces at Normandy, the first of those 135 to die when he stepped on a land mine in 1954, and Bernard Fall, author of Street Without Joy and Hell in a Very Small Place, a book the Sole Proprietor has read many times, killed on February 21, 1967 by a sniper, to others, less known, who died within days of their arrival.

Quoting from the tape recording Fall was making at the moment of his death: "...in the afternoon about four-thirty - shadows are lengthening and we have reached one of our phase lines after the firefight and it smells bad - meaning it's a little bit suspicious. Could be an amb - " (the tape ends here).

Many of the book's photographs were from the last roll of film found in their camera, sometimes the last photograph on the roll. A photograph of Dickey Chapelle, age 47, "who wore a wild flower in the hatband of her bush hat and pearls in her ears" receiving last rites in the mud, hand cupped to her mouth, dying as the medical helicopters arrived.

The Sole Proprietor had heard stories of others, the photographer Sean Flynn, son of Errol Flynn, lost in Cambodia, learning through Requiem that Flynn and his friend Dana Stone had been captured and held for 18 months in captivity before they were killed by their captors.

A good book. He's read it twice, gone through the pictures many times. It's up on the shelf, probably to stay. There's only so much you want to remember. Other friends died. McNeil, the Village Voice writer, drowned in a lake in New York, far from any war. Others who discovered drugs or a speeding car. The book brings them back as well. Best to keep it on the shelf and every now and then, in passing, glance at the spine and read the name: Requiem.


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