Beyond the violence (photographic exhibit)
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” Sun-Tzu
On the 4th of July 1969, I went to Vietnam as a soldier in the U.S. Army. I was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division, Headquarters Company. Although the war’s success seemed to be based primarily on the number of enemy killed (body-count), the effort to “win the hearts and minds” of the people of Vietnam was gaining importance in the overall military strategy. Major General Harris W. Hollis (Division Commander during most of my tour) spoke of the need “to maintain a positive and harmonious relationship with the Vietnamese Armed Forces and civil populace in order to execute the combat mission in the most efficient and economical manner… without honor, integrity and compassion, we are nothing.”
As with most of my fellow soldiers, my main goal in Vietnam was to survive, but to also do the most good I could under the circumstances. I personally had no strongly held political or strategic views on the Vietnam War, but because of the shifting war strategy, I became very involved in what was called MEDCAP… the Medical Civic Action Program. The objective was to improve the health standards of the Vietnamese people by providing medical and dental services, hygiene supplies and education, sanitation assistance, food supplies and other support activities on site within villages. I was also involved in security and intelligence gathering patrols during MEDCAPs.
From a historical perspective, MEDCAP was not a long-term success. However, it gave me the opportunity to interact with the local villagers a lot and help people on a personal level. I still hold some of those relationships close to my heart today. Throughout my tour of duty I almost always carried a camera with me in the field and took pictures of everything I experienced, but the photos I took during MEDECAP operations are the most important to me.
The photos displayed in this gallery are a few examples from my exhibit collection. These photos are of greater significance to me now because of their historical context… sadly a consequence of getting older I suppose. I was fortunate to know and work with a lot of soldiers dedicated to helping the Vietnamese people in a land torn apart by a violent war. I think there is an important story beyond the violence.