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Vietnam: The Real War

By Jane Hwang - 2013-10-08T14:55:40Z

Photograph by Eddie Adams

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Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, South Vietnamese chief of the national police, fires his pistol into the head of suspected Viet Cong official Nguyen Van Lem on a Saigon street early in the Tet Offensive, on February 1, 1968. 

"I was about five feet away from the prisoner—and to my left came this guy, I had no idea, I had a 35mm lens and a single-frame camera, and he went over and I see him go for his pistol. Well, when somebody goes for their pistol, they normally threaten, ‘You’re going to do this or I’m gonna shoot you,’ and nothing ever happens. As soon as he waved his pistol, I took one frame. And that was the instant when he shot him." —Eddie Adams, from an interview with Hal Buell, April 22, 1998, for the AP Corporate Archives Oral History Program. 

This photograph received the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography.