The Boston Globe has a photo essay which is worth checking out, about fifty snaps from the Vietnam War. They were taken by Charlie Haughy, a 24 year old draftee who was called up in 1967 after running out of money for college tuition. He arrived in country where his commanding officer told him to start making with the happy snaps.
"You are not a combat photographer," the colonel said. "This is a morale operation. If I see pictures of my guys in papers, doing their jobs with honor, then you can do what you like in Vietnam.”
Haughy took thousands of shots which lay undeveloped for decades until recently. The Globe has a brief piece about what happened when he digitized them, and the photo essay is worth checking out.
I grew up reading about the Vietnam War. It felt close, even though it had ended about seven or eight years before I really started paying attention. The cultural ennui of the 1970s was in part a product of social and economic atomisation brought on by the War, amongst other things. And the mad, economic hysteria of the 1980s was in turn a reaction to that.
I found the photos eerie because they seemed to come from a time that was much more remote than my own childhood. Almost a far removed as the earlier war in the Pacific. Perhaps it was the black and white exposures, but I dont think so. Looking at the men Haughy photographed they seem to have lifted out of history, a fading, fast receding history. Their faces, even their body shapes, mark them as from a different era. The past as another country.