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March 25, 2013

A soldier's eye: rediscovered pictures from Vietnam

Charlie Haughey was drafted into the US Army in October of 1967. He was 24, and had been in college in Michigan before running out of money and quitting school to work in a sheet metal factory. The draft notice meant that he was to serve a tour of duty in Vietnam, designated a rifleman, the basic field position in the Army. After 63 days in Vietnam, he was made a photographer, shooting photographs for the Army and US newspapers, with these instructions from the Colonel: “You are not a combat photographer. 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.” He shot nearly 2,000 images between March 1968 and May 1969 before taking the negatives home. And there they sat, out of sight, but not out of mind, for 45 years, until a chance meeting brought them out of dormancy and into a digital scanner. At first, it was very difficult for Haughey to view the images and talk about them, especially not knowing the fates of many of the subjects of his photos. When the digitization hit 1,700 negative scans, Haughey put them on a slideshow and viewed them all at once, and didn’t sleep for three days after. He’s slowly getting better at dealing with the emotional impact of seeing the images for the first time in decades. A team of volunteers has worked with Haughey to plan a 28-image show, titled A Weather Walked In, which opens April 5th in the ADX art gallery in Portland, Oregon. The difficulty of keeping notes in a war zone along with the passage of decades has faded the details behind many of the images, and the captions reflect this fact, with many shots of unknown people in forgotten locations at unspecified times. It is hoped that publication of the pictures can yield more information. More images from the collection will be released as the project progresses. You can follow the progress on facebook and Tumblr. Thanks to Chieu Hoi project volunteer Kris Regentin for preparing much of this introduction and the accompanying captions. -- Lane Turner (46 photos total)

Bowed head in truck: Soldier and location unidentified. Charlie's first response to this photo: "It was not uncommon to find anyone with a head bowed for a moment, more often when we were heading out than when we were coming back. Interesting that he has a flak jacket, he's taking precautions on both sides of the fence. M16, a steel pot, a flak jacket, and a prayer."

50 cal gun and head on hand: Main supply route convoy near fire support base Pershing, names and date unknown. Men relax in a truck while reading mail after a mail delivery. Many men would burn or dispose of mail after reading it, as the US Army did not want soldiers carrying personal information that could be used against G.I.s should they be captured. #

Captain William N. Parish HHC and a group of young soldiers near Cu Chi. Parish was a very popular officer in the 2/12. Other names and details about photo unknown. #

Soldiers relax aboard a Bell UH-1 Iroquois - the Huey. Being aboard a helicopter was like being on a miniature vacation, as it provided a few moments of rest "out of the war." Location, names, and date unknown. #

Two RTOs (Radio-Telephone Operator) and, possibly, a platoon leader, board a Huey. While many of the particles in this image are grass in the air, some of it is damage to the negative as well. Haughey developed his negatives in well over 100 degree heat in a Conex shipping container, and the images were stored in envelopes for decades, resulting in some damage to them. Names, location, and date unknown. #

Building a sandbag bunker at a fire support base, possibly Fire Support Base Pershing. Names and date unknown. #

A rifleman peers through bamboo, looking for a machine gun that had been firing on the platoon. Seconds after Haughey snapped this photo, the machine gun began firing and rounds clipped the bamboo next to this rifleman, who hit the ground to avoid being hit. Name, location, and date unknown. #

An RTO guides a Chinook delivering a sling load of materials and supplies at Fire Support Base Pershing, near Dau Tieng. Name and date unknown. #

Staff Sergeant Edgar D. Bledsoe, of Olive Branch, Ill., cradles a critically ill Vietnamese infant. The child was brought to Fire Support Base Pershing. This image, with this caption, was originally published in Vol. 3 No. 53 of Tropic Lightning News, December 30, 1968. #

Soldiers fire a captured M2 60mm mortar, originally a weapon produced by the United States for use in World War II and the Korean War. The mortar was captured on a patrol in a rice paddy, from Viet Cong forces. Names, date, and location unknown. #

A Sergeant kneels on wet ground and checks his M16. Name, date, and location unknown. #

RTOs were the infantry's irreplaceable link with helicopter support. Here, an RTO watches a Huey bank overhead. Name, date, and location unknown. #

The nine-ship lift was a nine-helicopter-strong formation which transported around 50 men to the field from fire support bases. Here, the first five Hueys in a nine-ship lift have just dropped members of a combat infantry unit near Dau Tieng. Names and date unknown. #

The "tunnel rat" was the soldier that volunteered to, at very high risk, enter Viet Cong tunnel networks and search them for hostile forces, weapons, and contraband. The tunnels would afterword be destroyed with explosives. Name, date, and location unknown. #

An M60 operator pauses for a moment under the heavy load of machine gun ammo. Members of the unit were all required to carry some type of ammo or supplies, including bandoliers of heavy bullets. Name, date, and location unknown. #

A specially adapted armored personnel carrier, known as a flame track, clears ambush positions on the side of a supply route road. Names, date, and location unknown. #

Infantry tactical officers observe and direct a combat operation aboard a CNC ship - a command and control chopper. Names, date, and location unknown. #

A soldier poses with captured mortar rounds. The Colonel instructed Haughey to travel to this location specifically to shoot photos of a large cache of weapons that were uncovered and captured near Dau Tieng. Name and date unknown. #

An unidentified soldier pauses for a cigarette. Name, date, and location unknown. #

Blindfolded detainees await questioning from a US Army interpreter. Names, date, and location unknown. #

Hueys depart Dau Tieng base. Date unknown. #

Soldiers load into bags weapons from a captured cache near Dau Tieng. Names and date uknown. #

A machine gun team fires an M60. Names, date, and location unknown. #

A Vietnamese civilian argues with a G.I. near a stopped supply convoy. Names, date, and location unknown. #

A Chinook rescues a downed Huey from a rice paddy near Trang Bang, January 1969. Photos from this series originally ran in Tropic Lightning News Vol. 4 No. 4 and Stars and Stripes Vol. 25 No. 41. #

A medic assists an injured Vietnamese civilian. Names, date, and location unknown. #

Injured, weary soldier. Name, date, and location unknown. #

A Vietnamese boy peeks at Haughey's camera. Name, date, and location unknown. #

A medic gives a group of Vietnamese children a shower with a Lyster Bag. Names, date, and location unknown. #

A file of soldiers on a routine jungle patrol. Haughey says most soldiers wore towels around their necks, like this one did, to help combat sweat in the jungle heat. Names, date, and location unknown. #

Soldiers pull a suspected Viet Cong from hiding during a sweep through a Vietnamese village. Names, date, and location unknown. #

Charlie Haughey poses with a group of Vietnamese school children. Date and location unknown. #

PFC John Kerry (left) and an unidentified soldier grill steaks and drink beers at Cu Chi. Date unknown. #

U.S. soldiers patrol through a ghostly, defoliated rubber tree plantation. Date and location unknown. #

Vietnamese children, names, date, and location unknown. #

Vietnamese children in a school, names, date and location unknown.#

A Vietnamese woman in a xe đạp, a push bicycle. Location and date unknown.#

Soldiers relax under the thin cover of bamboo. Names, date, and location unknown.#

An unidentified medic working with a medical civic action program (MEDCAP) attends to a young Vietnamese child. Names, date, and location unknown.#

An alert, young M60 machine gun operator in the jungle. Names, date, and location unknown.#

Vietnamese children peer through a gate at Haughey's camera. Names, date, and location unknown.#

Haughey poses with camera and light meter. Location and date unknown.#

Soldiers board a Chinook. Names, date, and location unknown.#

Soldiers aboard an airborne Chinook with a bird's-eye view through the helicopter's cargo sling door, take advantage of a few moments "out of the war." Names and date unknown.#

Civilian Vietnamese woman and child. Names, date, and location unknown.#

An officer in the field talks on a telephone. Name, date, and location unknown.#