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Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Cholon, Vietnam, 1968. Images of a war.






Scenes from Cholon in 1968.

These photos seem to have taken on a surrealistic look with age.

Certainly walking alone through the deserted streets of Cholon the last thing I was thinking about was beauty.

It had taken me the better part of an hour to find the ARVN troops. After leaving the streets of Saigon I had set off on foot. At first the streets were undamaged. Muffled voices came from behind shuttered doors and windows.

Then I entered streets where there had been fighting. I passed more and more damaged houses. Soon there were destroyed buildings and rubble strewn everywhere.

I headed in the general direction of sporadic firing. I imagine I hoped to fall in with the South Vietnamese army before stumbling upon the Viet Cong. I wasn’t really sure of the situation. I belonged to no official press party. In fact I saw no foreign journalists at all.

When I did come up with the ARVN I found those young boys and South Vietnamese army photographers. There were no United States forces about. The South Vietnamese army was fighting its own battle with the Viet Cong.

I was probably lucky. After forty years in any case it is nice to have something to look back upon. I think also I was having some girl friend trouble at the time. I always found that getting myself well and truly scared chased such minor irritations away and put them in proper perspective.

I’m still not sure what was the most scary. Driving along a deserted road in the countryside worrying about road blocks or mines or walking down the middle of an empty street not knowing who might be looking at you over rifle sights.

Certainly the discipline of containing one’s fear in a small part of one’s gut and keeping an outward look of sangfroid was the way to tackle such things.

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