Self Immolation Post 4- Rachel Millsap



My research efforts this week have been a twofold. I have been in contact via email with Ken Crouse, the photographer who took the image “Saigon Evacuation”, and he was able to give me very unique insight and perspective regarding Americans at the time the Buddhist monk immolation image circulated. Crouse recalled the spirit of Americans during the early 1960’s as being politically trusting of their government, and cited Browne’s image as perhaps one of the turning points from a trusting U.S. society, into a skeptical one. Another interesting point Crouse mentioned in his email was the idea that the average American living in 1963 was so far removed from both South Vietnam and specifically the Buddhist culture; the immolation seemed foreign, beyond comprehension. I think this also speaks volumes as to why the image may have taken so long to circulate and appear in print. Aside from political pressures and perceptions about America’s perceived success in Vietnam, perhaps newspapers, specifically the New York Times, chose not to run the image for fear of confusion the photograph could drum up in the minds of the average American. Crouse’s email interview will be carried throughout my paper in various ways, the majority of his information will aid me in my discussion regarding the average American perception, and the lack of understanding about the war and culture of Vietnam.

I have also found very helpful information regarding the details of the actual event that took place on 11 June 1963 from William Prochnau’s Once Upon A Distant War. According to Prochnau, the event symbolized what was wrong with American involvement in Vietnam, and furthered the idea that Diem was not governing according to the best interest of the citizens, and was not someone the U.S. wanted to endorse any further. Prochnau also gives explicit detail about the burning itself, including how long it took for Thich Quang Duc to burn to death: a total of five minutes. The details Prochnau provides regarding the actual event will be useful within the first few paragraphs of my paper, to not only provide a background, but give the audience the impression of the brutal scene that unfolded in front of Browne’s camera lens. The details regarding the symbolization of the image will be used in the middle section of my paper, when I begin to analyze how the photograph haunted Diem’s reign, and how the U.S. government could not ignore the crisis unfolding in South Vietnam any further. Also important to note for this week’s research efforts is the letter I have sent in to the Free Library of Philadelphia in hopes of receiving a paper copy of the image appearing in the Philadelphia Inquirer on 12 June 1963, reportedly where President Kennedy saw the photograph. This would show me how the photograph appeared in the first news source I have seen to have ran the image shortly after the event. I hope to hear back within the next few weeks.

Research Links:

Article that cites the Philadelphia Inquirer as having ran the image, and also states it was the newspaper that Kennedy saw on his desk the following day:

Prochnau, William. Once Upon A Distant War. New York: Vintage Books, 1996. 304-09. Print.

Rachel Millsap


Edit – here you go Rachel: 1963_Minister_Protest


One thought on “Self Immolation Post 4- Rachel Millsap

  1. Rachel,

    Excellent post!

    I came across this book. It has a long discussion of the 1963 immolation and the news coverage of it:

    Also, the photo was published in the 21 June 1963 issue of Time.

    Newsweek published it too. There’s more detail about all of this in the About To Die book.

    One great image I’d like to see about finding is the ad run by ministers, which appeared in the NYT on 27 June 1963. There was a small article in the NYT about this full page ad. I don’t think the full page ad is available through electronic versions of the NYT, but it will be easy to find on microfilm since we know the day it ran.

    **I added the article in your post.**

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