Here’s an interview with Sal Veder from 1975. The significance of this video for my research is that Veder articulates his views on what makes this photograph such a powerful image…. [Here this student would continue explaining and discussing her thoughts and update the class on how this video fits into her project]
One of the more remarkable aspects of my research project into Veder’s “Burst of Joy” is its continuing relevance in American life.
This July 1999 article, from the Youngstown Vindicator, mentions that this photograph was featured in a 1999 Turner Network TV show called “Moment of Impact.” Veder says in the show, “You have to anticipate action. Everything looks routine, and then suddenly all hell breaks loose.”
This quote got me thinking. In 1999 most Americans probably thought that there was no chance the United States would ever enter into a conflict like the Vietnam War again. The Cold War was over and while terrorist attacks occurred, they rarely occurred in the United States. Did anyone who read this really “anticipate action,” in the sense that we’d be at war again? Yet just two years later, the United States would be at war again in a conflict that has many parallels to the Vietnam War.
I’m interested to discover if Veder’s photo was used in the decade that followed. Was it used to remind Americans, awaiting the return of their loved ones from places like Iraq and Afghanistan, that wars come to an end? Or was it used in a different manner, perhaps to remind Americans of the high costs of war? Let’s not forget, Lt. Col. Stirm spent six long years in a prison camp.
Paper source: (Youngstown) Vindicator, 17 July 1999, C6
After first week of research, here’s a bit of what I’ve found out about this photograph. It is of Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Stirm seeing his family after spending six years in a North Vietnamese prison camp.
It was taken on 17 March 1973 by photographer Sal Veder, who worked for the Associated Press. He had gone to Travis Air Force Base, which is located just north of San Francisco, to photograph the return of freed American POWs from Vietnam. On this day, they would be reunited with their families after being away from home for years.
Smithsonian, which ran an article about this famous photograph, interviewed both the family immortalized in this image and Veder. Stirm’s wife Lorrie recalls: “We didn’t know if he would ever come home. That moment was all our prayers answered, all our wishes come true.” Likewise, his daughter, who is about to hug him in the picture, remembers: “I just wanted to get to Dad as fast as I could.”
The photo, which Veder entitled Burst of Joy, would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize and was reproduced in newspapers across the country.
My question for my classmates is this: what first captures your eye in the photo?
Quotes and information source: