There have been multiple wars in the history of the United States and many artists have used music to express their feelings about the wars. Some of those songs can be relevant even ten or twenty years after they were originally recorded. One of these songs is “War” originally performed by The Temptations and then Edwin Starr. The song was written in the 1960’s by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong as an anti-war anthem. The song focuses on the feelings of anger that many people had in the late 1960’s towards the Vietnam War. While The Temptations recorded the song first, they chose not to release their version so they would not upset any of their fans. So Edwin Starr stepped in and rerecorded it for a release in 1970. The song was a hit but it was forgotten during the late 70’s and early 80’s, that is until it was rerecorded by Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen recorded his version in 1985.
Bruce Springsteen became popular in the late 1960’s and continues to be popular to this day. His music is mainly rock with some folk music mixed in. He is known by his nickname; The Boss. He chose to record his own version of the song because he like every American, had personal experience with the Vietnam War. He was eighteen years old when he was called for the War induction. He failed every single test during the induction so he was not drafted to serve. While he did not go overseas and experience the War firsthand, he still had his own feelings about what the US was doing.
When he recorded his version in 1985, it was also because he was angered about how the US was handling certain situations. So he used the song to express his political views just like Edwin Starr did in the 1970’s. But you will have to tune in next week to learn more!
This last post I decided to find another current photograph to analyze in relation to the “Shellshocked US Marine, Hue, Vietnam” photograph. I know that the current photographs should come from the War on Terror, but I believe I may have found a more useful one from the attack on 9/11. Specifically this photo comes right after the fall of the Twin Towers; it depicts an unidentified NYC firefighter. This image is so powerful because like the image of the marine it offers a lone man with a gaze that conveys so much emotion, without any superfluous things in the frame to detract from the strength of that gaze. Although there is trauma evident in this firefighter’s eyes there is a sense of purpose behind them as well. He realizes that he still has work to do and something to work toward accomplishing. The marine in McCullin’s photograph has lost that, he stares blindly forward traumatized and lost in the world.
The photographer Anthony Correia’s quote connected to the image “I acknowledged him, and he acknowledged me. But he never stopped,” (Life). Correia recognized the importance of this lone man working through the chaos and captured the scene in a beautifully simple way. His corresponding quote seems very similar to things that Don McCullin has said of his subjects in his various works. The acknowledgement between the subject and the photographer is something that McCullin always emphasized; it even prevented him from taking photographs, notably one that he has mentioned in many interviews and his own books. McCullin says of the soldier, “His eyes were like infernos, pleading with the pain. I raised my camera as he turned his head from left to right, requesting me not to do it. I backed off,” (McCullin 103). To him the connection between the people beyond the camera mattered more than finding that shot. Thus far in my research this photograph of the firefighter seems like the best choice to connect to the other photograph because the story behind them is similar the subject is unknown and the photographers seem to function in similar ways.
Source for the photograph:
Don McCullin’s autobiography:
McCullin, Don. Unreasonable Behaviour: An Autobiography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992. Print.
This week I decided to revisit the connection from the image to a current image from the War on Terror. I actually managed to locate a series of photographs that could hold a possible connection, the exhibit is titled, “We Are Not the Dead”. Lalage Snow photographed and interviewed soldiers from the 1st Battalion of The Royal Regiment of Scotland before the government shipped the men to Afghanistan for service. They actually come from an exhibit that shows each soldier three times. It is a progression of their time, from before they went to Afghanistan, after three months there, and then once they returned home. These are in fact British and Scottish soldiers, not Americans, but I believe the nationality is not a central focus from the image of the shell-shocked marine. There are thirteen different soldiers shown in this project, to some degree, one can see the haunted look in their eyes, yet none exhibits the strong glazed over look evident in Don McCullin’s photograph.
As far as analysis is concerned these photographs do tell a powerful story. Along with the added short quotes by the soldiers, one can see a clear picture of how their opinions over time shift. The men while originally very positive about their involvement begin to question their job as well as their safety by three months in. Upon their return home many never want to talk about Afghanistan again. The men also steadily appear worse across the photographs, even after they have returned home they seem unusually gaunt and have that deep piercing stare. Yet overall, none of these photographs convey the same emotion as Don McCullin’s piece from the Tet Offensive. Due to this lack of emotion, my search continues for a stronger photograph that exhibits the necessary stare and emotion that will connect it to McCullin’s work from 1968. The link for all of the photographs is listed below, instead of me placing all the photos in this post.
Link to We Are Not the Dead:
For this blog I found a book that talks about the battle of Hue called, U.S. Marines in Vietnam: The Defining Year, 1968, written by Jack Shulimson. I will be honest, I did not read the whole book, I did skim it, but I did read the chapters about Hue. This book gives you a great inside look of what Hue was, how big of a role it played in Vietnam, and also how gruesome the battle was in 1968.
The book talks about how the VC and NVA got into the city, it says, “some of the enemy shock troops and sappers entered the city disguised as simple peasants. With their uniforms and weapons hidden in baggage, boxes, and under their street clothes, the Viet Cong and NVA mingled with the Tet holiday crowds”. It seems to me that the VC and NVA definitely had this planned out for a while, and knew what they were going to do. Then the author goes on to say that the enemies had predesignated positions where they would sit and wait for the attack signal, and this is what started the battle. The U.S. marines did not know it, but they were about to walk right into something they could not handle.
The enemy had them way out numbered and out witted. For every 1 marine there were about 5 VC, and on top of that the marines were fighting in a scene that they knew nothing about. It was a big disaster. There were 142 marines dead, and 1,100 wounded, this was a huge amount of casualties, and I could not imagine the devastation these marines went through. I am sure that they all had a friend die beside them and I am sure that is one thing they have never, and will never forget. Not only were marines affected by it, but also so were the people that lived there. Out of the 140,000 people that lived there, 116,000 of them were homeless after the war. If you ask me, I would say this was a losing battle for everyone.
This week instead of focusing on the primary sources, I figured a more in depth analysis of PTSD was needed. The book used will be Jonathan Shay’s Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character. Reviewing both McCullin’s photograph of the shell-shocked marine, and his own testimony via interviews and his books one can argue that to some degree McCullin suffers from PTSD. My analysis centers on the legacy of this photo, so the personal legacy McCullin has with the photo and PTSD is important to recognize. This photograph also came out in 1971, when the idea of a long-term version of shell shock just began entering the public and medical communities. The most important thing pulled from Shay’s text offering insight is the idea of dishonoring the enemy. Shay uses the word dishonoring to refer to the dehumanization of the enemy in war.
By dishonoring the enemy, one can distance themselves from the humanity of the enemy. This to some level is necessary when fighting in war, because to have a human enemy means to have an enemy who a soldier may not be able to kill if needed. Yet there is a point where it becomes too far, this can be seen by the cruelties and war crimes of certain individuals in response to attacking the enemy. One moving quote by a veteran reads, “Well, he’s the enemy, ain’t he? You couldn’t kill them if you thought he was just like you,” (Shay 103). This dishonor needs to be recognized and modified if a soldier can ever hope to move past the effects of PTSD. By recognizing the humanity of the enemy one can begin to reconcile the traumatic events of their past in terms of reality instead of a suspended situation outside of the normal mores of society.
Shay, Jonathan. Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character. New York: Scribner, 1994. Print.
For this week primary sources in the form of newspaper articles offered new information, coming from The New York Times, and The Times from London. The Times article, printed in February of 1968, offered specific information concerning the battle of Hue and included quotations from an interview with Don McCullin. The reason this article offers such a punch centers on the fact that it does not paint the Vietnam War in a positive way. It tells of the stresses the soldiers face and the pure desperation of many just to come home. Emery refers to it McCullin’s opinion directly, “The Marines’ morale seemed very, very low. They could see the tremendous casualties day in and day out and they couldn’t see much reward for it,” (The Times). Don McCullin always argued that the Vietnam War negatively affected the soldiers. Specifically McCullin says, “I have seen a load of boys of 18 grow into tired-looking men,” (The Times). For his responses McCullin always refers to the morale of the soldiers there, for him, seeing the Battle of Hue permanently changed his and the soldiers outlook on life.
The next article refers to the rest of the world’s reaction to the Vietnam War and American involvement. This article was published a few weeks before the abovementioned article, but also after the Tet Offensive. The photographs and the videos of the war showed a level of violence that the international community responded to rather negatively. For them this was further proof that the Americans were not actually winning the war but instead could not even control the borders of South Vietnam against insurgency. Even the British Observer could not offer much support any longer for the war. It stated, “Short of destroying most of Vietnam and its people, Washington cannot win,” (The New York Times). Across Europe, the various countries all had a level of disappointment in the continuation of the war, especially those countries that never wanted American involvement in Vietnam. President DeGaulle a longtime supporter of neutralization could not understand why American involvement had yet to end, but officially offered no comment. These articles offer a better understanding of both Don McCullin’s immediate response to Vietnam as well as offering the opinions of the international community following the Tet Offensive.
Emery, Fred. “How Hue Made Men of Boys.” The Times, February 23, 1968.
Lewis, Anthony. “Pictures of war Arouse Revulsion.” The New York Times, February 5, 1968.