American Soldiers Dragging Viet Cong by Kyoichi Sawada
Episode #10 of the course “Pulitzer prize-winning photos”
As the Vietnam War raged on in 1966, international forces continued to fight against the Viet Cong, attempting to gain a secure foothold in South Vietnam. The night of August 19th, a group of Viet Cong soldiers attacked a battalion of Australian troops in what would become known as the Battle of Long Tan. The Viet Cong troops were driven back by Australian and United States forces and several Viet Cong were killed. The body of one deceased Viet Cong soldier, perhaps out of frustration or in a display of victory, was tied to the back of a US Army tank and dragged behind it.
Japanese photographer Kyoichi Sawada (of the United Press International) was covering the combat in Vietnam and snapped several photos of American soldiers tying the body to the armored vehicle and its being dragged behind until it became disfigured. One of these photos, “American Soldiers Dragging Viet Cong,” won awards for the World Press Photo of the Year and was nominated for the 1966 Pulitzer Prize for photography. After the photo’s publication, many pro-Vietnam War supporters began to discuss the severity of the situation on American troop psychology. As soldiers are exposed to longer, more intensely violent periods of war, they may develop more brutal tactics. Many anti-war protesters used the photo as an example of general human brutality and argued that the US should withdraw from the war. Sawada continued to cover the events in Vietnam as the battles continued. He was killed on his way to Cambodia in 1970.
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