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Vietnamese War Photos Displayed

May 5, 2000

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam (AP) _ Hundreds of people in this former wartime capital known as Saigon got their first look today at haunting battlefield pictures taken by Vietnamese and foreign photographers who covered both sides of the Vietnam War.

And for the first time, 89-year-old Le Thi Thu, frail and using a wheelchair, saw a picture of her handsome young son, a Viet Cong photographer who died at Cu Chi in 1968, displayed in a place of honor _ along with many of the 134 other photographers who perished during the 15-year conflict.

The exhibition of some 200 often searing images of the war, taken by those who died or disappeared, marked another step in a growing reconciliation between Vietnam’s communist government and its defeated U.S. adversary, 25 years after the war’s end.

Trang Phuong, vice chairman of the Ideological Board of the Community Party of Ho Chi Minh City, told about 100 invited guests at The War Remnants Museum that it was not only Vietnamese who sacrificed their lives. He sent condolences to the families of the 135 photographers _ including 16 Americans, four South Vietnamese and 72 North Vietnamese _ saying Vietnam was grateful ``for their contribution.″

``I hope that peace will stay with us forever and these images will never be repeated in any other places in the world,″ he said.

Le Phuc, general secretary of the Vietnamese Photographic Artists Association, a sponsor of the exhibition, said Vietnam is looking to the future, and such exhibits offer ``the hope that war will forever be an event of the past, and that peace is always with us on this beautiful planet.″

Even Mrs. Thu’s family, which supported the insurgency against the U.S.-backed South Vietnamese government, showed no bitterness despite the loss in combat of her husband, two soldier sons, and two photographer sons.

``I am happy because the war is over and there are no longer any families losing relatives,″ said Doan Duc Hai, the wife of Mrs. Thu’s only surviving son.

The photographs originally came from the award-winning 1997 book ``Requiem: The Vietnam Collection,″ compiled by Vietnam war photojournalists Horst Faas and Tim Page. The photos have been shown in the United States, Europe and Japan and were brought to Vietnam through the fund-raising efforts of former U.S. Marine Capt. Richard Lennon, a Kentucky businessman.

``The photographs have now come home to remain in Vietnam and to be a permanent memorial to the men and women who took them and died here,″ said Faas, 67, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who was Saigon photo editor for The Associated Press from 1963-72.

``This is the first time pictures of this kind have been shown in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City _ pictures taken by the Western press that have not been used for propaganda purposes,″ he said.

The Vietnam exhibitions also mark the first time that South Vietnamese photographers have been given recognition along with the Americans they worked for, Faas said.

Vietnamese mingled with tourists at the exhibition, which continues until May 20.

Lt. Col. Nguyen Thanh, 47, who fought in Quang Tri and came down the Ho Chi Minh trail to the Saigon area in 1974, said he was delighted to see photos from both sides which were ``so real and honest about the war.″

For Sue and Dick Waterman, anti-war protesters from Vancouver, Canada, who helped American draft dodgers cross the border, the photos showed the futility of the war.

``This war was wrong,″ Mrs. Waterman said, ``and we never seem to learn because the bombing in Kosovo last year was just as wrong as this.″

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