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Mutter Ridge, Nui Cay Tri, South Vietnam
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© Larry Burrows Collection

Larry Burrows
British, South Vietnam, Negative, 1966; print, 1987
Dye transfer print
18 1/16 x 27 9/16 in.
2004.154

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This grim scene of injured American soldiers reveals the horrors they faced in the brutal Vietnam War. The troops had gathered on a mud-covered hillside, which they had used as a makeshift First Aid center while attempting to take areas known as Hills 400 and 484. While this image focuses on the bandaged, bloodied African-American soldier in the center, diagonally positioned limbs of men on the left side of the image direct attention to a mud-covered soldier lying injured on the ground.

Photojournalist Larry Burrows framed this image in a manner that emphasizes an apocalyptic, scorched earth in the colors of brown and muted cyan. But there is a hint of vividness in the bright white, bloodstained bandage of a soldier centered in the picture. Prior to Vietnam, war images were typically made using black and white film, so Burrows use of color enhances the impact of this scene.

More than any other war until then, the Vietnam conflict was brought to American citizens through the eyes of photojournalists. Their poignant and arresting imagery in magazines like Life and Look, television, and newspapers gave Americans an unromantic vision of daily warfare. Burrows and three other photojournalists lost their lives five years later when their helicopter was shot down en route to cover the war's expansion into Laos.