Cameras, Combat and Courage

...The Vietnam War by the Military's Own Photographers, from Pen & Sword

Title: Cameras, Combat and Courage
Author: Dan Brookes
Publisher: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 978-1-52675-023-5

A companion book to 'Shooting Vietnam' this is a second hardback from author Dan Brookes and publisher Pen & Sword which details the stories of military cameramen in action during the Vietnam War. These are not civilian press photographers, these men were Privates in the US Army and US Marines, but whose specialist role was that of cameraman, either still or movie film.
Each of the 10main chapters are contributed by a different veteran, recording their own time and experiences in Vietnam. I was taken by how many mentioned their arrival in-country, and how walking out of the door of the airliner they had arrived in, they were hit by a wall of heat and humidity like they had never experienced before. Their job did give them a fair degree of freedom with where they went and what action/stories they covered. For some there were boring, routine jobs, such as taking portrait photos of Commanding Officers or others for passports and ID cards. One day they might be recording some form of ceremony and the next, on board a Huey or an APC, going in to action with whichever unit happened to be there. A camera in one hand and a weapon of some sort in the other. That might be a .45 pistol, an M16 or in at least one case, an M79 grenade launcher. In the final two chapters are the stories of Cpl William (Bill) T Perkins Jr, USMC, who threw himself on top of a grenade in order to save others around him and who was awarded the CMH. Finally a story mentioned in a few of the personal accounts, the loss of Ghostriders 079, a Huey carrying no less than 5 Combat Photographers and who were killed when the Huey they were in was shot down near Pleiku in 1970.
The assortment of personal accounts make for interesting reading, and one, many years after the war was over, talks about his feelings now finally admitting to having personally shot enemy soldiers during his time in Vietnam, after only having admitted to one before. Drugs, violent death, fear, horror and boredom, plus the chance to experience the colours and culture of a country so different to their own homes. Accompanied by photos not published before which illustrate the men, the equipment, combat as well as the colourful communities and countryside they were in. For anyone interested in the history of the Vietnam War, this makes for a really good read and an insight to how it felt to be involved. A book I very much enjoyed reading.
Thanks to Pen & Sword for our review copy.

Robin