Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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David Douglas Duncan

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Follow link for an enlarged imageI Protest! (1968) / view images from this book

From Duncan's foreword:
The photographic life of this book spans eight days in February, 1968. Marines of the 26th Regiment entrenched at Khe Sanh were under constant harassing fire from two North Vietnamese Army divisions concealed in the surrounding mountains. One adapted quickly to showers of rockets and mortar bombs exploding within the narrow perimeter. It became a life made richer by common sharing of everyday events: dividing equally the can of fruit cocktail in a C-ration; tasting a few minutes more of life, helmet-to-helmet in a slit trench with a man who was a stranger before the barrage began — then suddenly he was closer to you than your brother; watching Death roam again among you, and accepting His choice without too deep astonishment that you were once more spared.

All of these pictures were taken within the Khe Sanh Combat Zone, which includes a nearby fortified hilltop — 861 Alpha — part of the screening defenses of Khe Sanh itself, with its metal-slabbed airfield. Helicopters shuttle between the two outposts, when fog and in-coming fire are not too dense. The day after my arrival at Khe Sanh, the enemy launched a pre-dawn probing attack against 861 Alpha — leaving more than twenty Marines crumpled dead and wounded in their trenches and more than fifty North Vietnamese soldiers scattered dead in the barbed wire around the Marines' foxholes.

In these pages, if a man lies uncovered upon the ground he is a North Vietnamese soldier, just fallen, soon to be buried by the Marines. If a man on the ground or a litter has been covered with a poncho, he is a Marine killed in action, awaiting evacuation to the rear and the journey to his family. Not much more can be done, in war, for the dead of either side.

The battlefield is a world of final simplicity.