Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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David Douglas Duncan


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Follow link for an enlarged imageWar Without Heroes (1970) / view images from this book

“This book is simply an effort to show what a man endures when his country decides to go to war, with or without his personal agreement on the righteousness of the cause . . . In their own eyes, they were participating in everyday events while serving in a foreign land where their country was at war . . . a war without heroes.”
— David Douglas Duncan

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From the book jacket text:
Here is a book that reveals what war is like for the men who fight it. In some of the most powerful battle photographs ever taken, Duncan's camera has captured the essence of war in all its drama and bitterness. "I wanted to show the comradeship that binds men together when they are fighting a common peril. I wanted to show the way men live, and die . . . the agony, the suffering, the terrible confusion, the heroism which is everyday currency among those men who actually pull the triggers of rifles aimed at other men known as ‘the enemy.”

Today, as the United States finds itself still deeply committed in Southeast Asia, Duncan writes, "This war has now become the longest in our nation's history. It is a war that has taken more lives than those lost in Korea, a war that shattered the power of, and then deposed, a President of the United States . . . It is a war that has fractured the substructure of our society to a depth which will require the efforts of yet unborn generations to heal. And even then nothing will be the same. For one conclusion already seems clear: our involvement in Viet-Nam has emerged as the greatest American tragedy since the Civil War.”

These photographs were taken during three combat operations in South Viet-Nam: Cua Viet . . . Con Thien . . . Khe Sanh — pictures of brave men taken by a brave man; a veteran war photographer who, in effect, became a front-line soldier himself, again.

[Duncan] returned to war to cover the American foot soldier in Viet-Nam on a unique joint assignment from Life and ABC-TV News. The photographs which resulted have won him recognition by the American Society of Magazine Photographers as "Photographer of the Year" and the Overseas Press Club's Robert Capa Gold Medal "for superlative photography requiring exceptional courage and enterprise abroad."