FGCU Module 13 Vietnam or The Unwinnable War Discussion

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Module 13 Discussion: Vietnam, or The Unwinnable War

Examine the photo below, which U.S. photographer Eddie Adams took during the Tet Offensive of 1968, when the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong – the communist guerrilla force in South Vietnam – attacked anti-communists in South Vietnam during a holiday truce, killing thousands of South Vietnamese civilians and soldiers. In the photo, a South Vietnamese general and police chief is poised execution-style to shoot the leader of a Viet Cong squad. Right before Adams took the photo, South Vietnamese soldiers found the Viet Cong combatant with the bodies of several South Vietnamese Police officers and their families, whom the Viet Cong and his squad had just killed. The distraught general shot the Viet Cong soldier on the spot. Adams’s photo reached the U.S., where Americans interpreted a different story. They saw a South Vietnamese officer murdering a civilian in cold blood. Adams won a Pulitzer Prize for the photo, which played a role in turning American public opinion against the Vietnam War.


1. During an interview with Time Magazine, Adams said, “Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths.” What does this mean?

2. Do you think Adams’s photograph lied? Why or why not?