Mark Hayward's City Matters: Vietnam War images stir ghosts
Who can best tell history?
Does our country's psyche still suffer from a collective PTSD over Vietnam?
Those are some of the questions raging behind the scenes between veterans and the Currier Museum of Art, which is putting finishing touches on an exhibit of news photographs from the Vietnam War.
Caution to Sundstrom. To discuss Vietnam, even 40 years after the Paris peace accords were signed, is to enter a muddy river delta of suspicion and criticism.
In veteran circles, some dismiss Howe for his blunt talk. But his voluneer work with parades and ceremonies — and his advocacy for returning vets — has earned him the grudging respect of veterans.
The Currier took advice from an ad-hoc panel of Vietnam veterans, one of who works at the museum. They suggested the narratives attached to the photos be stripped of any politics and just explain the events taking place in the photograph.
Howe dismisses the response hall as a bulletin board, where veteran contributions will be seen as the work of amateurs alongside the works of the exhibit.
Actually, several of the news photographers died covering the war, and one of the exhibit photos includes an Army chaplain giving Last Rites to photographer Dickey Chapelle, the first woman war correspondent killed in the war.
"Unless you were there in Nam you have no idea of the emotions us Vietnam Vets go through on a regular basis, and have for over 35 years," he wrote Burdett.
Of course, when he speaks of limited information, Howe wants to see more information about his fellow soldiers and how hard they fought for the Vietnamese and protected them. (In fact, some of the photos show that.)
That missing page, as painful as it is, is My Lai, the village where 26 soldiers massacred hundreds of civilians in 1968. Sundstrom said the most incriminiating My Lai photos — including one of dead women and children in a ditch — were taken by an Army photographer, not a news photographer. (However, the photographer later sold the photos to Life magazine.)
"I don't think," he said, "it's an accurate depiction of a typical soldier's experience."
The exhibit runs Aug. 3 through Veterans Day.
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