Vietnam War in photos, Part III: Hands of a Nation

Part I: Early Years and Escalation
Part II: Losses and Withdrawal
Part III: Hands of a Nation

The Atlantic, Alan Taylor, Apr 1, 2015
26 Photos

The photojournalist Eddie Adams, who covered the Vietnam War for the Associated Press, not only captured the action and chaos but took the time to get up close to the Vietnamese people whenever he could. In 1968, he undertook a project called “Hands of a Nation,” taking intimate photos of the hands of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians. Their hands were busy doing so many things then: reaching out for medicine, grasping weapons, straining against bindings, soothing, praying, rebuilding. Adams photographed hands young and old, belonging to the healthy and the wounded, the living and the dead.
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  • The loneliness and desperation of a refugee in Vietnam in August 1968

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • A South Vietnamese soldier aims his pistol in August 1968.

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • A Vietnamese child seeks assurance in August 1968.

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • Hands in utter confusion belong to Vietnamese civilians attempting to assemble a carbine (rifle) in August 1968, as part of the government of South Vietnam’s civilian mobilization program where civilians learn how to protect themselves from attacking communists.

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • A farmer plants rice in the Delta region in Vietnam in August 1968.

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • The sweet life amid the war in Vietnam in August 1968

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • A soldier ties a prisoner’s hands in Vietnam, August of 1968.

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • War’s ugliness is depicted in the hands of the homeless and ill reaching out for medicine from a visiting military doctor in the city of Hue, August 1968.

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • A government soldier squeezes the trigger before releasing the safety on his M16 rifle, a weapon some of the government troops are issued, in Vietnam in August 1968.

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • A Buddhist monk presses his hands together as an expression of gratitude in August 1968.

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • A 13-year-old boy who lost his arm when he tripped on a booby trap covers his face in Vietnam in August 1968.

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • A woman in Cholon lays brick in mortar. This is her third effort in rebuilding her home in August 1968.

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • A soldier with a grenade in Vietnam in August 1968

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • Hands hold white rice in Vietnam.

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • The war is over for this Viet Cong soldier, August 1968.

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • The Cholon district of Saigon in June of 1968

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • A Vietnamese woman applies makeup, August 1968.

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • A medic patches up a hand of a wounded soldier during heavy fighting in August 1968.

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • Army soldiers hold rifles in Vietnam in an undated photo.

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • Hands of the homeless and ill reach out for medicine from a visiting military doctor in the city of Hue.

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • A Viet Cong soldier who was captured during street fighting in Saigon smokes a cigarette while being questioned by government soldiers in August 1968.

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • A person with a prosthetic arm in Vietnam in August 1968

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • A seriously wounded North Vietnamese trooper rests his head on his hands after he was brought in by two Marines to an evacuation point at Dai Do, Vietnam. The enemy soldier was captured during one of several Marine charges on the village of Dai Do. The Marines, while retreating from the heavy enemy fire, took the wounded enemy with them to this evacuation point along the Cua Viet River.

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • A Vietnamese woman’s fingers clutch joss sticks as she prays for a departed one in August 1968.

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • Waiting to be evacuated, a South Vietnamese soldier patiently nurses his wounded arm in August 1968.

    Eddie Adams/AP
  • A Vietnamese child seeks assurance in Vietnam in August of 1968.

    Eddie Adams/AP
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