A war journalist in harm's way
Nine years shooting the Vietnam War
Life magazine photographer Larry Burrows arrived in Vietnam in 1962 to introduce Americans to their new war. United States military involvement was in its infancy in Southeast Asia, but Burrows's journalistic instincts told him it would be an enormously important story. For the next nine years, through mud, blood, and flying bullets, he captured the war unlike any photographer of his generation.
"Larry Burrows, Vietnam," published by Alfred A. Knopf ($50), powerfully portrays the beauty and horror of the war that would shake and shape life in the US for years.
Colleagues described Burrows as fearless. The intimacy with which he captures conflict shows his willingness to be in harm's way to depict war on a deeply human level. Fear, bravery, sorrow, and love are all represented in this collection. "Reaching Out," perhaps Burrows' best-known photograph, incorporates these emotions as wounded comrades meet on a battle-ravaged hill.
To photograph "Puff the Magic Dragon," an airplane fitted with three Gatling guns capable of massive firepower (18,000 rounds a minute), he convinced the military to take off windows so he could make a picture showing inside and outside the fuselage.
His most poignant story is the transformation, in one day, of helicopter gunner James Farley. Burrows eloquently captures the soldier who begins his mission as a swaggering, smiling kid, is confronted by the horror of war, and ends his day crumpled in grief.
Burrows's commitment to his craft ultimately cost him his life when he was shot down riding a helicopter to cover a mission in Laos. His work enlightened a nation and remains as relevant today as when it was first published.
• Andy Nelson is a staff photographer.