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The image that symbolised the fall of Saigon


VanesPhoto_1045Vanesphoto_1069At around 2:30 p.m. on April 29 1975, Hugh Van Es, a Dutch photographer working for UPI, captured the distant image of a helicopter perched precariously on a rooftop as a line of desperate people climbed a ladder in the hope of fleeing before North Vietnamese troops entered Saigon.

Forty years later, it remains one of the most iconic images of the Vietnam War. Hugh died in 2009.


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Old hands and old friends gathered in the Bunker – where Hugh’s photo and camera are displayed alongside other haunting images from the Vietnam War – at the FCC to commemorate one of the defining moments in the history of war photography.
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AFP’s Eric Wishart said Hugh was a legend not only of photography but also of his beloved FCC. Wishart told some of the sometimes disputed stories of how the photo came about. Annie Van Es, happy to have so many friends on hand, said that Hugh should be remembered as a photographer who covered the war for eight years and not just for one photo.

It was also noted that the image – usually as a cartoon – came to symbolise the hasty exit of US forces from trouble spots. For the full story of how the photo was used check out the March/April, 2012 issue of The Correspondent.

You can read Hugh’s account of that day in this article he wrote to mark the 30th anniversary, www.nytimes.com/2005/04/29/opinion/29van_es.html.

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Hugh Van Es – “Every picture tells a story” video clip
An interview with the photographer who took the iconic Vietnam War helicopter photo that has come to symbolise the last desperate days of the war. Credit: APV/ History Channel.

Event photos by Terry Duckham/Asiapix Studios

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