February 5, 2008

40 Years Ago in News History: Shot Heard Round the World

Jan. 30, 1968: North Vietnam's Tet offensive brought fighting into the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. Two days later, AP photographer Eddie Adams and an NBC crew came upon two South Vietnamese soldiers and a prisoner.

"And out of nowhere came this guy who we didn't know." Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of South Vietnam's national police, walked up and shot the prisoner in the head. His reason: The prisoner, a Viet Cong lieutenant, had just murdered a South Vietnamese colonel, his wife and their six children.

The peace movement adopted the photo as a symbol of war's brutality. But Adams, who stayed in touch with Loan, said the photo wrongly stereotyped the man: "If you're this general and you just caught this guy after he killed some of your people... how do you know you wouldn't have pulled that trigger yourself? You have to put yourself in that situation … It's a war." Adams died in 2004.

For more information on this and other Pulitzer Prize-winning photos, visit the Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery.

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