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Last Updated: Monday, 20 September, 2004, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Iconic picture photographer dies
South Vietnamese Police Chief Nguyen Ngoc Loan executes a Vietcong officer with a single shot in the head in Saigon
Adams' shocking picture made front pages around the world
American photographer Eddie Adams, who shot one of the Vietnam War's iconic images, has died in New York at the age of 71.

His picture of a South Vietnamese colonel executing a communist Vietcong prisoner in Saigon earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1969.

His picture shows the exact moment when the bullet enters the prisoner's head.

It was taken on 1 February 1968, the second day of the communists' Tet Offensive in Saigon's Chinese quarter.

Adams arrived on the scene, along with a TV crew, attracted by the sound of gunfire.

They saw South Vietnamese soldiers bring the Vietcong prisoner and assumed he would be interrogated.

Sometimes a picture can be misleading because it does not tell the whole story
Eddie Adams

But instead, police chief Lt Col Nguyen Ngoc Loan went up to his prisoner and, without a word, shot him in the head.

Adams caught the instant of death in his photo which made front pages around the world and shocked the American public.

It was used by critics of the war to counter official claims that it was being won.


In later years, Adams said he felt the picture - which he did not display in his studio - misportrayed the circumstances and gave Col Loan, who lived in the US after the war and died there, a bad name.

Late US photographer Eddie Adams
Adams covered more than a dozen wars
"The guy was a hero," he said in a 1972 interview.

Col Loan said the man he executed was a Vietcong captain responsible for murdering the family of his closest aide a few hours earlier.

"Sometimes a picture can be misleading because it does not tell the whole story," Adams said.

"I don't say what he did was right, but he was fighting a war and he was up against some pretty bad people."

Adams was also well-known for his portraits of world figures including Presidents Richard Nixon and George W Bush, Jackie Kennedy, Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II and Fidel Castro.

He covered a dozen wars, including the Vietnam and Korean wars.

Adams died at his Manhattan home from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Vietnam survivor
20 Sep 02  |  Breakfast

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