Vietnam Album review

Vietnam Album, by Christopher Burns

Now published for the first time: more than 400 of the best color and black and white images of the Vietnam War taken by the combat correspondents of the 25th Infantry Division. Accompanying the photos are oral histories, letters home, and a rich selection from first-hand accounts by Philip Caputo, Johnnie Clark, Fred Downs, and others.

“Burns has outdone himself,” according to John Fairbank, who was the 25th Infantry Division’s information officer in 1968-69. “He has brought into print, again, the work of some of the most accomplished photojournalists from the Vietnam Era.”

Vietnam Album author Christopher Burns was responsible for the division’s publications, including Tropic Lightning News, Thunder Magazine, and the division’s yearbook. He brought home an extra copy of many of the photos that were released, found them again after they spent 40 years in a box in his closet, and put together an excellent book on the Vietnam War. He found quotes from many of those involved in the war, including LBJ and Ho Chi Minh; grunts and platoon leaders; generals and intelligence officers; Donut Dollies and nurses, and medics and doctors, as well as material from letters home, captured enemy diaries and other sources. It’s a “great historical treatment,” according to Fairbank.

Nearly all the images in the book, about half in color, were taken by correspondents who started out in the 25th Infantry Division's infantry units, armored personnel carriers or tanks, and ended up taking pictures and writing stories for Army publications. The quotes tell the gritty details of life under fire, and the photos bring it all to life. The images show long muddy patrols, search and destroy missions, medevacs, tanks, APCs, artillery warfare, and life in the rear with the beer.

Also included in the publication are extensive excerpts from enemy diaries captured during the war. NVA soldiers write about the long trek down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the terrifying B-52 raids, life in the tunnels, and the constant scavenging for food. They gloat about the corruption that brought them the American weapons they used to kill Americans, and the American medicine they used to heal themselves.

Most of the 25th Infantry Division Information Office’s files – five years worth of photos, articles and other material – were ordered burned when the division left Vietnam in 1971. But during his tour Burns had been setting aside the best slides and prints for future publication. When his tour was up he took them to the Air Force photo lab at Ton Son Nhut Air Force Base and traded his refrigerator for a set of duplicates. And then he forgot about them. It’s lucky for us that he found them again.

This book is an ebook for Kindle readers, available from Amazon for $9.50. To see a sample of the book, go to http://www.amazon.com and search for “Vietnam Album.” Select the Kindle book authored by Christopher Burns. A click on the book’s cover brings up several sample pages.

To read this Kindle book on a PC, Mac or iPad, go to http://www.amazon.com/support and select “Kindle Support” at the right side of the line under the search box. Free Kindle readers for various platforms can be downloaded from the list near the center of the page. Although the reader is a free download, users will need to open an Amazon account if they don’t have one. The book on these other devices also costs $9.50.

After graduating from OCS at the top of his class and spending a year as a signal officer in Washington, Christopher Burns was assigned as command information officer of the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam. There he led a team of photographers, writers and editors producing a weekly newspaper, a quarterly magazine and other special publications. His book about 25th Division operations, 1969: Vietnam, was named the best publication in the Army for that year, and he was twice awarded the Bronze Star. After leaving the Army, Burns worked as a media executive, serving as vice president of the Washington Post, senior vice president of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, and executive editor of UPI, the worldwide news service.

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