Grief and Sorrow in Haktong
Rarely did such an emotional photo emerge from a war. It was taken in the Haktong-ni area of South Korea by career combat news photographer Al Chung on August 28th 1950; the photo showed a grief-stricken American infantryman being comforted by a comrade. The details about his grief were a matter of debate. Some said he just learnt his best friend had been killed, while some say it can be attributed to a more banal reason–he just learnt that his replacement as a radio operator had been killed.
The photo was also a study in contrasts: in the background, it also showed a corpsman sifting through casualty information and filling in the name of the newly fallen, ignoring the emotional outburst besides him as if he was giving his comrades a moment of privacy. The photo was featured in Edward Steichen’s celebrated “Family of Man” photography exhibit in 1955 at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and subsequently been reproduced in many newspapers, magazines, books and museums.
Hawaiian Albert Chang covered three wars; as a dockworker in Honolulu, he saw the attack on Pearl Harbor and afterwards served in the Pacific and went on to photograph the Japanese surrender on the USS Missouri. In Korea, he cemented his reputation as one of the Army’s finest photographers. In Vietnam, he received the Purple Heart after a Viet Cong bullet hit his left eye. Chang’s famous images included a Vietnamese family driven by oxen cart on a road leaving Saigon that is filled with bustling US tanks and a group of Saigon residents detaining and beating a suspect in a parade bombing who was thought to have belonged to the Viet Cong. But not all of his images were serious: a notable one from Korea showed three soldiers sharing canned poi and dried squid as a ukulele nestles in the lap of one man.