For more than 10 years, Horst Faas covered the Vietnam war for the AP. Travelling alone, he jumped out of helicopters, tramped through villages, rice paddies and jungles, and took photos of street fights, interrogations and executions. One day in January 1964, Faas and the South Vietnamese Unit he was travelling with came across a suspected collaborator. A South Vietnamese ranger uses the end of a dagger to threaten punishment to the farmer for allegedly supplying government troops with wrong information on Communist guerrillas. Faas recalled, “If the prisoner didn’t talk, they would be hurt and even if they did talk they would be hurt or killed. In this case, the knife was a threat — and I think he used it. The photo won a Pulitzer.
Faas came to develop his own code to decide whether his war photos were too graphic. “If it was a really exception event, one crazy man, then we wouldn’t use it. But this event was not a singular event, not even occasional. It was a routine event. That’s the story that pictures like this told newspaper-reading people during the weary days of the war.”