Many photos were taken of John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting his father’s coffin. However, the above photo (in its entirety or in its cropped form) is the most reproduced version. Despite its field of view was blocked by the honor guard, the black-and-white photo which reflects the sombre atmosphere took precedence over other color photos taken that day.
However, the photo was taken the government payroll, and no photographer got personal credit for the photo. Photographer Joe O’Donnell produced a cropped version of the photo and sold copies of them after his retirement from the White House in 1968. However, it is now contended that UPI’s Stan Steans took the above picture. Since it is impossible for two people to have shot the same exact photograph, Steans’ larger version seems more credible. [link, link]
On the Wake Island, coral mid-Pacific atoll where the Marines made a valiant stand in 1941, President Truman and Gen. MacArthur met on October 15th 1950, to discuss the Korean War. In the above picture by Joe O’Donnell, Truman shook MacArthur’s hand after decorating him with fourth oak leaf cluster of the Distinguished Service Medal. It was a candidi snapshot–on Truman’s face, through his almost-mocking smile, showed his reservations about the reckless general whom he later fired.
“I fired him [MacArthur] because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President… I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was.”
A dumb son of a bitch he may be, according to Truman, MacArthur as the commander of the US-UN troops in South Korea led a stunning surprise victory at Inchon. However, early in 1951, MacArthur would make a controversial recommendation–he planned to attack Chinese supply bases north of the Yalu River and explored the possibility of using an atom bomb in China. President Truman was concerned that further escalation of the war might draw the Soviet Union further into the conflict.
Throughout the spring, a ferocious debate dominated American headlines and dinner table discussions–“Korean Problem,” the “MacArthur Controversy,” or simply the “Great Debate.” Finally, on April 11, 1951, Truman fired MacArthur from all his commands in Korea and Japan. Would MacArthur’s policies have ended the war in Korea sooner, or would they have risked World War III? That question lingers.