A Soldier’s Despair

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During the 1991 Gulf war, media access was limited by Pentagon restrictions. President Bush was merely continuing the practice used by Reagan when  he invaded Grenada in 1983: the military left reporters and photographers behind. The pool resources arrangement allowed a minimal view of the fighting and the military handlers held back some images until they were too old for publication.

Despite the Pentagon ban on taking images of soldiers’ deaths and coffins,  David C. Turnley of the Detroit Free Press managed to take one of the war’s most moving photos. It showed Sergeant Ken Kozakiewicz crying as he learns that the body bag, next to him in the medical evacuation helicopter, contains the body of his friend Andy Alaniz killed by “friendly fire.”

Turnley took the photo on February 28, 1991, and he vividly remembers the moment: “We lifted off and the medic on the right in the photograph, sitting next to the body bag, suddenly reached over and handed the dog tag and the ID card of the dead soldier to the medic behind Ken. And it was at that moment that Ken realized that the soldier in the body bag was one of his best friends that had been killed.”

As was common in that war, Turnley used a military courier to ship his film. But two days later he found it still hadn’t been passed on to his editors. With the dead man’s next of kin already notified, Turnley recalled, he appealed to an officer to release the film. “I said, ‘If you don’t release this photo you are really contributing to the impression that soldiers over here didn’t sacrifice and didn’t risk their lives,’ ” Turnley recalled. “He released the film. And it ended up being published around the world.” However, shortly after it’s appearance it was restricted by the Pentagon.