There are perhaps more famous images from the Vietnam war – like the Pulitzer-Prize winning pictures taken by Nick Ut of nine-year-old Phan Thi Kim Phuc, running down Route 1 near Trang Bang, following a napalm attack on her village, or Eddie Adams’ graphic image of South Vietnamese National Police Chief Brig Gen Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong officer with a single pistol shot in the head in Saigon.
While these images capture the horror of war, Larry Burrows’ image of a marine reaching out for his wounded comrade captures the compassion that exists, even in the height of battle. Burrows was a photographer of immense courage who managed to get right to the heart of the action.
In this image, taken at a first aid station on Mutter Ridge, Nui Cay Tri in October 1966, Larry captures a beautiful moment of compassion between two wounded comrades. Marine Gunnery Sgt Jeremiah Purdie leans forward towards a stricken comrade after a fierce firefight for control of Hill 484. It is rare to see such moments in war – it is far rarer for a photographer to capture them.
Larry Burrows was my hero. Unfortunately, I never got the opportunity to meet him. He was tragically killed, along with three other photographers in 1971 when their helicopter was shot down just inside Laos – a truly sad day for photojournalism.