...when this photo was taken in the first week of September 1969. The guy was riding in the back of a 3/4 ton pickup after having hitched a ride back to barracks at Tent City B from downtown Saigon where he had taken pictures and had a beer or two. He was about to turn 21 and go on R&R to Hawaii for a delayed honeymoon with his first wife; he had fewer than 90 days to go in country and he thought he was immortal.
He opposed the Vietnam War, before, during and after; years later he learned that the leftist and media-driven desertion of Southeast Asian seekers of Democracy led to the slaughter of huge numbers of Vietnamese and Cambodians by Communists.
That knowledge changed his politics forever in 1984.
But in 1969 he was just a volunteer soldier who signed up at his Draft Board when he turned 18 and voluntarily let them know when he was no longer eligible for his 2-S student deferment. He was an enlisted man, and certainly no hero, doing what he thought was right, serving his country the best way he could, bitching and moaning about every little military thing he disagreed with, the way millions of other Americans did while they served their country over the past couple of hundred years.
Once he got out of the Army he went to work to support his family, unlike the Rambo book-and-movie template that suggested all RVN vets were crazy. Except for the fact that he went to work in the radio business, he was a pretty normal sort.
He was me, and this site presents some of my photos and memories of my year-long adventure in Vietnam January 1969 through January 1970.
Swear to God that I was not then nor am I now crazy. I just did my job and took a bunch of pictures. The fact that I'm taking the time and spending the money all these years later to put this website online may make you wonder about my sanity now, though...
All pages updated, misspellings, grammar and event info corrected and info, links and photos added 30 November 05.
About the photos here --
There are no combat pictures. I didn't keep any, although I was occasionally involved in conflict. If your interest in Vietnam War websites is primarily to see something gruesome, you'll be disappointed.
I have seen the photos exhibited here just three times before now: when they came back from the Kodak photo lab in Hawaii; when I assembled them into a slide show for my family in 1971; and when I had a short VHS video tape made of some of them in 1986.
What I now know about the slide show and the video tape is that they were all pictures of places and things...no people. I guess that says something about me and the way I reacted to my experience in 1969. The Vietnamese people are as well represented in this presentation as I can make them.
Technical info --
Most of the images assembled here were shot on Kodachrome or Ektachrome slide stock and processed commercially by Kodak at their labs in Hawaii. I understand that Kodachrome has, over the years, proved to be the best archival medium for slides. There has been a significant fading in the color saturation of some of the images and that's not to be unexpected over nearly four decades. I have made a conscious effort to not use the digital imaging tools available to enhance or "bring back" color except in the rare instance where details are made more visible by subtly altering contrast.
Why I created this site --
Three reasons: to display the photos I took almost four decades back; to honor the memory of the men and women with whom I served and the Vietnamese people we tried to help; and for my children, grandchildren and subsequent generations, who should know more about it.
There's a lot "out there" about the Vietnam experience and it's almost all bad. There was a lot more to Vietnam than just the bad stuff. I think, or at least I hope, that these photos are some of the good stuff.
One more thing --
You can occasionally reach him here or email him here: alrockoff @ usa.net.
|Al Rockoff, whom I knew at the 221st, moved on to civilian employment as a photographer in Cambodia. Al was portrayed by John Malkovich in The Killing Fields. He's been there, off and on, since the '70's, documenting the takeover of the country by the Khmer Rouge and the subsequent rebirth of the nation. His vision matches his social conscience and he may be the best photo-journalist of social and political conflict in the last thirty-plus years.|