In the spring of 1965, within weeks of 3,500 American Marines arriving in Vietnam, a 39-year-old Briton named Larry Burrows began work on a feature for LIFE magazine, chronicling the day-to-day experience of U.S. troops on the ground—and in the air—in the midst of the rapidly widening war.
In the heat of battle, in the devastated countryside, among troops and civilians equally hurt by the savagery of war, Larry Burrows photographed the conflict in Vietnam from 1962, the earliest days of American involvement, until 1971, when he died in a helicopter shot down on the Vietnam–Laos border. His images, published in LIFE magazine, brought the war home, scorching the consciousness of the public and inspiring much of the anti-war sentiment that convulsed American society in the 1960s.
To see these photo essays today is to experience (or to relive), with extraordinary immediacy, both the war itself and the effect and range of Larry Burrows’s gifts—his courage: to shoot “The Air War,” he strapped himself and his camera to the open doorway of a plane… his reporter’s instinct: accompanying the mission of the helicopter Yankee Papa 13, he captured the transformation of a young marine crew chief experiencing the death of fellow marines…; and his compassion: in “Operation Prairie” and “A Degree of Disillusion” he published profoundly affecting images of exhausted, bloodied troops by the ever-escalating war.
The photographs Larry Burrows took in Vietnam are brutal, poignant, and utterly truthful, a stunning example of photojournalism that recorded history and achieved the level of great art.
(Photos by Larry Burrows for Life Magazine)