Pictures can have a great impact on history. Like the Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima or the picture of the Hindenburg going down in flames. Pictures do not always tell the truth. An AP reporter named Eddie Adams took this picture at the height of the Tet Offensive in Saigon on February 1, 1968. The media sensationalized this picture. You were left with the impression that the man was an innocent civilian being gunned down in cold blood. The anti-war movement loved this picture and milked it for all that it was worth for it's propaganda value. The following is the real story. The man doing the shooting was South Vietnamese Major General Nguyen Ngoc Loan who was the chief of the South Vietnam national police. The man being executed was Nguyen Van Lem aka Captain Bay Lop. Lem was no civillian. He was a Viet Cong and not just any Viet Cong. He was an assassin and leader of a Viet Cong death squad that had been targeting South Vietnamese National Police Officers and their families. Lem had recently been responsible for the death of one of Loan's senior officers and his family. He was caught red handed at the mass grave of his victims that contained 7 police officers and their family members which numbered 34 bodies.
Eddie Adams who took the picture later regretted it. He felt that Loan was a good man in a bad situation and deeply regretted the negative impact on Loan's life. Loan was a brave officer who later lost a leg in May fighting the Viet Cong. After the fall of Vietnam Loan immigrated to the United States but the department of Immigration and Naturalization Services wanted to deport him because of the picture. When they approached Adams to testify against him Adams instead testified in Loan's favor and because of Adams Loan was allowed to stay in the United States. Loan opened a Pizza parlor in Washington D.C. but was forced out of business in 1991 when his real identity was exposed. When Loan died of cancer in 1998 Adams said "The guy was a hero. America should be crying. I just hate to see him go this way, without people knowing anything about him". This picture along with Walter Cronkite's on air diatribe against the war probably had more to do with turning a potential victory in Vietnam into a inevitable defeat.