Photographers captured shots of mortar exploding in the instant before their deaths

I have some bad news as well: people die all the time during military training. Sometimes boot camp, sometimes just doing their jobs.

I did a “tiger cruise” on the Abraham Lincoln in 2008, went with my dad to visit my brother who was an electrician on the fighter jets. In the 5 days on the ship, 2 people died in the continental US just in botched airplane takeoffs.

According to my brother, the Marines have a high death rate just in basic training. There is a lot he refuses to elaborate on (some he can be tried for talking about), but he was insistent that the Marines “try to kill the weak ones off”.

Just being in the service is dangerous.


War is all fun and games until someone gets hurt.


Never even heard of it. I did see saving Private Ryan. That’s pretty horrible. Why do these Hollywood types insist on making war look like hell?

Yes, but that doesn’t mean that journalists don’t have agency in making decisions about the kind of stories they write. They can go along to get along or they can do their jobs. Sure, embedding is probably going to come with particular expectations, and many journalists will indeed fulfill it, but others won’t. And those are the ones who aren’t doing that are doing their jobs.

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Not to speak for @LutherBlisset, but it seems that they are pointing out that often this is an act of trying to craft propaganda through the process of embedding journalists. I think this is a correct assumption on their part. And yes, having empathy for our soldiers, men and women putting their bodies on the line for sometimes unclear goals, is part of what embedding is partially trying to do. But that doesn’t mean it’s not also about winning mindshare for the political goals of the war or to put the fear of our military in the minds of the enemy isn’t also a goal.

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I have to say, even with the brutality of Saving Private Ryan, you still get war as a somewhat sanitized spectacle in Hollywood films. Come and See isn’t that at all. It hammers how that war is a horrible thing to happen to people in a very direct and visceral way. It’s an excellent movie and worth the time to find and watch.

Here’s the trailer:


When I was in college we had the war in the former Yugoslavia, and I had found a picture of a civilian who had been injured by a bomb. He (?) was in surgery it looked like, close up of his face. Except there really wasn’t any face left. I made posters of the image with, if I remember correctly, the caption “This is what collateral damage looks like.” I posted them all over the school, and let me say, it definitely provoked some response. Not too many people knew I had done it, and I remember overhearing people talking about it in the cafeteria. As you said, the point was to shock and provoke.

For the record, I also think I might have been one of the original internet trolls… :-/


is it messed up that my first thought was “you can tell which one was taken by a professional photographer because the composition is better”?


Yeesh, what a crappy training accident. I don’t know enough about mortars to know what went wrong. I know they can be super useful in the field, but I wouldn’t want to play that close to explosives.

As for the “war is stupid” comments. Well, duh. But ISIS asked people nicely to adhere to their strict fundamentalist ideology, but a lot of people said “no”, so what other option do they have?

The good news is we are at the most peaceful time in human history as far as wars go. Look at Europe! Those guys used to have Marathon 100+ year long wars, and two world wars, and they have not only managed to stop fighting, but created a Union. While we still have a long way to go, the direct threat of a large scale war has mostly gone away. Hopefully soon small scale and proxy wars will go that way too.


Well, I have some experience with reporters during wartime. I never got the impression that they were being coerced about what to write, except in very limited instances where revealing specific information could compromise security.
Obviously the higher ups would not put the reporters with us unless there was some perceived advantage to it, or they were under pressure from even higher up. Which corresponds to your position. I do think that sometimes people come into such a situation with pretty negative preconceived ideas about the character of the troops, and such prejudices are pretty quickly dispelled after spending time with them.
And that does not really address the larger issue of whether the mission itself is good or useful. Iraq 2 turned out more or less exactly how my peers anticipated it would. I can’t remember hearing anyone expressing the belief that the mission would turn out to be anything less than a total disaster. This was our belief when training for the mission, while on the way to the theater, and was only confirmed during the actual conflict. It would have been unprofessional to have expressed that to reporters, but we would not have expressed fake enthusiasm, either.
Plus, although explosions are pretty cool, there is quite a bit of horror as well. Actual, visceral horror that sticks with you. Any reporter exposed to that aspect of war is going to be impacted heavily and permanently.
But uncensored press access is a requirement in today’s military environment. Denied that access, the press will often present negative stories, focusing on the denial of access itself. And there is the representational aspect of transparency to the press.
"In serving the purposes of the American public abroad, the military
is supposed to operate consistently with American values.
The press serves as the representative of the American public in
monitoring both the military and the government and in making
sure that those institutions function in the best interests of
the public. In order to effectively perform this role, the press
needs access to U.S. combat operations and the freedom to publish
without military oversight except in the case of legitimate
security concerns. " M. Steger, “Slicing the Gordian Knot”, 1993, UVA Press.

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I don’t doubt it. But don’t you think getting journalists a taste of what they experience as soldiers has propaganda value? by embedding don’t you think you’ll get a very specific view of the war? And don’t you think those decisions are made by higher ups, because of those advantages? [quote=“Max_Blancke, post:30, topic:100355”]
I do think that sometimes people come into such a situation with pretty negative preconceived ideas about the character of the troops, and such prejudices are pretty quickly dispelled after spending time with them.

And sometimes, depending on the situation, the opposite can happen. After all, soldiers are people, and people aren’t perfect. [quote=“Max_Blancke, post:30, topic:100355”]
Denied that access, the press will often present negative stories, focusing on the denial of access itself.

But there is also the advantage of being able to control what the journalist understands about the war by embedding them, yeah?

Just FYI, propaganda doesn’t have to mean just bad stuff, as I’m sure your aware, it’s about spin and trying to get a particular POV across. Embedding can do that quite effectively, I imagine.


I agree completely about the sanitized portrayal of war in cinema. Also, I think we share an interest in obscure military films. I have copies of, or have at least seen, every one available, especially the Japanese films made in the immediate postwar years. but Come and See is one of the ones to see, so to speak.
I have always felt that cinema portrayals are at least partially responsible for some of the disconnect that people have between the expectations and realities of the combat experience.


A thousand times this. It’s important to document this sort of thing to show the gut wrenching horrors of war, but crap… The Clayton shot seems to be a fraction of a second later than the first pic, and the shrapnel field has already advanced past the soldier. Pretty sure what was captured at the bottom of the pic is his calf getting shredded by shrapnel. (i.e. some of that “debris” is meat…)

Not really sure I wanted to see that.

Gotta go watch a few minutes of the nyan cat video after this one.


Wow. All I did like that in college was buy a bunch of 70’s and 80’s Ninja movie posters and put them on the inside of the girl’s and guy’s toilet stalls, on the back of the door.

(I moved in early and the dorm was empty)


Kim Phúc wasn’t photographed in the moment of her death, she’s still alive. That fact alone makes that photo an order of magnitude less jarring for me.

The widespread publication of her photo did fulfill a purpose. Using her name, or at least some best-effort Westerner’s approximation of it, might be another honor we could do her.

But what good is the voyeurism in this case supposed to do?
Are we trying to warn the world of the dangers of military training exercises?


Your brother knows the score. My first girlfriend in high school joined the marines, a nonconformist like no other. (The way they all are) According to the military, she went AWOL and was never heard from again. We figure she was murdered by fellow marines who then covered it up. This was supposedly during peacetime.

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I dont think you’re wrong about this, but is war any stupider than all the other stupid things people do?

From what I can tell, what makes war seem stupid, is that it has consequences more severe than the more usual nonsense.

Intuitively, we grasp that war is not the best way to solve problems, and yet we persist in creating the kinds of problems that seem to call for war.

You want to stop fighting wars, it means living a different kind of peace.from what you’re accustomed to.

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Should we not do that?

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Jesus Christ, at least put a warning on that. There are people out there with excellent reasons for not wanting to unexpectedly see an image of someone dying violently.


As far as good causes go, it’s not near the top of my own personal list.
And as with all causes, it should be weighed against the costs; in this case, springing a photo of people dying on me without warning. Judging it after the fact and according to my own personal priorities, definitely not worth it.

What’s more, I fear that’s not the main purpose those photos serve. It’s “look how cool our explosions are”, and “look at our heroes”. Things I don’t approve of at all.

The full linked article drips with militarism, and finally links to a video titled “The American faces at war”, leading it with the line “An Army photographer and others show the inner life of soldiers and explore the human cost of war.”

I don’t know about other people here, but I find it disgusting to somehow reduce “the human cost of war” to the cost for the volunteer soldiers that get sent halfway around the world to fight in them.

What things are you thinking of? I’m trying, but I can’t think of anything that’s even remotely as stupid.

I consider it rational to judge an action by its consequences; and therefore, the severe consequences of war don’t make it “seem” stupid, it actually makes it stupid.