After being drafted to serve in the war in Vietnam, an American GI decided to treat his days off-duty in the country as a ‘working vacation’ with camera in hand.
The pictures that Private 1st Class Lance V. Nix took in and around the city of My Tho between 1968-69 show bustling markets, busy townsfolk and smiling children — a very different perspective from the dreary combat operations in muddy fields and jungles most commonly associated with the decades-long war.
‘I didn’t want to be there, but I was drafted and there was nothing I could do about it. So in my free time I would just grab my camera and walk around taking pictures,’ said Nix, now aged 71, in an interview with Daily Mail Online.
During his tour in Vietnam, Nix said he was tasked with doing general assignments for officials involved in the notorious Phoenix Program — a CIA brainchild that aimed at ‘neutralizing’ Viet Cong fighters and suspicious civilians by capturing, killing and allegedly torturing them by the tens of thousands.
Nix, who was 24 when he first landed in Vietnam, said his job was to ‘do everything’ — drive officials around, do body guard duty, and even run the video projector during meetings at command headquarters.
‘I had a lot of free time,’ Nix said. ‘And since I was the lowest-ranking member of my whole team, my commanding officer allowed me to wear civilian clothes so I wouldn’t be harassed.’
During excursions with his Minolta SRT 101 camera, Nix said, ‘Most people didn’t know if I was a reporter or whatever. I was usually the only American around, which could be hazardous. But the daytime was pretty safe. Nighttime was when you started worrying.’
‘The reactions from people were a little bit of everything. Some people wanted their picture taken and would smile like you won’t believe.Some would be shy.’
In Nix’s view, ‘The Vietnamese citizens weren’t really involved in the war. They were bystanders basically. They were so used to occupation, with the French before us. Most citizens were just trying to live their lives, hoping not to have their heads blown off.’