Publisher recalls history book containing doctored Vietnam War photo

By Thoai Ha   August 12, 2016 | 12:32 am PT
The altered image has people flying through the air as they scramble for a helicopter.

A Vietnamese publisher has recalled all 1,000 copies of a history book released earlier this year to investigate allegations that its author used a digitally altered photograph of the evacuation of Saigon’s residents in the last days of the Vietnam War.

According to Nguyen Minh Nhut, director of the Tre (Youth) Publishing House, "Reflections of 150 years' Saigon” was recalled on Thursday after one of its photographs was found to have been digitally altered.

Truong Huyen Duc, a Vietnamese designer, said on his Facebook account that he had used Photoshop to doctor the image. He is not the author of the book, however.


The photograph numbered 515 from the recalled book "Reflections of 150 years' Saigon”.

The photograph is numbered 515 in the book, and depicts a scene of a crowd falling through the air from a ladder as they fight for a place on an evacuation helicopter in Saigon, the former name of Ho Chi Minh City.

Duc said he made the picture for fun in 2010 using the original taken by Dutch photographer Hubert van Es. The original also appears in the same book, numbered 514, and became famous for capturing the historic scene of people evacuating Saigon on April 29, 1975, a day before the northern Vietnam’s army entered and took over the city. In Hubert’s picture, people are queueing in an orderly fashion, while the photoshopped version showed signs of chaos.


The original picture taken by Dutch photographer Hubert van Es featured in Tam Thai's book

Facebook users had already questioned the validity of the photo before Duc came forward, saying the background color was wrong and the people in it seemed to be defying the laws of gravity. One added that the address of the building in the picture is 22 Gia Long Street (22 Ly Tu Trong Street now), instead of Thong Nhat Street as the book says.

Photographer Tam Thai, the book’s author, admitted his error.

“I took that picture from the internet," he told VnExpress. "I believed the picture to be real judging from the angle and the content, which matched the shot taken by Hubert van Es. In the book, the two pictures are juxtaposed to create a seamless flow of story," he said.

"The captions under them were written by me based on my feelings and partly on a interview with Hubert when he returned to Saigon that I found online.”

He also apologized for using the fake photograph.

Tam Thai’s book contains more than 900 images of Saigon. The majority of them were taken by him, but the rest, mainly about war, were collected from various sources.

Last year, a photograph of the Vietnamese army taken by Doan Cong Tinh was also found to have been digitally altered after being exhibited at photography festival Visa pour l'Image Perpignan 2014.

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