Eddie Adams (June 12, 1933 – September 18, 2004) was an American photographer and photojournalist noted for portraits of celebrities and politicians and for coverage of 13 wars. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1969.
It was while covering the Vietnam War for the Associated Press that he took his best-known photograph – the picture of police chief General Nguyen Ngọc Loan executing a Vietcong prisoner, Nguyen Văn Lém, on a Saigon street, on February 1, 1968, during the opening stages of the Tet Offensive.
On Nguyen Ngoc Loan and his famous photograph, Adams wrote in Time in 1998:
“Two people died in that photograph: the recipient of the bullet and GENERAL NGUYEN NGOC LOAN. The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapons in the world. People believe them; but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths. … What the photograph didn’t say was, ‘What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American people?’…. This picture really messed up his life. He never blamed me. He told me if I hadn’t taken the picture, someone else would have, but I’ve felt bad for him and his family for a long time. … I sent flowers when I heard that he had died and wrote, “I’m sorry. There are tears in my eyes.”
He once said, “I would have rather been known more for the series of photographs I shot of 48 Vietnamese refugees who managed to sail to Thailand in a 30-foot boat, only to be towed back to the open seas by Thai marines.” The photographs, and accompanying reports, helped persuade then President Jimmy Carter to grant the nearly 200,000 Vietnamese boat people asylum. He won the Robert Capa Gold Medal from the Overseas Press Club in 1977 for this series of photographs in his photo essay, “The Boat of No Smiles” (Published by AP). Adams remarked, “It did some good and nobody got hurt.”
He is the subject of a 2009 documentary feature, An Unlikely Weapon, directed by Susan Morgan Cooper and narrated by Kiefer Sutherland.