Eddie Adams

Saigon Execution, 1968

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Hahnemühle photo rag on archival museum mat, black wood frame
22.5 x 26.0 in (57.1 x 66.0 cm)
Edition of 25
Signed on recto


This work ships from New York, NY, US.


Nguyen Ngoc Loan, the national police chief of South Vietnam, executed a Viet Cong fighter, Nguyen Van Lem, in Saigon on Feb. 1, 1968. This image is noted as one of the 100 most influential photographs of all time by Time magazine as described here: "The act was stunning in its casualness. Associated Press photographer Eddie Adams was on the streets of Saigon on February 1, 1968, two days after the forces of the People’s Army of Vietnam and the Viet Cong set off the Tet offensive and swarmed into dozens of South Vietnamese cities.

As Adams photographed the turmoil, he came upon Brigadier General Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the national police, standing alongside ­Nguyen Van Lem, the captain of a terrorist squad who had just killed the family of one of Loan’s friends. Adams thought he was watching the interrogation of a bound prisoner. But as he looked through his viewfinder, Loan calmly raised his .38-caliber pistol and summarily fired a bullet through Lem’s head. After shooting the suspect, the general justified the suddenness of his actions by saying, “If you hesitate, if you didn’t do your duty, the men won’t follow you.” The Tet offensive raged into March. Yet while U.S. forces beat back the communists, press reports of the anarchy convinced Americans that the war was unwinnable. The freezing of the moment of Lem’s death symbolized for many the brutality over there, and the picture’s widespread publication helped galvanize growing sentiment in America about the futility of the fight. More important, Adams’ photo ushered in a more intimate level of war photojournalism. He won a Pulitzer Prize for this image, and as he commented three decades later about the reach of his work, “Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world.”

Terms & Conditions

This historic image is generously donated by Alyssa Adams, wife of Eddie Adams. Uniquely available, in this limited edition, this photograph was printed under the supervision of Eddie Adams and signed by him.