Dispute over iconic Vietnam War photo

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MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The picture, featured in Life Magazine, shows the struggle of young Marines during the Vietnam War and the Battle of Hue in 1968. For many years, the Marine lying on the fender of the tank was said to be Mobile’s A.B. Grantham. A recent New York Times feature points to someone else.

Grantham still believes he is the man at the center of the picture. The photo was taken by John Olson during the battle and Grantham’s story was recently featured in a chapter of Mark Bowden’s book about the battle of Hue.

But the family of another Marine, James Blaine, believe it is him on the tank. Blaine did not come home alive.

“James, being the hero of the bunch, he gave his all, he gave everything, he didn’t make it back and his family I’m sure is devastated still,” said Grantham.

At issue are two pictures but two different photographers at the time. The one by Olson, and another earlier photo by photographer Don McCullin. Both show a corpsman with a toy octopus tucked into the headband of his helmet. Both show the white door used as a stretcher the wounded Marine is laying on.

Many believe the earlier photo was incorrectly dated February 15th, when James Blaine was killed, as opposed to February 17th, when Grantham was wounded. 

A Marine who was on the same tank corroborates Grantham’s story. Richard Hill and Grantham met for the first time just three years ago.

Grantham has been aware of the claims of Blaine’s family, and even others who claim to be in the photo. In the end, he says, it doesn’t matter.

“The picture itself tells a story about the Marines and how they fought in Vietnam and so, it could have been anybody, I just happened to be there,” he says.

Grantham says he hopes from all of this the focus turns to the picture itself and the story it tells about the struggles of veterans of the war.


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