My journalism career spans more than 30 years and I’ve had the privilege of meeting many interesting people. One of the most fascinating encounters came during my helicopter ride, TIME magazine shoot and subsequent lunch with Pulitzer Prize-winning combat photographer Eddie Adams. Adams came to Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, S.C., in the summer of 1983 to shoot photos of some tracts of land for sale by the Air Force. He rented a private helicopter so he could get shots from the air to supplement an article being published by TIME magazine concerning President Ronald Reagan’s deficit-fighting effort by selling unused government-owed land to help balance the budget. I tagged along to show him where the land was located. You should have seen the wad of hundred dollar bills he pulled out to pay the helicopter pilot!
Adams won the Pulitzer Prize for his Associated Press photo of South Vietnamese General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner on Feb. 1, 1968. The shocking photo of Nguyen shooting the prisoner in the head ran in news publications worldwide. Many people think the graphic photo uniquely captured the brutality of warfare and further fueled the growing anti-war movement, hastening a U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. One interested tidbit Adams shared with me over lunch: the late Nguyen survived the war, but was hated in many circles for his execution (Oliver North called him “a hero.”). Adams later apologized to Nguyen, who moved to Washington, D.C. after the war, obtained U.S. citizenship and ran a pizza parlor for many years. You can see that Pulitzer-prize winning photo right here.