U Minh Forest, 9/15/70: Viet Cong guerilla is carried to improvised operating room in a mangrove swamp in this Viet Cong stronghold on the southernmost tip of Vietnam.

The discovery of this image is interesting because the photographer had never even made an enlargement of this negative. When I came across a tiny 6x9cm contact print of the photo in a stack of prints in Saigon in 1996, my host Lam Tan Tai had no information about the shot, and didn't seem in helping me find its creator. Against my principles I pocketed the small print when Mr. Tai wasn't paying attention, brought the print to Bangkok where I made a xerox enlargement, and when I returned to Saigon three weeks later I again asked Mr. Tai about the image. Seeing the enlarged xerox seems to have jogged his memory, so he made a few phone calls, ultimately calling Vo An Khanh in Bac Lieu, eight hours south of Saigon. Two days later Mr. Khanh came to Saigon with his life's work to meet me, which he had kept buried underground in old American ammunition cases. Because Mr. Khanh wasn't a member of the photographers association that Mr. Tai headed, I almost was never introduced to him or his amazing work. In the end, I think this is one of the book's most enduring images, and I hope it will be firmly planted into our common memory like so many other shots from the Vietnam war.

Photo: © Vo An Khanh