Born: Fugyivasarhely, Hungary, 1940 Served in Vietnam, U.S. Army DASPO (Department of the Army Special Photographic Office) Americal Division, Chu Lai, Combat photographer, 1969-71
From the Artist:
I was with the line company in an area called the Barrier Islands, a coastal plain with sand dunes wedged between the sea and the rice paddies. I was attached to an infantry squad with a machine gunner named Pineapple. Pineapple had earned his nickname because of the scars of childhood acne. He was short, squat, and bowlegged, and he was the pigman. The grunts called the M-60 machine gun the pig and the man who carried it was the pigman. Pineapple was a good pigman. He carried the pig slung on his shoulder, from which position he could fire standing up.
The squad was walking along the sand dunes, checking abandoned enemy bunkers, when we began to receive fire from one. It was a lone North Vietnamese. For a while the grunts had fun with him: from behind the dunes they held targets up on sticks for him to shoot at. After a bit, in the heat, we had had enough of that and began to flank his position. Pineapple covered us from twenty-five yards away. The company commander sent up the Kit Carson Scout to get the NVA to surrender. After a short exchange, first some ammunition, then an AK-47 rifle flew out of the bunker. Then the soldier emerged wearing only a belt and a loincloth.
Everyone started hollering,"Hey, we got ourselves a real live dink!" I was excited. This was my first enemy face to face. So close! I had raised my camera when from behind me Pineapple opened up with the M-60. Rounds flew by us, hitting the prisoner in the face and chest, picking him up, so that he shook and wiggled obscenely, and dropping him. Just as suddenly the gun stopped.
After a stunned moment we started screaming, "What the f***, Pineapple! Are you crazy? He was surrendering. He was unarmed. Why the hell did you kill him?" Pineapple walked toward us with a weird grin, saying,"This dink was not right. There was something not right about him." He kicked the almost naked body over. Two hand grenades were jammed in the soldier's belt, with wires running from the pins to his wrists. By raising his arms to surrender he would have killed us all, and died himself. What kind of enemy was this? I was scared. That day I stopped calling them dinks. They were The Enemy or Mr. Charles.
Pineapple was nineteen and had been in Nam for a year. He could sense from twenty-five yards what I could not see from ten feet.