DEAD AMERICAN SOLDIERS AT BUNA BEACH
In February 1943, George Strock an American photographer took a famous picture in which three American soldiers lie dead in the sand on Buna Beach in New Guinea. It was taken after the American were ambushed by Japanese soldiers next to a Japanese landing craft. It was the first time that an image of dead American soldiers appeared in the United States during World War II. The picture shows the bodies of the soldiers without being draped or covered up, they‘re just covered by sand . The men were not identifiable, they were the first undraped and uncoffined dead Americans to appear in during World War II, this picture breached an important taboo.
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It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and it is true that images, like the one of the dead American soldiers, can carry an emotional impact.
In avoiding images of American casualties today, the media are hearkening back to a time when the taboo was institutionalized. From World War I onward, formal government censorship dictated that no dead or wounded U.S. soldiers be shown in newspapers. As the fighting dragged on in World War II, the public became blasé. Censors allowed publication of the first picture of American war dead, three bodies on Buna Beach in New Guinea.
In particular, the Americans’ faces were not shown, and pictures continued to preserve soldiers’ privacy in death. No such care was taken with pictures of the enemy.
War pictures changed how people perceived war and how news publications reported armed conflict. While people may not fully understand the grim reality of war by reading a news article, they often immediately grasp it by viewing graphic pictures of war. Also war pictures has always been controversial, both in terms of the explicit nature of combat photography and potential military censorship of images. Both issues are as true to day as they were when Mathew Brady’s team first took pictures of the American Civil War during the 1860s.
War pictures like George Strock’s can have powerful effects on the general public. Sometimes they reinforce the belief that the war is justified, stirring up feelings of patriotism and solidarity within the troops. Such pictures show a country’s forces in a positive light or depict crimes committed by the opposing forces.
However, pictures of war can have the opposite effect, turning public opinion against a military campaign. Vietnam War photos are a prime example.
A steady stream of images of American dead in war slowly turned popular sentiment against it, as the public began to believe the war...