Japanese newsmaker on a mission to show legacy of Vietnam War

Makoto Igarashi, The Asahi Shimbun, September 14, 2006
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Nguyen Viet and Nguyen Duc were born attached as a complication of the US use of the defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War
For the last 30 years, Japanese photojournalist Goro Nakamura has focused on one thing: the damage made to the Vietnamese people and their country by the US use of the defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
And now, the 65-year-old photojournalist, who is based in Saitama, will be taking his work to the United States.
The exhibition will be Nakamura’s first in the country responsible for the use of Agent Orange – which contains dioxins known to be harmful to humans – in Vietnam.
“The tragedies caused by the defoliant did not end with the generation who suffered from it directly. They are ongoing. I want to show these realities to as many people as I can,” Nakamura said.
The exhibition, entitled “Silent Spring – Agent Orange Photographs,” is scheduled to be held at the John Jay College of the City University of New York (CUNY) from Oct. 3 – 28.
Images to be shown in the exhibition include that of a small boy standing in a forest of mangrove trees.
The trees have withered due to the defoliant, their branches are bare. The photo was taken in Ca Mau Cape in the southern tip of Vietnam in 1976, a year after the war ended.
The boy is now in his 30s and bed-ridden.
Portraits of Nguyen Viet and Nguyen Duc, conjoined twins born in 1981 whose condition was blamed on exposure to the defoliant, will also be included.
Nakamura started to take photos of the damage caused by Agent Orange in 1976.
Since 1982, he has also taken pictures of American soldiers and their children. The soldiers had returned to the United States but were also suffering from the aftereffects caused by use of the defoliant.
The US government has provided compensatory payments for these soldiers, whose suffering has caught the imagination of the American people.
However, similar attention has not been paid to the people of Vietnam and the damage done to their country during the war.
Nakamura made it his mission to find somewhere to show his work in the United States. An acquaintance put him in touch with CUNY.
Nakamura is also planning to hold a larger-scale photo exhibition elsewhere in the United States in the near future. The total cost for the two exhibitions will amount to several million yen.
But even with these two shows Nakamura’s work is not yet done.
He is also worried about the possible effects from the depleted uranium (DU) ammunition used in Iraq by US military forces.
Nakamura fears similar stories will emerge from Iraq through the use of such shells.

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