This infamous Vietnam War photo was taken on February 1, 1968, in Saigon, Vietnam, by Eddie Adams, a photographer with the Associated Press (AP). Adams served as a combat photographer with the U.S. Marines in the Korean War and joined AP in 1962. The image dates from day two of the Tet Offensive. This was a major attack by the North Vietnamese Viet Cong forces on targets throughout South Vietnam.
In the photo, South Vietnamese soldiers lead a man in civilian clothes, with his hands tied behind his back. They’re in a street in the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon. There had been fierce fighting in the city since the outbreak of the Tet Offensive. The man is a 36-year-old officer called Nguyen Van Lem, who also went by the nom de guerre of Bay Lop. Lem had been captured not long before Adams took this image.
Lem was a member of the Viet Cong and served as the leader of an insurgent group in Saigon. Their mission was apparently to assassinate South Vietnamese National Police officers. It was also claimed that they had been ordered to target those officers’ families.