Death Pictures

Death Pictures of  Wayne F. Reske, Private First Class, RA68066155, U.S. Army; taken on or about May 12-13, 1969, at Ft. Dix, New Jersey, USA.

Purpose: An aid in the identification of human remains.

Such photos were kept in a soldier’s medical records.

However macabre, such seemingly trivial items as these both stirs and excites the curiosity and imaginations of the more ardent historians among us. To the passionate historian, all facts, no matter how small, are precious. To know exactly, what it was like, then and there. These pictures were taken just hours before I was issued jungle fatigues and shipped out, flying half way around the world to Việt Nam, and the Second Indochina War (1954-1975).

Photography was first developed less than 200 years ago between 1827 and 1839 by Frenchmen Joseph Nicephore Niepce and his partner, Louis Daguerre, who together invented and developed the first process of photography.

In 1829, Louis Daguerre formed a partnership with Niepce to improve the process Niepce had developed. Daguerre developed a more convenient and effective method of photography, naming it after himself – the daguerreotype.

In the past 185 years photography has both illuminated and distorted history. Owing to the advent of photography and modern advances in the keeping of ever more accurate historical records modern-day soldiers take on an ever greater individual importance but also leaves our common ancestors, who also fought and sometimes died, all but forgotten in the musty old books and the opaque mists of history and especially, pre-history; countless, nameless men, bloated and stinking on countless, nameless battlefields; countless and nameless battles fought in countless and nameless wars. Perhaps it is good that, at least, humanity’s collective memory is gradually improving – or is it?

As much as I would like to, I cannot satisfy either the curious historian or myself as to exactly when the practice of taking Death Pictures was first instituted or whether it remains (SOP) a standard operating procedure.

The photos were returned to me upon my safe return.

About The Twentieth Man

Age 70
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