A Great War Reporter and his Last Battle



Robert Capa´s death in Indochina


Robert Capa fue un corresponsal de guerra, fotógrafo, que emocionó al mundo con sus fotos de combates y batallas con su Leica. Aquí el artículo que sacó la revista Life al momento de su muerte en Indochina.
Robert Capa, most famous war photographer of his generation, flew into Indochina early in May to report the war for Life, first at Luang Prabang, then in… On May 25 in the delta´s fluid front line he stepped on a land mine. And so, on an operation so routine that it rated only three lines in a communiqué, Robert Capa –who had survived the dangers of 18 years of war –was killed. He was the first U.S. correspondent killed in Indochina and the first Life war photographer ever killed in line of duty.
Born André Friedmann in Budapest 40 years ago, he invented the name of Capa shortly after he left Hungary at 18. He soon was wrapped in a legendary mantle of bohemianism. He scorned possessions and was devoted to the ideals of freedom; he frequently lacked cash and always loved good living; he poured mock insults on his friends –and unexpected kindnesses. In World War II even generals came to respect him for his knowledge of tactics. (The late Brig. General Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Bob knows more about the art of war than many four-star generals”). Combat soldiers revered him for his relaxed unbelievable bravery in desperate situations.

At Capa´s last war pictures were flown to Life for publication on these pages, his flag-draped coffin awaited its journey from Hanoi back to his chosen land, and a distinguished career that had spanned four wars and ended with an ominous fifth, was closed.
Not long ago Robert Capa announced he was “happy to be an unemployed war photographer” and hoped to stay so for the rest of his life. Specializing in peaceful subjects, he remained one of the world´s top photographers. Circumstances surrounding the beginning and end of his career, however, make it inevitable that his professional biography is written mostly in his great war pictures. It began with Spain in 1936 where 22-year-old Capa took a picture that made him famous almost overnight. He left Spain for China to cover the fight against Japan, eventually came to the U.S. In London he reported the 1941 blitz, later went with U.S. troops to North Africa and Italy where he photographed the mourning Neapolitan mothers. He got back to England in time to land on a Normandy beach on D-day, 10 years ago this month. He went on to the siege of Bastogne and the Rhine. In Israel in 1948 he saw his fourth war –his next to last.
He said: “This is going to be a beautiful story. By John Mecklin (Time-Life correspondent who was with Capa on his last mission)
In the bug-ridden room of a Nam Dinh establishment… Bob Capa sucked a glass of warm cognac and soda and made a pronouncement: “This is maybe the last good war. The trouble with all you guys who complain so much about French public relations is that you don´t appreciate this is a reporter´s war. Nobody knows anything and nobody tells you anything, and that means a good reporter is free to go out and get a heat every day.”
Capa and I had been touring French outposts in the besieged Red River Delta with general René Cogny, French commander in northern Vietnam. Next day we were going out with a 2,000-man task force which was to relieve, then evacuate, two garrisons some 50 miles south of Hanoi. Capa prepared for the mission with professional finesse; a thermos of iced tea, a jug of cognac, a jeep promoted from a French colonel, everything except matches. Capa never had matches, presumably because other people could be counted on for such obvious items…
I was making notes on this when a helmeted soldier arrived and spoke to the lieutenant in Vietnamese. Without a trace of emotion the lieutenant said, “Le photographe est mort”. I understood the words but they didn´t register and I said, “Pardon?” The lieutenant repeated the sentence in the same flat voice. This time the words registered, but I was certain I had misunderstood and said to Lucas almost as a joke, “This guy´s trying to tell me Capa´s dead”... (From Life, International Edition, June 28, 1954)
Para saber
One example of a message is a communiqué (pronounced /kəˈmjuːnᵻkeɪ/), which is a brief report or statement released by a public agency.
Life, International edition. June 28, 1954
Life, International edition. June 28, 1954
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Life, International Edition, June 28, 1954. Tapas en buen estado. Hojas en buenas condiciones con mínimas roturas. Completa. Estado: buena. En venta