Rare Color Photos That Show Life During The Vietnam War


Moment Of Peace

The Vietnam War may have been one of the most divisive times and events in United States history, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty of human moments in the midst of the chaos. These young pilots got to enjoy a moment of respite before flying off into the unknown on their next mission. Despite being in the middle of a war zone, many of them were happy to show just how much they too wanted peace.

Finding Comfort

Like many men who go off to war, there’s often a constant search for human connection and warmth whenever they could escape the daily grind of life in the military. This young man seemed to have found a moment of laughter with the young Vietnamese woman he was photographed with. Though their time together may have been short, there were many GIs who found love in Vietnam and kept these photos of the women who stole their hearts.

Picture This

If there’s one thing that is certain around the world, it’s that you can find groups of women who have gathered to share the day’s news with one another. The two women standing in the doorway were so excited by the possibility of a photo opportunity that they couldn’t help but break away from their conversation in order to flash a smile. For the other women at the corner gathering, the gossip was simply too juicy to pass up, even for the camera.

Sun And Moon

This couple, like many others who met in the midst of the war, managed to slip out for a quiet romantic evening at a local restaurant. This GI had never expected to find love overseas, but when he first laid eyes on his girlfriend, he was instantly transfixed. Whenever he could get time off base, he would take her out on the town, rejoicing in the others’ company while letting their fears of the future melt away.

Joker On Top

There might not have been much time to enjoy the spectacular natural beauty contained within the borders of Vietnam, but these young men managed to get a glimpse of just how breathtaking the landscape could be. They were captured in this candid photo on a hike, American flag peeking out from a pack, with a lucky playing card tucked into one soldier’s helmet. It may not have been the most comfortable of conditions, but every now and again, a moment of wonder would strike.

Ready To Dance

The excitement of the big city was a big draw for Vietnamese women around the country, who often felt their first tastes of freedom. This woman was just about ready for another night out, as she had just gotten her hair set into curls. With her new black dress and icy lipstick, which was the newest trend around the world, she had a good feeling about who she’d end up meeting while she was out on the town later that evening.

Living In Technicolor

This American GI couldn’t get enough of this young barmaid’s vivid dress. To him, it seemed to match her personality, which was a burst of fresh air in the heat of the jungle. Together, he knew he would always have a laugh, no matter how difficult the day had been. She began to look forward to the GI’s visits almost as much as he did, and in the blink of an eye, the two had become fast friends.

Waving Through A Window

Business was booming for many who lived in the cities, especially those who owned places in the districts close to where the American and other foreign soldiers were stationed. Not everyone may have enjoyed their presence, but this group was having a grand old time as the newspaper cameras came through. With excited laughter permeating the establishment, the women raced to the door and window for a chance to be photographed for the Americans, a memory they’d hold the rest of their lives.

Mastering Card Tricks

Before the days of iPhones and tablets in every hand, people entertained themselves and each other with all manner of card games. This pair had long enjoyed quiet hours spent playing a game of cards with one another. It was a great way to pass the time, especially considering that they were still interacting across a language barrier. The other benefit to playing cards was that the strategy required to compete with one another let them shrug off the stresses of the day.

Tall Drink Of Water

American soldiers couldn’t get enough of the bars that peppered the streets and alleys of Saigon, which was good news not only to the bar owners but also to the girls who sought work in the big city. The woman pictured below was enjoying the patronage of the soldiers, especially when they took her shopping for new clothes, like the beautiful flowered dress she was wearing when this picture was snapped. As she smiled for the camera, she knew she’d have another great night.

Posing For Peace

The hippy movement for peace may have been taking over college campuses in back in America, but it was the soldiers stationed in the jungle who really understood the price of peace. While sitting through yet another endless day in the heat, this man slowly but steadily carved a fallen branch into what he dubbed the peace stick. He’d had minimal experience carving wood back home in the US, but his days in the Vietnamese heat helped him to hone his skills.

Jumping Sparky

Military training came in multiple shapes and sizes for both American soldiers and the occasional dog. Keeping in shape looked a little bit different for men versus the dogs, but there was still plenty of running and obstacle courses involved for each. Here, a soldier leads a dog through a series of progressively higher jumps in order to keep him in top shape. It was the best thing the soldiers could be tasked with when they were stationed in the middle of the countryside.

New Here Today

The young girl on the right was new to the big city, but already, she found it more exciting than anything she’d experienced back in her home village. With her fellow co-workers keeping an eye on her, she felt emboldened to take her life by the reigns, and really start living. As she was set to begin her work for the evening, dolled up in a new dress, wearing makeup for the first time, she called to her new friend to hurry across the street.

Making Space

As seems clear in this young woman’s face, the women working the Vietnamese bars by far preferred catering to American soldiers. Many of the women who were willfully employed at these bars found happiness in their newfound freedom. As this woman’s expression shows, she was less than excited to have a group of Vietnamese soldiers looking for a space to let loose that evening, as the Americans were far more fun, and likely paid the girls better than their local counterparts.

Welcome To Dreamland

Bringing entertainment to the soldiers stationed overseas had been big business since World War I. The prospect of a Christmas show was exciting to anyone, no matter their rank. For performers who weren’t permitted to serve in the military themselves or who were past the appropriate age to serve, they often gave back to the armed forces by coming to perform. Bob Hope’s Christmas show in Vietnam was a night the soldiers serving overseas would never forget.

Posing With My Girl

This soldier couldn’t wait to show his Vietnamese girlfriend around his base. Though the two were meeting regularly at the bar she worked in, she hadn’t yet seen his military base. The two planned a fun date where he showed her around the base for an hour or so. She made sure to put on the American style dress he had recently gotten her as a gift, which she hoped would make him even happier. Looks like it worked!

Welcoming The Green Boys

Bringing in a fresh supply of troops was an exciting occasion for several of the units stationed in the heart of the Vietnamese jungle. The experienced soldiers on base knew that the new guys would quickly learn that life in Vietnam was no fairytale. Still, it warmed their hearts to see their innocent smiles and their clean clothes. The young soldier in the front was an especially uplifting sight for the battle-hardened soldiers in his new unit.

Just Her

Many of the soldiers came to love the girls they met during their nights on the town. They, therefore, wanted to have plenty of pictures of them as keepsakes. The soldiers never quite knew when their tours of duty would come to an end. When this soldier came to meet his girlfriend one day, he insisted he take several photographs of her, so he would always have a physical memory of her, no matter where he was in the world.

Waiting In The Shadows/post_page_title]

As every American who found himself within the bounds of Vietnam would learn, the tropical sun could be unbearable. These two ladies were seeking some respite from the heat by waiting in the shade of the building before continuing on with their day. Both women were excited to go on a double date that night, which they expected would end with drinks and a few rounds of poker in their shared apartment with the soldiers who were joining them.

[post_page_title]Take Me To The River

It was always a nice day when the men stationed in Saigon could take leave of the city and head to the country, if only for an afternoon. They loved bringing their girlfriends along, especially when they could spoil them with a meal and some drinks. The gentle lapping of the river behind them almost made the men forget where they really were, though their reverie was always broken more quickly than they would have liked.

A Thousand Yellow Daisies

Being the flower man turned out to be a much better business than anyone could have thought. As teenaged GIs continued to spread throughout Vietnam, the youngsters would quickly find themselves head over heels with one of the women they met on their nights out. Eager to care for them, they would be more than happy to spend their dollars on the flowers that were currently making their way down the street on the peddler’s back.

Monkeying Around

This Vietnamese soldier couldn’t help but take a moment to stop and cuddle his monkey companion. In the harsh environment of a war, these precious moments were the most necessary to help the men keep up their morale. The monkey,¬†too, looks grateful for the tender moment, especially given its lack of freedom in the barracks. The poor little guy probably made a wrong turn before discovering he couldn’t get himself back out of the situation. At least this soldier showed him some love.

Last Night Of The World

Sitting at a bar waiting for your shift to begin can be tedious work, especially if you don’t know how much business you’re going to end up getting that night. As much as many of the bar girls like their work, the truth was they always needed to band together because there otherwise weren’t enough soldiers to go around. For all of the men stationed in Saigon, many only stayed a few weeks or less. This woman was ready to give it her best, no matter what.

Step Into My Office

For all of the establishments that worked to cater to the soldiers, there were still plenty more hidden in the streets and alleys of the cities that were focused on serving the native clientele. After all, the girls working in the city needed places to eat and relax too. Posing in the doorway of a local bar when the cameras came through made this woman feel proud to be in the city, especially because she would now have a nice picture of herself to share.

Under Their Wing

The little boy in the picture below had never known how to feel about the American soldiers swarming his home country. Some people thought they were bad and some thought they were good. When he finally met some of the soldiers he’d heard so much about, however, they gave him treats and were willing to play games with him. The soldier posed here alongside him thought that, all in all, it was a good day with their little visitor.

Taking A Time Out

Everyone needs a break now and again. The men on base were all too excited to take a break from the serious business of war and let loose a little bit. For an extra bit of fun, the guys decided to put up a sign letting everyone know that they would have time off in order to enjoy their Christmas. After all, Christmas only came once a year, even if it felt like July in the tropical climate of Vietnam.

Don’t Baby, I’m Engaged

For some, like this young man, they wanted to do all they could to assure their families that they were safe. There was a secondary motivation for taking this photo, of course. He wanted to show his girlfriend back home that he would wait for her, as long as she would wait for him. He really thought the accessories he added to his outfit would make his loved ones smile while also making them a little more relaxed.

Ready To Fly

The idea of parachuting into a battle seemed to thrill this young man, though he was innocent enough to not quite realize what the real-life experience would be like until he was in the thick of it. The sweet Midwestern American boy had never left his hometown before being drafted. He had hoped that he would receive a station that involved flying in some way, and his wish had miraculously been granted. It’s clear from the pristine condition of his uniform that he only just arrived.

The Heat Is On

Local residents surrounding the military bases were always eager to put on a show in order to entertain the foreign soldiers. The Americans especially couldn’t get enough of the Vietnamese dancers and were often happy to shower the girls with gifts and nice tips. With the addition of a local rock band to play some American tunes, as depicted below, this was one of the best shows the GIs in the audience experienced for the entirety of their tours.

Wash Over Me

This stunning image depicts an American soldier named Gene Bailey taking a brief dip in the South China Sea during his deployment in Vietnam. The soft sea water splashing behind him was certainly a big change from the environment confronting the American-born soldiers in the heart of the jungle. The self-portrait shows a moment of solitude in the middle of the overwhelming chaos that defined the two decades American soldiers spent serving overseas in Southeast Asia.