Eddie Adams amassed 500 photojournalism awards, including the 1968 Pulitzer Prize, during his 45-year career in which he covered 13 wars for the Associated Press, Time and Parade. Also among the photos in the collection are Adams' highly influential images of the Vietnamese boat people, which were presented to Congress and subsequently influenced the government's decision to admit 200,000 South Vietnamese refugees to the United States.
Museum director Wade Lawrence says, "There are some great photographers out in the field in Iraq and Afghanistan now, but I think after Vietnam, war journalism changed. Nobody was 'embedded' then - a euphemism meaning you'll be at the base camp and you can report on what we say you can. In Vietnam, photographers had unlimited access. They were uncensored, and they went out on their own right next to soldiers. Today the military controls are tight."
Citing Adams as "the real thing: a cigar-chomping ex-Marine who laid his life on the line for the story and the picture," Lawrence notes the artistic beauty of these poignant images of somber subject matter. "His Vietnam photos are personal, human, compelling and real. He didn't stand on a political soapbox, but his images influenced the public's opinion on more than one occasion."
Adams' widow Alyssa Adams has written, "In 1976, eight years after returning from his last stint for the Associated Press in Vietnam, Eddie made Sullivan County his second home. While known for his Vietnam images, he took many indelible images for publications worldwide. As part of his legacy, we created an annual photojournalism workshop held every Columbus Day weekend in his barn in Jeffersonville. Now in its 23rd year, Sullivan County graciously becomes the photographic subject of 100 photographers for the weekend. So it is very fitting that the show 'Eddie Adams: Vietnam' be presented here in Sullivan County at the Museum at Bethel Woods."
Admission to the Adams exhibit is included in the regular Museum admission: adults, $13; seniors, $11; youth aged 8 to 17, $9; children aged 3 to 7, $4; children aged 2 years and under, free with an adult. US military veterans with sign-in and US military active duty, retired and reserve troops with ID and sign-in will receive complimentary admission for the duration of the exhibit.
The Wall That Heals is a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Washington, DC, designed to travel to communities throughout the US for four-day-long exhibits. The Wall is made of aluminum panels embossed with more than 58,000 soldiers' names on which visitors can do rubbings. Jan Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Fund, says, "In 1969, while many Americans were enjoying the music at Woodstock, I was serving in Vietnam. Those were the two big influences on our generation, reflecting the choices we made as young people coming of age in America. The Vietnam Veterans' Memorial was created to bring the disparate sections of our population together, so it is fitting that The Wall That Heals is coming to the site of the Woodstock Festival."
Lawrence recalls that in the late '60s, America did not embrace the returning vets. They were vilified and spat upon - the recipients of very vicious attacks, even by people in the Peace Movement; they turned their backs on the soldiers. "Now we recognize that you can hate the war and not hate the soldier," he says. Pointing out that there were audience members at the Woodstock Festival who were on their way to Vietnam and some who were just returning, he remarks on the poignancy of bringing together both sides - the antiwar activists and the soldiers, the longhairs and the shaved heads, the Counterculture and the Establishment - in recognition of the great tragedy of war in which all were entangled. "We embrace the sacrifice they made. Even after 40-plus years, there are some vets out there that haven't come to grips with their war experience. This will help them."
An information center and traveling museum provides a comprehensive educational component to the exhibit. Organized by the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Fund, the exhibit is being made possible by local sponsors A & J Hometown Oil and the Vallone Family of Companies. National sponsors of the tour include Disabled American Veterans' Charitable Trust, Federal Express, Geico, New Century Transportation, Harley-Davidson Foundation and Target Corporation. Bethel Woods is working closely with the Sullivan and Orange County Veterans' Service agencies, New York State Police, Sullivan County Sheriff's Department, Rolling Thunder, US Military Veterans' Motorcycle Club, Ironworkers' Motorcycle Club 580, Chapter 66 of the Special Forces Association, Mobile Medic, Sam's Towing and veterans from Bethel Woods' volunteer staff, who will donate their time to be part of this educational and emotional historic tribute to all American servicepeople who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation. Additionally, representatives from the Vet Center in Middletown will be on-site to provide information on their readjustment counseling and outreach services offered to all veterans who served in any combat zone.
There is no admission charge to visit The Wall, which will be on display on Bethel Woods' Great Lawn directly behind the Museum, 24 hours per day from noon on Thursday, May 13 through 6 a.m. on Monday, May 17. For more information about any of the Museum's events, including a Speaker Series, a Film Series and a special Family Day celebrating Vietnamese culture, visit www.BethelWoodsCenter.org.