Carrying a camera alongside his rifle, an infantryman documented the daily life of soldiers at war

When he humped the boonies as an infantryman in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970, James Allen Logue carried a rifle, a rucksack and a Nikonnos 35 mm camera.

He dropped his camera as firefights erupted, but in camps, in villages, in sunshine and rain he snapped images of the countryside, civilians and fellow citizen-soldiers of Alpha Company, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division (Americal).

In the field and on a mountaintop base, Landing Zone West in northern South Vietnam’s Quang Tin province, Jim shot more than 2,500 black-and-white and color images that decades later would help save his life when he and I embarked on a long journey together.

  • Capt. John A. W. Wilson leads Alpha into a village on May 14, 1970, after a four-day march without food. Resupplied, the company marched out and was ambushed. One American was killed.
  • Spc. 4 Nathaniel Donaldson was known for his abilities as a point man and stylish attire: boonie hat and sunglasses.
  • Only decades later, when Logue enlarged this image, did he notice one youngster was clutching a grenade.
  • Members of Alpha Company and others fly to the field aboard a CH-47 Chinook helicopter on April 29, 1970, to battle the North Vietnamese Army’s 2nd Division.
  • Logue calls this his “all-time favorite” picture, showing men with whom he formed a lasting bond. In this jungle clearing, Wilson, the company captain, center left, addresses Alpha.
  • Donut Dollies often helicoptered onto firebases and brought with them Kool-Aid and games to socialize with the GIs. Donut Dollie Katharine Beckwith visits with Sgt. Ben Perry.
  • Alpha looked for enemy supplies in outlying hooches. If nothing was discovered, GIs enjoyed the shade and shared candy with youngsters. If they discovered enemy supplies in hooches, the “Zippo Squad” set them afire with one click of a Zippo cigarette lighter. Families were sent elsewhere.
  • The enemy fired at Alpha from this hooch, where soldiers advanced and discovered munitions. The Zippo Squad burned it.
  • Medic “Doc” Pruett, wearing a peace symbol necklace, uses his tweezers to feed a newly born bird that has fallen from its nest.
  • Logue displays contact sheets of exposed 35 mm film. He liked to use Kodak Tri-X, a “fast” film for capturing motion and shooting in low light.

After Jim’s four-decade photography career, his Vietnam photographs, long filed away, helped drive back the mental creep of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Upon advice from a Department of Veterans Affairs counselor, Jim excavated his war photographs and saw them for what they are: images of a brutal conflict, now just harmless captives to a computer screen.

But what about those warriors of Alpha he froze forever in their youth?

That question sent us on a nationwide odyssey. We kissed our wives goodbye and crossed America to interview all of the Alpha soldiers we could find and who would agree to speak with us. We found 70. Over coffee at kitchen tables, many of the veterans began, “I’ve never talked about Vietnam.”

Then they spoke for hours about their lives before, during and after the war. With Jim, they laughed and cried, and all said they were proud to serve.

Their words and mine, with Jim’s remarkable images, were compiled into a book, Rain in Our Hearts, published by Texas Tech University Press in Lubbock, near the campus home of The Vietnam Center and Sam Johnson Archive. V

This article appeared in the April 2021 issue of Vietnam magazine. For more stories from Vietnam magazine, subscribe here and visit us on Facebook: