1000 YARD STARE: A Marine’s Eye View of the Vietnam War

1000 YARD STARE: A Marine’s Eye View of the Vietnam War

By Marc C. Waszkiewicz with Lea Jones and Crista Dougherty

Published by Stackpole Books. 328 pages.

$35.96 MCA Members. $39.95 Regular Price

The young Marine stares directly at you. His emotion is striking. Fear. Pressure. Heart-thumping energy. Beneath his Kevlar, the light captures his sweat-soaked face.

This Marine, like all the troops whose photos are scattered throughout the pages of the new book, “1000 Yard Stare,” is frozen in time. The poetic caption underneath his photograph says little, but explains all: “The intensity of being under fire just choked the youth out of us.”

Armed with cameras and a letter-writing pad, Marc C. Waszkiewicz went to Vietnam knowing he was part of history. After more than 40 years, the images that he captured are here for the world to see.

“1000 Yard Stare” is part of Waszkiewicz’s multimedia project that includes a film, memoir and music soundtrack. More information on the multimedia project, called “Vietnam: An Inner View,” can be found at www .vietnaminnerview.com.

“I hope my photographs offer my fellow vets a means for self-expression; for civilians, I hope the photos provide openings for conversation with veteran relatives and friends.”

Waszkiewicz, a veteran Marine Corps sergeant, served three combat tours in Vietnam from 1967-69. The photobook—which uses pictures the Marine took during his tours as an artillery forward observer—was put together with the help of musician Lea Jones and designer Crista Dougherty.

The book organizes Waszkiewicz’s photographs along certain themes; each theme serves as a different section in the book. The titles of many of the sections are self-explanatory. For example, “Under Fire” features scenes of combat including napalm strikes and artillery fire; “Downtime” has photos of Marines overcoming boredom; and “The People and Their Land” shows civilian life.

What makes the book unique is the raw, unfiltered nature of the photos. Waszkiewicz didn’t hold back in what he chose to capture and, years later, publish. As a result, the reader becomes a witness to the true realities of war—not only its horrors, but also its lighter side (i.e. young Marines acting their age). One section of the book is appropriately subtitled: “Kids Will be Kids, Even in War.”

In this section, more than one photograph shows Marines posing naked, with only a hat, a leaf, or a guitar to ensure their modesty. Another photograph shows two Marines staging their own deaths within their fighting position. The caption reads, in part, “Poor taste, to say the least. I can only wonder what someone’s mother would have thought if she had seen this picture while we were still over there.”

The silliness will make you crack a smile, if not laugh out loud.

On the other end of the spectrum are photos showing the bitter fruit of Marines’ labor. Prisoners of war are shown sitting on the ground—shirtless and blindfolded. Some photos show the bodies of enemy soldiers.

In one photo, a young Waszkiewicz is sitting on a log, surrounded by the bodies of what appear to be Vietnamese boys.

“Only moments before, these soldiers were trying to kill me,” the caption reads. “They were all cut down exiting the same bunker doorway.”

Waszkiewicz’s book doesn’t have to be a cover-to-cover read. You can dive into the young Marine’s war from any page and discover something new at each sitting. The photographs vary in quality—most likely from the various cameras he used on his deployments. But that difference in quality is what draws the reader in. It expresses authenticity, and sometimes captures the intensity of the moment. For example, the blurred image of a towed howitzer firing gives you a sense of the weapon’s power.

What Waszkiewicz’s photographs do best is capture the humanity in every moment. From the Marines to the civilians, it’s the people and their expressions that stand out. In the section titled “The Stare,” we see the expressions of Waszkiewicz as he poses in the jungle, in fighting positions, in his barracks, and other places.

In one photograph, Waszkiewicz stares directly at the camera lens. He’s dressed in flak and Kevlar, and his expression spells stress and fear. It’s in this photograph—this expression—that we find meaning in the book’s title. Waszkiewicz, no doubt, has the 1,000-yard stare.

PFC Kyle Daly, USMC