In 1966, after earning two Bronze Star’s for Valor and other awards as a US Navy journalist, Charlie Eggleston decided to join United Press International as a photographer in Vietnam.
He served UPI well and had a promising career in front of him.
In May of 1968 Charlie went to Tan Son Nhut Airport near Saigon to cover attacks during the Tet Offensive.
He did not return.
Charlie was killed while lighting a cigarette in Rocket Alley. Previously four journalists had been killed and Charlie had taken to carrying an M1 Carbine with him along with his cameras. No one knows what the shooters’ reasoning was but they probably weren’t too happy to see a journalist with a gun. Not that they really needed an excuse.
There were also UPI radio and film men with Charlie when he was killed. Roger Norum was recording sound at the time. Charlie’s death and Roger’s reaction was recorded and broadcast back in the US the same day he died.
This is the recording. Fair warning, while it isn’t gory sounding, it is very sad to listen to:
Charlie Eggleston’s Last Moments.
Charlie was sent home to his family while many of his possessions were left to his friends in Vietnam and to the orphans there.
Earlier this week, I bought this.
A Black Nikon F most likely belonging to Charlie Eggleston.
The bottom engraving. Eggleston/UPI
My research has found two people who worked for UPI with the same last name. Charlie and a gentleman named Steve. I started my research by looking for other photographers who had been in Vietnam with UPI during the same time frame as Charlie. I also found an email address for Steve Eggleston who is still living.
The first email I sent off about Charlie was to Pulitzer Prize winning photographer and Gerald Ford Presidential photographer, David Hume Kennerly. I knew he shot for UPI in Vietnam and though he was there a few years later, I thought maybe he would have a starting point for me. Luckily he did. David put me in contact with Bill Snead. Bill was in charge of the Saigon Bureau during the time Charlie was there.
After another email had been sent, I continued my research, still waiting for a response from the other Eggleston.
Bill Snead replied to me with a wealth of information about Charlie. He knew him well and in fact was the person to arrange for his body to be sent home. Bill felt that there was a high likelihood that the camera was Charlie’s because the engravings were not done by UPI and he remembered that Charlie did engrave all of his cameras.
Fast forward a day and I finally received a response from Steve Eggleston. He assured me the camera is not his, that while he did have a few cameras with engravings, they are all accounted for. He also mentioned Charlie’s name with no prodding from me and said he felt it was probably his camera.
My conclusion is that while the evidence is mostly circumstantial, it is extremely likely that my camera was originally owned by Charlie Eggleston.
I haven’t decided what to do with the camera yet. I think my next step is going to be continued research. I know the Newseum in Washington DC has a memorial section for journalists that died in the line of duty. I know that Charlie is listed there, but I do not believe there is anything else.
I know he is just one of the many that died, but my hope is that someday either the Newseum or another institution like the Smithsonian would be interested in this camera and the stories and documentation that goes with it. I’m going to try to put together a proposal and see where it leads me. It would be amazing to film some interviews with the people who worked with and remember him.
I think he deserves to be remembered.