The Digital Journalist
Remembering Eddie Adams
October 2004

by Wally McNamee

It was May or June of 1952 when I first met Eddie Adams and, like him, was fresh out of U.S. Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island, S.C. Both of us had been assigned to the base photo lab at the Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, N.C., and neither of us was very happy to be there.

I was 19 years old and had enlisted in the Marine Corps; Eddie's circumstances were about the same. What I know for sure is that both of us were lying through our teeth about what we had done prior to becoming Marines.

Years later, we joked about our exaggerations - lies actually - about our photographic experience prior to joining The Corps. I told Eddie that I had been a photographer at The Washington Post and my recollection is that Eddie described to me his experience as a photographer in New Kensington, Pa.

The truth was Eddie had some sort of beginning-level job in Pennsylvania and I had been a copyboy at The Post. Both of us ended up as photographers in the Marines but lost track of each other after Cherry Point. Periodically, our paths would cross in the late '50s and early '60s. We were both on-the-street photographers, I at The Post and Eddie, finally, at the Associated Press in New York City.

Encountering Eddie in Vietnam in early 1966, working with him some, hanging out some, was when I first became aware of a sort of cult of personality about Adams. Eddie had great success with his war coverage and seemed to attract other hacks. Maybe it was because of the brooding intensity I think he had developed. Eddie was no longer the fresh-faced 19-year-old from New Kensington. He was a world-class, super-competitive photographer covering the biggest and most dangerous story in the world, achieving great success and notoriety.

It was at this time, and on into the '70s, that Eddie had an incredible growth spurt and the brooding and intensity was palpable. Eddie really became known. He could pretty much write his own ticket. He could intimidate people. He was really good. He was as famous as many of the people he photographed. Eddie had arrived.

There are many memories and they are good ones. My son, Win, met Eddie at the '92 Democratic Convention and Eddie liked him. That is no mean accomplishment: to be liked by Eddie Adams. Win and I will both miss him because Eddie was unique. He had style and you always knew where you stood with Eddie Adams.

He was very cool and he was the best. Semper Fi, Ace.

© Wally McNamee