Pulitzer Prize winner Eddie Adams would rather have not taken the photo that he became so renowned for. He said of the attention the photo received “I still don’t understand to this day why it was so important, because I have heard so many different versions of what this picture did.”
Eddie Adams was a photographer who photographed the horrors of war in Korea and Vietnam. He had special clearances and accesses that were denied to most because he was an ex-marine. His most famous piece captures the execution of a young Viet Cong officer, called the “Saigon Execution”. The picture is so stunning because it preserves the exact moment of the bullet penetrating and subsequent death. These atrocities were not so rare in the war zone, but it most certainly captured the attention of the public. Adams was very haunted by the image and the horrors he had witnessed as a soldier and a photographer.
Once Americans had seen Adams’ photo, it fueled the anti-war movement, which was gaining momentum. Adams also documented riots and war protests with his camera, capturing the counter-culture whose cause his work had lent validity. In addition, he immortalized many famous figures, including Mother Teresa, in his portraits. Eddie Adams earned numerous prestigious awards for his photography such as the George Polk Award for News Photography, the Robert Capa Gold Medal, the Pulitzer Prize and more than 400 others. His work inspired many, especially during the politically charged Vietnam era.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=102112403
http://www.cah.utexas.edu/collections/photojournalists/adams.php

An American executes a Viet Cong officer
The chilling photograph captures the moment of death.