May 15, 2009 / 1:41 PM / 10 years ago

Vietnam war photographer Van Es dies in Hong Kong

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Veteran Dutch news photographer Hubert Van Es, who took some of the defining images of the Vietnam War including the 1975 fall of Saigon, has died in Hong Kong aged 67.

Van Es captured the famous black-and-white photograph of an Air America helicopter evacuating people from a rooftop in Saigon as Communist North Vietnamese troops overran the city toward the end of the 1962-1975 war.

The picture came to symbolize the failings of U.S. foreign policy in Vietnam.

Van Es died early on Friday morning in a Hong Kong hospital. He fell into a coma after a cerebral hemorrhage last week and never regained consciousness.

His wife, Annie, was with him at the time.

“He was disarmingly honest, totally loyal to his friends, disdainful of fakes and a great photographer,” said Robin Moyer, a longtime friend of Van Es’ from his days in Vietnam and a former chief photographer for Time magazine in Asia.

“His experiences in Vietnam defined him as a photographer,” said Chris Slaughter, a long-time friend and a former president of the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club where Van Es was a longstanding member.

A copy of his most famous war photograph still hangs in the club, which was once frequented by a number of great Vietnam war correspondents in their forays through Asia.

Van Es was born in the Netherlands in 1941 and took up an early interest in photography. He worked in a variety of related jobs, including Nederlands Foto Persbureau in Amsterdam and Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad, a newspaper in Rotterdam.

A devotee of the legendary Magnum war photographer Robert Capa, Van Es later left for Asia, traveling to Hong Kong where he worked for the South China Morning Post in 1967, before traveling on to Vietnam.

Van Es covered the Vietnam conflict from 1968-1975 for a number of news organizations including the Associated Press, United Press International, Time and NBC News.

Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Alex Richardson

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