Transcript: Vietnam War – Pittsburgher George Kniss

Samuel W Black, director of African American Program at the History Center:

George Kniss was a Pittsburgh who enlisted in the Air Force in 1963 and was sent to Vietnam in late August, early September 1963. He was a photographer for the Air Force. His job was basically to shoot possible bombing sites on the C-123 aircraft and develop film from other aircraft, including the U2 bomber. So he saw a lot of Saigon, which was his base area, and other parts of southern South Vietnam. He was also a VIP photographer, so whenever Defense Secretary Robert McNamara or some of the brass in terms of the generals on the U.S. and South Vietnamese sides would have meetings, he was the official photographer to capture events and those occasions.

He had a lot downtime, so during his downtime he wrote in his journals about his day-to-day experiences. What we were able to read in his journals was the fact that he was in country when South Vietnamese president Diem was assassinated, he was in country when U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and he was in country during the Gulf of Tonkin incident that gave President Johnson free hand, pretty much, to escalate the U.S. involvement in Vietnam.