Issue #161  5/16/2009
Humbert Van Es, Dutch Photographer, Dies in Hong Kong At Age 67; Famed For Image of Vietnam's Last Days

Hubert Van Es, a Dutch photojournalist who had covered the Vietnam War, died in Hong Kong on Friday, May 15. He was 67.

Van Es photographed one of the best-known images of the American evacuation of Saigon in 1975 of people trying to climb a ladder to a CIA helicopter on a rooftop.

Born in Hilversum, Netherlands, Van Es became a photographer after seeing an exhibition of Robert Capa's. He then came to Hong Kong as a freelancer in 1967 and joined "The South China Morning Post" as chief photographer and initially went to Vietnam the following year, after getting a job as a sound man for NBC News, according to Associated Press reports. He later joined the A.P. photo staff in Saigon from 1969 to 1972 and then covered the last three years of the war, from 1972 to 1975, for U.P.I.

When he took the Saigon picture, Van Es was apparently in the process of leaving U.P.I. to become a freelancer again and was upset that he did not receive any royalties from the photograph, which belonged to U.P.I.

He covered the Moro rebellion in the Philippines and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Van Es fell into a coma a week ago when he suffered a brain aneurysm. He died at Queen Mary Hospital. Besides his wife Annie, Van Es is survived by an older sister in the Netherlands.