A former Naval History senior editor talks with David Douglas Duncan, one of the world’s best-known combat photographers, at his home near Mouans-Sartoux in France. Topics include Duncan’s World War II experiences with Fijian guerrillas on Bougainville. For being “in the thick of the fight” there, he was awarded the regimental patch, which he wears proudly on his left shoulder in the photo at right.
Chinese communists had entered the Korean War, all hell was breaking loose north of the 38th parallel, General Douglas MacArthur had closed North Korea to the press, and photographer David Douglas Duncan was stuck in New York.
After covering the first days of the war and the Inchon landings in September 1950, he was determined to get to the front. He called Headquarters, Fleet Marine Force Pacific, in Hawaii, to find that everyone was in Korea. Finally, he got through to Marine Lieutenant General Lemuel Shepherd’s wife, Virginia, who knew him only from his Life magazine photographs. She was game, though: “Try to come here, and we’ll see what happens,” she said. “I’ll have a car waiting for you.”