Malcolm W. Browne, who covered the Vietnam War for the Associated Press, won the World Press Photo Award
and Pulitzer Prize in 1963 for his iconic photograph, which shocked the public, put in evidence the failure of South Vietnamese president Ngô Đình Diệm’s policies against Buddhism, and prompted President John F. Kennedy to reconsider his government’s policy in Vietnam.
In June 11, 1963, Browne was the only foreign photographer present at a busy intersection in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) at the time Thích Quảng Đức, a 65-year-old Buddhist monk, sat on a cushion in the lotus position in the middle of the street with a box of matches in his hand. Two monks came along and sprayed gasoline over his body. He lit a match and set himself on fire.
Browne was there because he believed an announcement made by South Vietnamese Buddhist monks the day before inviting the foreign press to that location in Saigon where "something important was going to happen” the following morning on the road outside the Cambodian embassy in Saigon. Few reporters showed up. Malcolm Browne and David Halberstam, a reporter for The New York Times, were among the correspondents at the scene.
In 1963, Halberstam received a George Polk Award for his coverage of the South Vietnamese Buddhist crisis, including his eyewitness writing on the self-immolation of Thích Quảng Ðức. The shocking images taken by Browne were precisely described by David Halberstam in his book
“The Making of a Quagmire”
"Flames were coming from a human being; his body was slowly withering and shriveling up, his head blackening and charring. In the air was the smell of burning flesh. ... Behind me I could hear the sobbing of the Vietnamese who were now gathering. I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think."
Malcolm Browne also published several books including "The New Face of War
" (1965) and "Muddy Boots and Red Socks: A War Reporter’s Life"
(1993) chronicling his thirty-year career as a war correspondent and his assignments in South America, Eastern Europe, India, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf. He also worked for ABC and in 1975 he became a correspondent in South America for The New York Times. His last war coverage was the Gulf War in 1991.
Browne was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease
in 2000. He was rushed to the hospital Monday night after experiencing difficulty breathing.
According to his wife Le Lieu Browne
, Malcolm Browne will be buried on the family's property in Thetford, Vermont.
: Rationale for the use of the main photograph shown in this article: "The image illustrates one of the most famous works of this person. It is the specific one that earned him substantial recognition, and is specifically discussed in the article."