Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
Reuters photographer and Marine meet again in Helmand
Almost two years ago, Reuters photographer Goran Tomasevic captured a dramatic shot of U.S. Marine Sergeant William Bee, from Wooster, Ohio, the moment a Taliban bullet hit a wall inches from this head.
In the photo Bee is just about holding on to his rifle as he is hit by a spray of rocks and dirt when the bullet hits a compound wall in front of him.
When the photo was published by Reuters, in May 2008, it was picked up by several newspapers, widely distributed over the internet and has become one of the defining images of the war in Afghanistan.
Last month, en route to Marjah to cover the U.S. Marine-led operation in the town, Goran bumped into Bee for the first time since he took that photo. Bee was on Camp Dwyer, a large base home to mainly Marines in southern Helmand province. Bee was also on his way to Marjah with Alpha Company of the First Battalion, Sixth Marines.
“I was doing change over, getting dressed, getting washed, stuff like that. We heard one gun shot by one of the posts, I went over there to check and make sure it was alright. I’ve seen this guy, I drew down on him and the world went black. Then I came to, I was on a stretcher, everybody thought I got shot. But I was fine. Had a couple of Tylenol. Goran came up to me with a big smile on his face and said ‘dude, you got to see what I got’. That was pretty much it,” Bee said. “I was hoping Goran was out here, I like him a lot. He’s probably the best embed I’ve ever worked with, plus he gave us a shit load of cigarettes when we didn’t have any.”
At the time, Bee’s wife was seven months pregnant with their first child. The shock of seeing the picture sent her into false labour. ”My wife’s not too keen on having the prints up on the house.”
“I saw the picture about five or 10 minutes after it happened, I laughed, I thought it was hilarious … My wife had already seen the picture and knew it was me by the time I’d called her — so that was an interesting conversation.”
Asked if he has acquired any nicknames from his platoon on account of the photograph, Bee joked: “mostly ‘that dumb ass who wasn’t wearing his gear in the picture’.”