Back Heritage » Saigon » [Photos] Wilbur's Vietnam: 1960s Saigon Through the Lens of a Famed National Geographic Editor

The 1960s witnessed an unprecedented influx of foreigners into Saigon and Vietnam. From soldiers to teachers to just intrepid shutterbugs, the visits of these camera-clutching characters resulted in a wealth of old photos taken in the city from the early 60s all the way until 1975.

At Saigoneer, we’ve featured dozens of such photo collections over time – captured during numerous occasions of the year and spanning just as many geographical landmarks – but the images below by notable National Geographic photographer Wilbur E. Garrett still remain our all-time favorite.

Garrett was one of the magazine’s most prominent picture editors, whose career-defining works cover historic moments such as the Korean War, Vietnam War and the cover photo depicting the famous and haunting “Afghan girl” by Steve McCurry. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2016 at age 85.

As an avid photographer and picture editor, Garrett’s involvement with Vietnam was prolific: he started making yearly trips to the country from 1960 to 1968. His time in the Southeast Asian country spawned an expansive archive of magazine-quality photos that might not look out of place in any editorial spread nowadays.

In this article, Saigoneer will feature some of the best shots of Garrett in Saigon from trips in 1961 and 1965. Feast your eyes on the famed photographer’s Saigon photos, courtesy of Flickr user manhhai, below:

Al fresco tables outside of the L'Imperial cafe (now Vietnam House restaurant) at the corner of Tu Do-Nguyen Van Thinh (now Dong Khoi-Mac Thi Buoi), 1961.

Looking from District 2 towards the Bach Dang Wharf and District 4, 1961.

A young couple dashing down a suburban street in 1961.

A temple in Cho Lon (left) and famous cải lương performer Thanh Nga in a play (right), 1961.

The Bach Dang Wharf in 1961.

A lady in a yellow áo dài, 1961.

Morning on Ton Duc Thang Street, 1961.

A lion dance performance in Cho Lon (left) and a lady riding a Velo Solex on Ton Duc Thang Street, 1961.

Two xích lô drivers taking a nap, 1961.

A freshly constructed Thu Duc Intersection, 1961.

Praying at Lang Ong Ba Chieu in Binh Thanh District, 1961.

Nón lá smile, 1961.

bánh mì stall in chợ cũ on Ton That Dam Street, 1965.

The crowds in a temple in Cho Lon during Tet, 1965.

A view of downtown Saigon from District 4, 1965.

A security post where the police pat down two bikers, 1965.

A porter in Cho Lon (left) and a roast chicken store in chợ cũ (right), 1965.

The Le Loi-Pasteur intersection, 1965.

A group of students practicing judo at the Quang Trung Judo Center on Pham Dang Hung Street (now Mai Thi Luu), 1965.

Rows of students praying at the Quang Trung Judo Center, 1965.

A suburban neighborhood (left); a vendor using his mouth to water branches of apricot blossoms during Tet (right), 1965.

Rows of bikes and bicycles in a parking lot on Nguyen Hue Boulevard, 1965.

The Tau Hu Canal, which links District 1, 5, 8 and 6.

[Photos by Wilbur E. Garrett via Flickr user manhhai]

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