AL CHANG / 1922-2007
MASTER SGT. AL CHANG
This Korean War photo by Al Chang shows Sgts. 1st Class Robert Muramoto, Castro Corpuz and David Kauanui relaxing with canned poi, dried squid and a ukulele.
Photographer brought war home
His enduring images of soldiers earned him praise from the media and military members
Al Chang, who saw the horrors of three wars through the lens of a camera and was twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, died Sunday at the Spark Matsunaga Center for the Aging at Tripler Army Medical Center.
With two Nikon cameras hanging from his neck and his ubiquitous cigar in his mouth, Chang was known by both privates and generals alike. He made it a point to be on the front lines and was wounded three times in Vietnam.
Retired Brig. Gen. Irwin Cockett, a decorated aviator and longtime friend, described Chang as "the epitome of a combat photographer."
"He was where the hottest action was taking place."
A similar tribute was paid to Chang four years ago when then-Mayor Jeremy Harris honored the combat photographer with an "Al Chang Day." Retired Army Gen. David Bramlett, the former commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, described him as "one of the best living combat photographers."
When Bramlett reported to the 25th Infantry Division in 1964 as a green lieutenant, "many of us idolized him for what he had done in the Korean War for the soldiers."
Bramlett added, "When we went to Vietnam in 1965, Al went with us."
Chang is best known for an Aug. 28, 1950, photo of Army Sgt. Bill Redifer comforting fellow soldier Vincent Nozzolillo of Auburn, Mass., which was included in Edward Steichen's 1955 book "Family of Man."
Chang, who was honored by more than 300 family members and friends last month at his 85th-birthday party, was recently diagnosed with leukemia, said his widow, Jacqueline. Family members danced and sang for him in the Waikiki ballroom that chronicled his life with displays of his photos from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
"He never complained," she said, "although he must have been in pain."
In 1994, Chang suffered the first of two strokes, and had triple bypass heart surgery two years later.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Chang was 19 and working on the docks at Pearl Harbor. He enlisted as an infantry soldier but later became a combat photographer covering the Pacific campaign and eventually the surrender of the Japanese on the battleship USS Missouri in 1945.
When the North Koreans attacked South Korea in 1950, Chang was with the 25th Division. As a combat photographer, he accepted an assignment with the 5th Regimental Combat Team.
Cockett, a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, said Chang "really made the 5th Regimental Combat Team, which was made up of lot of guys from Hawaii, famous with his pictures of the fighting in Korea."
Cockett, who commanded the Hawaii Army National Guard, added, "His coverage of Hawaii soldiers provided their families up-to-date information on how their sons were doing. He was my friend and comrade. We spent many exciting experiences both in combat and in peace. I will miss him."
Chang retired from the Army when the fighting ceased on the Korean peninsula, and worked for National Geographic magazine and the Associated Press, covering the Vietnam War. His photo of a Viet Cong prisoner being treated for his wounds by U.S. medics while the soldier's wife watched also was nominated for a Pulitzer.
But Chang was drawn back into the Army when fighting intensified in Vietnam, and continued to cover units like the 25th Division.
Chang is also survived by daughters Cecilia Silva, Julita Chang and Paoakalani Naluai; and sons Hayward and Kaulana.
Funeral services are pending.