In the Archives: François Sully and the Vietnam War

Author: Kayla Allen, Archives Assistant and graduate student in the History MA Program at UMass Boston

Black-and-white photo of Francois Sully standing in a foxhole holding his camera

Sully in foxhole at Binh Gia,  January 9, 1965

One of the largest digital photograph collections we have in the University Archives and Special Collections is that of François Sully. Sully was a soldier with the French Army until he was discharged in Saigon in 1947. After he left the French forces, he became a photojournalist and documented the war for news sources including Time and Newsweek. He took photographs of politicians and officers, soldiers and civilians, and villagers and their villages. Many of his photos show the destruction and violence of the long war, while others show people going about their daily lives as best they could. Some of the subjects include religious figures, the aftermath of battles, celebrations such as Tet, ancient monuments and tombs, student protests, and the lives of Europeans in Vietnam. 

Later on, Sully created two publications about the war and the experiences of those that lived through it: Age of the Guerilla: the New Warfare (New York: Parent’s Magazine Press, 1968; reprinted by Avon, 1970) and We the Vietnamese: Voices from Vietnam (New York: Praeger, 1971).

Our digital collection includes more than 1,000 photographs taken by François Sully and his companions. Check it out here, as well as its finding aid. You can also request access to Sully’s written materials by emailing us at

If you are interested in learning more about the US experience in the Vietnam War, we have several oral histories recorded and transcribed of Congressional Medal of Honor recipients that served in the Army, the Marine Corps, and the Navy at the time. Interviews were conducted by student veterans in Professor Erin Anderson’s course, “Oral Histories and the Veteran Experience.” Three of the interviews, those of Jack H. Jacobs, Harvey C. Barnum Jr., and Thomas G. Kelley, discuss the war in Vietnam. 

François Sully papers and photographs provide photojournalist’s perspective of Vietnam, contemporary Vietnamese culture, and the war

Sully in foxhole at Binh Gia, 1965 January 9

University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston holds the photographs and papers of French photojournalist François Sully. After Sully’s death in 1971, his colleague Kevin Buckley boxed and sent the papers to Newsweek, which transferred the collection to WGBH in 1979. WGBH used the papers while researching the thirteen-part documentary, Vietnam: A Television History. The collection came to UMass Boston in 1985 and is part of a range of materials at the university documenting WGBH’s Vietnam: A Television History.

Student demonstrations against Gen. Nguyen Khanh, circa 1964-1965

View the finding aid for the François Sully photographs and papers here.

Photographs, contact sheets, and negatives from this collection have also been digitized and are available on our digital collections site here.

About Sully and this collection
Photojournalist François Sully, born in 1927 or 1928 in France, fought against the Nazis in the French Resistance as a teenager. He later joined the French Army, which assigned him to Vietnam. After choosing to be discharged in Saigon in 1947, Sully became a correspondent for both Vietnamese and French publications, including the French magazine Southeast Asia. By 1959, Sully was working for UPI. He wrote articles for Time and was hired by Newsweek in early 1961.

Although Newsweek was Sully’s primary employer until his death in a helicopter crash in March 1971, he also wrote for a number of other news magazines, including The Nation and The New Republic. In 1967 and 1968, Sully wrote articles for McGraw-Hill’s business-reporting service World News which distributed them to Business Week, Medical World News, Engineering News Record, and other publications. In addition to writing news stories and taking photographs, Sully wrote Age of the Guerilla: the New Warfare (New York: Parent’s Magazine Press, 1968; reprinted by Avon, 1970) and compiled and edited We the Vietnamese: Voices from Vietnam (New York: Praeger, 1971).

Lieutenant General William Westmoreland and Henry Cabot Lodge [Jr.], circa 1964-1965

Please note: Copyright for Francois Sully’s photographs resides with Newsweek magazine. Users are responsible for seeking copyright permission from Newsweek magazine to publish photographs from this collection for any use not covered by Fair Use. Contact for more information.

For questions about this collection or to schedule a research appointment, please contact or 617-287-5469.

Explore other collections related to the Vietnam War here and view the digitized Sully photographs here.

University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston collects materials related to the university’s history, as well as materials that reflect the institution’s urban mission and strong support of community service, notably in collections of records of urban planning, social welfare, social action, alternative movements, community organizations, and local history related to neighboring communities.

University Archives & Special Collections welcomes inquiries from individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in donating materials of an archival nature that that fit within our collecting policy. These include manuscripts, documents, organizational archives, collections of photographs, unique publications, and audio and video media. For more information about donating to University Archives & Special Collections, click here or email