This famous photograph of presidential aspirant Al Gore and his M16 rifle was posted on his web site when he was running for president in 1999. It’s been floating about the Internet ever since. Many use it to mock Gore for his weapon handling skills, or lack thereof. But it doesn’t look that bad to me . . .
There is no magazine in the rifle, so it is likely unloaded (even if the selector switch is on “semi” rather than safe). On closer examination, the M16’s muzzle seems to be pointing to the left (his left) of his head while he adjusts his sling – the camera angle accounting for the illusion that his head is positioned over the muzzle.
Some claim that Gore stated that the picture of him was taken in Vietnam. That is less certain. Here’s a critique by James Welborn at thefireingline.com:
While I laughed until tears were streaming down my face I did not at that time look very close at the photo until a few days later. This photo was on Al’s own website, supposedly showing Al in Viet Nam. The photo is of Al. But it ain’t Viet Nam. Why?…
1. The photo is supposedly Al, out in the, “field”. If this is so, why is his weapon unloaded? And why does he have no ammo at all. If I, as a photog for 25th Infantry attempted to go outside the wire with a patrol, without ammo, two things would happen. First, the team I was going out with would refuse to bring me along. And secondly, I would probably be brought up on charges because such stupidity puts the rest of the patrol in danger.
2. Al has only one canteen. There was no time of year in that area of
Viet Nam where you would not carry as much water as you could with you. Drinking fountains were thin on the ground in the bush.
3. Al has a rubberized jacket of some sort on, over his fatigues. Aside from the fact that you would keel over after about 5 minutes wearing such a thing in the heat and humidity of that country, no such thing was issued to troops incountry. Rain cover was provided by a poncho liner and, (a tent half with a hood in the center of it.) Enlisted troops were not authorized to make up their own version of the field uniform. Nor were officers for that matter.
4. Notice in the photo that Al has what looks to be a winter sleeping bag on his “ruck.” Try sleeping in one of these in Viet Nam and you would have a very hot and wet night inside the bag.
5. Wasn’t Al supposed to be a journalist or something? But he has no camera, no cassette recorder. No film. And if he was acting a regular “grunt,” then he would be carrying lots of ammo, both for himself and for the M-60, belt fed that goes out with any medium to large patrol.
6. No food.
7. No grenades.
8. Maybe in the special forces and seals, an enlisted man would be allowed to go to the field with a boonie hat on. Nowhere else. Troops were required to wear the steel pot and liner and you could be brought up on charges for not doing so.
Sooooo, this is a photo of Al acting stupid in some basic training center in the US, where you would go to the field without ammo, water and food, and with clothes that were not authorized for use in Viet Nam. Al is lying again. He might have been in Viet Nam, but this photo was not taken there.
I don’t think it matters if the picture was taken in Vietnam or not. Al Gore was in the Army during Vietnam. He served. So he wasn’t a Navy SEAL or an Army Green Beret. Not everyone can be. During Vietnam, I served my tour in California in an Army Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation (RDT&E) outfit. Most of us who served have some photographs that we keep to fondly remember our service. This is one of Al’s.
I’m glad Al Gore didn’t become president. But I also appreciate that he served. [ED: and invented the Internet.] We should honor that service, regardless of his political activities or gun safety skills.
©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.