John Ford

Full name:
John Alfred Ford
Born:

Hindmarsh
SA
Australia
Occupation:
Press photographer
Highest rank:
Sergeant (temporary)
Enlistment:
Decorations/ commendations:
Service Number:
4411076
Conflict:
Vietnam War 1962-1975
Military event:
Unit:
Headquarters, Australian Force Vietnam (Army Component)

Service life

John Ford was born in 1947 in Hindmarsh, South Australia. There's little public information about his early life.

Between 1969 and 1971, Ford worked with the Papua New Guinea Command as a civilian photographer. This was good training for his later experience as a public relations (PR) photographer in the Vietnam War.

... gave me a good grounding into living in the bush and long yomps in some bloody tough country

['Focus on war photography lens itself to a snapshot of a past era', Infantryman, 2016]

Ford joined the Australian Army in May 1971 as a photographer, and he completed training to become 'soldier-ready' for service overseas.

4411076 Sergeant John Alfred Ford served as Army PR photographer SVN (South Vietnam) in 1971 and 1972. PR photographers were generally professional journalists and photographers with press backgrounds. They enlisted in the Directorate of the RAAEC (Education Corps). While their role was separate to infantry, Ford recalled having a positive relationship with his fellow soldiers.

I never had many problems with the Grunts. They saw me as a digger who did a job and accepted me.

['Focus on war photography lens itself to a snapshot of a past era', Infantryman, 2016]

During the Vietnam War, Ford served in field operations with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR), 3rd Battalion (3RAR) and 4th Battalion (4RAR) in Phouc Tuy Province. His role was to supply Australian mass newspaper and print media with film footage and press photographs depicting all aspects of wartime duties.

The Australian War Memorial collection holds many:

One of Ford's well-known images was taken during Operation Overlord, depicting a centurion tank moving through the jungle.

Soldiers travelling through the jungle in a tank
A Centurion tank of C Squadron, 1st Armoured Regiment, moving through the jungle in Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam, June 1971, photographed by official war photographer John Alfred Ford. The Squadron supported soldiers of 3rd and 4th Battalions, The Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR and 4RAR), in Operation Overlord on the border of Phuoc Tuy and Long Khanh provinces. AWM FOD/71/0305/VN

Other photographs show different aspects of the war, reflecting his experiences in Vietnam.

Jungle operations

5 men in military shirts and pants crouching in long grass and holding guns

Warrant Officer Class 2 Les Maher of Portsea, Victoria, leader of one of the Mobile Advisory Training Team (MATT), supervises a Vietnamese Regional Force platoon during a simulated mine incident, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam, 1971. AWM FOD/71/0458/VN

Man in a leafy outdoor area with no hat, face painted with stripes, wearing military shirt and pants, carrying a large backpack and a gun.

Private Colin Havers of Whyalla, South Australia, moving through mud and thick jungle undergrowth, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam, 1971. AWM FOD/71/0450/VN

Civilian relief

9 smiling children with bare feet in a yard on play equipment, watched by 4 smiling men wearing military shirts and pants.

Signalman Darryl Singleton, Signalman Jim Kanowski, Sergeant Bob Watson and Warrant Officer Class 2 Peter Weir-Smith who, with their families in the 7 Signals Regiment Wives Association, raised money for playground equipment for Dai Dao Tam orphanage in Baria, Vietnam, 1971. AWM FOD/71/0549/VN

Training

5 men in military shirts and pants crouching in long grass and holding guns

Warrant Officer Class 2 Les Maher of Portsea, Victoria, leader of one of the Mobile Advisory Training Team (MATT), supervises a Vietnamese Regional Force platoon during a simulated mine incident, Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam, 1971. AWM FOD/71/0458/VN

Breakout time

Man sitting on bare ground leaning against a backpack holding a notepad and pen or pencil

Gunner Ernie Widders of C Company, 2RAR/NZ (ANZAC), a National Serviceman and Indigenous soldier from Armidale, New South Wales, takes time out during a break in operations to write a letter, Vietnam, 1971. AWM FOD/71/0256/VN

Christmas

Private David McColl of 1st Field Squadron, a National Serviceman from Page, ACT, hangs puddings to mature before Christmas, Vietnam, 1971. AWM FOD/71/0615/VN

Life after the Vietnam War

After his service in Vietnam, Ford returned to Australia, married and had children. He continued to work as a press photographer and also sold cars for a time. Then John had a 23-year career with the Australian Federal Police, before retiring to take up volunteer work.

I own a Jayco camper, a set of unforgiving golf clubs, and five grand kids who keep me active and vertical. I also work with Legacy as a Legatee looking after war widows. I still use a camera and help out at special veteran reunions where I can.

['Focus on war photography lens itself to a snapshot of a past era', Infantryman, 2016]

Sources:

  • Department of Veterans' Affairs, Vietnam War Service Nominal Rolls. Viewed 10 November 2021. https://nominal-rolls.dva.gov.au/veteran?id=1242249&c=VIETNAM
  • John Ford, 2016. 'Focus on war photography lens itself to a snapshot of a past era', Infantryman: The Journal of the RAR Association SA, November 2016. Viewed 10 November 2021. http://rarasa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Infantryman-November-final-16.11.2016.pdf

Last updated: 15 February 2022

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2022), John Alfred Ford, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 2 October 2022, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/biographies/john-alfred-ford
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